Marshall is a name synonymous with rock music, and even if you’ve never played an instrument, you’ll recognize the Marshall logotype plastered across amplifiers on every concert stage across the country. What you may not associate them with, however, is personal audio gear. Today we’re going to take a look at a headphone-sized version of their throwback amp styling—The Major.
ICONIC JCM800 LOOKS
Vintage is in, and the Majors provide it in spades. A 4′ coiled, permanently attached cable terminates with a gold-plated design similar to what you’d find on a professional audio cable. The small earcups have a soft rubberized outer, highlighted by the Marshall logo. Soft leather covers a “medium”-soft foam pad on each inner earcup. An interesting crosshatch nylon membrane separates the 40mm driver from the ear inside the earcup, as well.
The headset itself is very lightweight, and the wireframe horseshoe like connection for each earcup keeps things that way. Plenty of horizontal movement to be had, here, but it’s worth noting that the wireframe provides no lateral “rotational” support. Adjustment vertically is done by gently forcing the wireframe up and down—there is no “click” here, only the resistance the plastic cover provides the wireframe. It’s different, and I like it a lot, but I can’t help but wonder over extended lifetime use whether these joints will loosen.
The headphones have a leather wrapped headband that is moderately cushioned (more so than the VModa Crossfade LP) from ear to ear. A gold-plated, Marshall branded plastic joint with rubberized outer connects the previously mentioned horseshoe wireframe for each earcup. This joint is where the earcups fold up and inside the headband for travel.
A point of concern here, the folded earcups expose those wireframes to some potential damage and bending. While the frame itself isn’t flimsy by any means, the awkward angle they sit at in this state is just asking for trouble. In a strange design choice, as additional protection was added at the plug-end of the cable, but not the permanently attached earcup-end. Over time, I can easily see this joint causing troubling wear and tear.
Given that these are a supra-aural headphone, the predictable “pressure point” that this set carries is across your ears. While the V-Moda hid the pressure well, you’ll certainly notice the Major after even short term use. Some of you might not be blessed with the Husky Head™ 7 3/4” dome I’ve been given and your experience might vary slightly. However, I’m pretty confident even the smaller-headed amongst us will have a tough time wearing these for extended periods. Wearing thick-framed glasses during Major use will cause discomfort. The tradeoff here is that they’re incredibly lightweight and won’t make you ‘overheat’ during use in the same way a circumaural headset might. You’ll still find yourself taking as many wear-breaks, however, just to alleviate the pressure.
Again, the on-the-ear design of the headset won’t provide as much ‘natural’ isolation of sound as a closed-ear cup might. They sound so damn good you’ll find yourself naturally focusing on the music anyway. Now, there is some sound leak (you’ll be able to hear if someone’s called your name from another room) but turning up the volume easily drowns out this background noise. The Majors are wonderfully balanced—bass is there when you need it, but mids and highs really shine. I had a hard time finding music that didn’t sound impressive on this set. Even at higher volumes, I was hardly able to notice any real discernible distortion in audio quality.
The included headset works well. Inbound audio sounds great (and loud!) and outbound quality is clear. The in-line control only has one jack-of-all trades button. Taking a call and hanging up are a single press, but skipping and repeating tracks is a combination of two or three clicks during use. The mic sits slightly lower than your jaw but higher than your chest, which is a clever design preventing any rubbing against clothing. At times you may have to speak up, but generally the setup works quite nicely.
Predictably, then, this particular set is ideal for gaming on the go. They’ve got a small cross section and fold up into a nice tight package for travel. The sound they output is better and more full than most earbuds. Listening for longer periods at home are probably best saved for another headset, but for quick bursts of great sound these cans will really shine.
While we do have some concerns with longevity based on some odd design choices, the vintage iconic Marshall Major has a lot going for it: looks and tiny details abound, and it’s a stylish portable gaming powerhouse. They sound excellent across the soundstage and travel well with a compact cross section and lightweight materials. The available in-line controls and mic work very well for mobile devices and are a nice add-on feature. While they may be a bit uncomfortable for extended periods of wear, they provide more than enough for quick gaming breaks on the go.