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Marshall Major review: Marshall Major

The Marshall Major headphones offer a cool design and pretty good sound quality. It's just a shame they're so uncomfortable to wear.

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Luke Westaway
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Luke Westaway

Senior editor

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

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Marshall has made its first foray into the heady world of headphones, slapping 50 years of amp-building experience on either side of your pretty face. Acquiring the Marshall Major headphones will set you back around £90, but are these heritage-steeped cans worthy of your cash?

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6.5

Marshall Major

The Good

Design is reminiscent of the famous amps; decent sound quality.

The Bad

Painfully tight headband.

The Bottom Line

The Marshall Major headphones offer a cool design and pretty good sound quality. It's just a shame they're so uncomfortable to wear.

No school like the old school

The Major headphones look great. They're quite small, with each squarish earcup measuring about 70mm across. The outside of each can is covered in the same faux leather that adorns the iconic Marshall amps. A delicately made, rubber Marshall logo is plastered across each earcup. Each earpiece slides along the headband, and they both fold inwards for increased portability.

The inside of the headband has a charming brown finish, with the printed signature of company founder Jim Marshall resting in the centre. There's a golden Marshall plaque on the inside of each earcup's hinge. It's a shame that these details are on the inside of the headphones -- you'll have to be content with knowing they're there, rather than showing them off to the world.

Every rose has a thorn

These cans look the part but, when it comes to wearing them, they leave much to be desired. The headband itself is rather tight, and, as the earcups are quite shallow, we found our delicate ears being pinned quite uncomfortably against the inside of the headphones.

The earcups fold inwards for greater portability.

If you're listening to music for fairly long periods, you'll probably find your ears becoming quite sore. We noticed pain after about an hour. We'd hope that, with time, the headband will loosen up, but any amount of pain isn't ideal. It's not what we're looking for in our gadgets, although you might disagree if you're the sort of person who has your own sexy torture dungeon.

Goes up to 11

Fortunately, the Majors go a long way towards redeeming themselves by offering rather spiffing sound quality for a set of headphones at this price. Make no mistake, though -- these are far from audiophile-grade headphones. If you're particularly sniffy about faithful sound reproduction, you'll turn your nose up at the Majors like a monarch who's just been offered cheap plonk instead of proper champagne. 

It probably shouldn't be surprising that the Majors favour mid- and high-end tones -- exactly where you'll find electric guitars. During Sabotage by the Beastie Boys, everything takes a back seat to the churning, fuzzy guitars that are present throughout the track. Likewise, with Reel Big Fish's Alternative, Baby, the Majors bring out the noisy horns and persistent guitar, with even the vocals sometimes getting lost.

If you like guitar music, that's great, but the balance offered by the Majors doesn't leave much room for the low end. While we could pick out the bass line in everything we listened to, it never rose to prominence and didn't really deliver much kick. At this price point, headphones that aim to put emphasis on bass tend to end up sounding rather muddy, so we're willing to forgive the Majors' slightly weak performance in this area.

The Majors work pretty well at high volumes. If you pump the noise up too far, though, you'll notice the prominent mid-tones becoming very scratchy, which might just kill your groove.

Conclusion

The Marshall Major headphones look good and sound good. It's a shame they're so uncomfortable to wear, though -- we can't recommend headphones that hurt. Hopefully Marshall's next effort will bring the same amount of rock, with a little more padding.

Edited by Charles Kloet