Marshall has been a force to reckon with in audio for half a century, with luminaries like Pete Townsend and others using their amps and gear in their live and recorded projects ever since. Ever since they added portable audio gear like headsets, Marshall has continued the tradition. So when they created a specially designed headset, engineered specifically for Apple’s iOS devices (and other kinds of gear too, although they were made for iOS devices in particular), to celebrate 50 years in the business and as a tribute to their audio legacy, they made a woozy set of headphones.
Largely old-fashioned in looks and design, the Major 50 FX looks like an old-school pair of headphones, all black, with only the remote control built into the cord to distinguish it as a new-fangled product (it’s actually an update to the previously released and well-received Marshall Major headset). The cans are square, and slightly small enough that it doesn’t quite encompass my ears, not that that detracts from its performance. (More on that later.)
There are gold accents to the black construction: the rim and the Marshall logo in the middle of the cans are made of gold highlights, as well as the central button in the remote, the inside plaques on the connectors, and the 3.5mm plug at the end. Otherwise the entire thing is all glorious black, including the cord and the headband.
The inside of the cans matches the fretting design on Marshall’s anniversary line of amps. The headband is made of padded vinyl, and there are nice adjustable connectors on the ends, with small gold inlays on the inside that says “50 YEARS” on the left and “OF LOUD” on the right, the company’s anniversary catchphrase. Inscribed on the inside of the padded headband are the words “EST. 1962/LONDON, ENGLAND” to denote how long Marshall’s been around.
The cord is situated on the left can, a thick, well-made cable that has the remote/mic situated near your head, followed by a spiral portion not unlike the stretchable cord of an old landline. The cord extends for about two feet more past that and ends with a straight, sturdily-built gold-plated 3.5mm connector (there is a full-sized adapter plug included in the packaging for those who’d use it with full-sized audio amps). Marshall’s also included a sturdily-built canvas pouch for carrying the headset around outside.
The old-fashioned construction of the headset might put off fans of the newer, lighter, in-ear gear, but the Major 50 FX is made for the purist and audiophile who prefer big honking cans to monitor their audio. Also, the fact that these headphones were made with the iPhone, iPod and iPad in mind means that the remote/mic is as fully functional as something Apple might make, and it is—I couldn’t discern any difference in functionality between it and the remote/mic of my Apple EarPads.
In my experience with the Major 50 FX, it does tend to wear me down after an hour or two of use, the cans becoming slightly warm and uncomfortable to my ears and the headband’s pressure making my head feel like it’s caught in a vise, but that’s how it’s been for years and years, and frankly, I’m used to it after nearly two decades of being an FM radio DJ. The slight discomfort is well worth the sound quality the headset provides.
And what sound quality!
The Major 50 FX provides a loud, brassy, warm response, something missing from all those newfangled in-ears and light earphones I’ve been reviewing for this site. I can push the volume up to maximum with no discernible distortion due to the amped audio. The cans provide brilliant, clear sound, with heavy, weighty bass, great mid-tones and sparking highs that sound so clear you can hear a pin drop. There are two 40mm moving coil dynamic transducers in them, with a frequency response of up to 20KHz, and a maximum input power of 20MW, if that at all means anything to you.
Despite the cans being smaller than my ears, it sufficiently removed all but the loudest ambient noise. And the reverse was true; I was playing hiphop at the loudest, most cacophonous setting, yet for all my companions in the room could tell, I wasn’t listening to anything. It handled everything in my headset-auditioning playlist with aplomb, from the quiet passages in Piano Sonata in C-Sharp Minor to the bass-heavy electronica in El Bebe Masoquista from Fatboy Slim, and seemed to ask for more. It gave as good as it got. Rarely do I audition gear that surpasses the audio calisthenics that I throw at it. And the way it’s built, it’s meant to last.
Marshall really came up with a winner for its 50th anniversary. The Marshall Major 50 FX Headphones are a bit expensive, yes, but they’re worth every single centavo. Loud, yet clean and clear.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.
PRICE P7,450 (US$170 online, shipping not included)
AVAILABILITY Digital Hub, Digital Walker and Beyond The Box branches
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