Laptop Mag Verdict
The Marshall Minor III offers better sound and aesthetics than the AirPods, but the limited feature set makes you question the MSRP.
Bright, clean sound
Excellent touch controls
Sleek long-stem design
Surprisingly good call quality
Lacks extra features and digital assistance
Unreliable fit and comfort
Same battery life as the AirPods
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Marshall is a legacy audio brand that usually takes their time releasing new headphones. However, they’ve launched two well-received models just in the past year – the Major IV and Mode II – and recently announced two new true wireless earbuds. They are the premium Motif A.N.C. and entry-level Minor III, which is up first on the release schedule.
- Our expert picks for the best wireless earbuds, per budget and style
- Check out our Apple AirPods Pro review
- …and our Sony WF-1000XM4 review
The Minor III certainly stays on brand with clean, detailed sound and strong connectivity in a handsomely nostalgic design. Areas where Marshall struggled in the past have been improved, including touch controls and call quality. It’s also nice to have Bluetooth 5.2 and wireless charging onboard. Unfortunately, the poor fit, subpar battery life, and extremely limited feature set make these buds an iffy investment.
Marshall Minor III review: Availability and price
The Marshall Minor III can be purchased for $129 exclusively from Marshall. It is only sold in one color: Black. Inside the box comes a wireless charging case, USB-C charging cable, and quick start guide.
These wireless earbuds are priced a little lower than popular mid-tier selections such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149) and Beats Studio Buds ($149), and significantly lower than premium ANC models like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279).
If your budget is super slim, we recommend looking at two inexpensive Anker models that come with active noise cancellation and special features: the Life P3 ($79) and Liberty Air 2 Pro (on clearance for $84.99 at Best Buy).
Marshall Minor III review: Design and comfort
Normally, I would take points off for any product mimicking the AirPods long-stem design, especially since I don’t find it appealing whatsoever. On the contrary, Marshall found a way to make it look (dare I say) cool. The Minor III has lots of swagger to it with a black vinyl-inspired exterior and unique details like an imprinted logo, ridged bottom half, and gold accents that carry great distinction. Build quality is far superior to the AirPods, thanks to tough PC/ABS plastic casing that won’t scratch or crack if dropped onto the concrete. It turns out the Minor III also carries the same IP4 rating as the AirPods Pro for sweat and water resistance.
This charging case resembles the AirPods version, except it has received a Marshall makeover with embossed white script logo and leather wrapping. There is a tiny LED on the front, while the bottom carries a USB-C charging port and pairing button. Overall, it feels and looks nice, plus the magnets are strong to keep the lid shut tight and the buds secured. Something else the case comes with is IPX3 protection, which is good enough to withstand splashing water. FYI: most cases have no IP rating.
These buds are super light at 0.14 ounces, so they won’t weigh down your ears when dangling from them. That doesn’t mean they are comfortable to wear. The plastic surrounding the Minor III’s sound port pinches the front of the ear (aka the tragus). I always had to take off the buds after an hour of use because of soreness.
The design lets you prop the buds easily onto both ears. However, like the AirPods, the lack of ear tips means they will occasionally slip off. You’ll want to be careful when walking over sewer grates.
Marshall Minor III review: Touch controls and digital assistant
These are hands down the best touch controls I’ve ever tested on a pair of long-stem buds. Marshall keeps functionality elementary with only playback and call management functions that can be enabled through tap gestures. One tap will play/pause or receive/end a call, while a double tap will skip forward/reject a call and a triple tap will skip backward. The touch sensors are stellar and register taps with precision. You can also employ swipe gestures instead of taps, which I always suggest since the technique seems to offer better results.
On-ear detection comes part of the package. Removing one of the buds will auto-pause whatever is playing and placing it back on your ear will auto-play. The motion detection accuracy is on point.
Let’s discuss the digital assistant function. How do you activate Siri and Google Assistant directly on these buds? The answer: you don’t. You read that correctly. Marshall left voice control off the spec sheet, which is absurd considering 90 percent of current models offer this feature. Very. Poor. Decision.
Marshall Minor III review: Audio quality
Equipped with 12mm drivers and multi-codec support (aptX and SBC), the Minor III produces airy and crisp sound. I found the soundstage to be wide and vocals were clear on most tracks. The audio performance on these buds is an upgrade from the AirPods, but it doesn’t compare to the full-bodied listening experience that the Mode II affords listeners.
I loved using the Minor III for orchestral tracks like Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments,” which delivered terrific frequency response. The horn play sounded vibrant, double bass was groovy, and hi-hats remained prominent throughout the recording. Even the flute solo in the middle of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” sounded bright and detailed, alongside the brass synthesizer and iconic trumpet arrangement.
The drums on Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” had enough punch to it to stimulate some rhythmic head-nodding, but the bass was restrained and didn’t hit as hard as it does on other wireless earbuds. One positive to this is that the midrange is given more room to breathe. B-Real’s high-pitched nasal voice was reproduced well, and his rhymes were properly articulated to hear clearly over the boom-filled production.
While great for music, the Minor III’s sound quality is inconsistent with videos. When bingeing YouTube from my MacBook Pro, occasional static would occur that made it tough to sit through sport segments and movie trailers. This was less of an issue when watching videos from my Android device (Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra). When static wasn’t present, audio was clear and there was no latency.
It’s also a bummer that the Minor III isn’t compatible with the Marshall app, which would have given users access to an EQ, firmware updates, battery level indicators for both buds, and a Find My Buds option.
Noise isolation is horrible. I could hear my wife’s Zoom calls in full when sharing office space during the day. Also, the landscaping work that took place next door was audible, and that was with the windows closed. Ear tips could have helped block out incidental sounds, as well as active noise cancellation, but Marshall chose to save both for the higher-priced Motif A.N.C.
Marshall Minor III review: Battery life and charging case
Battery life hasn’t changed with the Minor III carrying the same playtime as the Mode II: 5 hours on a single charge. Listening at high volume and heavy streaming decreases it by about 30 minutes, placing it in the same company as the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours with ANC on). Very disappointing. At most, you’ll get about 2 days of moderate use. Rivals such as the Galaxy Buds 2 (5 to 7.5 hours) and Studio Buds (5 to 8 hours) offer more playtime, as well as cheap models like the 1More ComfoBuds Pro (6 to 8 hours). You can gain an hour of playtime when charging the buds for 15 minutes.
The charging case holds a max of 25 hours, an hour more than the average industry time set by the AirPods and AirPods Pro charging cases: 24 hours. That is four extra charges to work with. Not bad, but there are stronger charging cases in the same price range: the Cleer Ally Plus II has one that holds up to 33 hours. Wireless charging returns, letting you juice up the buds by laying the case flat on any qi-enabled charging pad.
Marshall Minor III review: Call quality and connectivity
The Minor III is a much better calling headset than I expected it to be. Used for several calls over the span of 5 days, everyone I spoke with thought I sounded fairly clear, even in rowdy settings where background noise was high. My wife said she could still hear what I was saying despite wind and rush hour traffic speeding past the house. Clarity is given a boost when conversing indoors. My only complaint is that the volume is super low during calls.
Marshall designed the Minor III to easily “pair and play” with devices, and that’s no lie. The buds instantly connect to iOS/macOS and Android devices, the latter being more expeditious due to one-touch Google Fast Pair. You also have the pairing button at the bottom of the charging case to pair the buds manually.
Bluetooth 5.2 keeps connectivity stable when within range (30 feet), which is standard for most wireless earbuds; other models like the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless (2021) can achieve 50 feet of wireless listening. The good news is that the connection remains strong when within range, allowing you to hop from room to room without any dropout.
Multipoint technology to pair the buds to two devices simultaneously did not make the cut.
Marshall Minor III review: Verdict
For $129, the Minor III tries to sell you on audio quality and appearance, but also neglects other key areas to justify its high-for-entry-level asking price. Purchasing these buds will get you better sound and touch controls than the AirPods, plus they are more attractive and durable. The upgraded performance in call quality and connectivity is much appreciated as well.
At the same time, it’s hard to look past the Minor III’s shortcomings. Copying the AirPods design means taking on their flaws such as unstable fit, and I didn’t expect comfort to be fatiguing. Playtime should be at least 1 to 2 hours higher, especially when there are zero software features available, not even Siri or Google Assistant. Furthermore, having no access to the Marshall app is a headscratcher.
Fans of the brand who just want great-sounding buds that look like the AirPods will get that with the Minor III. They just won’t get as much functionality for the price.