Marshall MID On-Ear Bluetooth (non-ANC) Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube Review:

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Marshall_Midb_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Marshall_Midb.jpg

    Sources: iPhone XsMax with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red/DAC-amps.

    Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the Marshall MID Bluetooth (non-ANC) headphone ('Mid_B' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (on-ear, closed-back, Bluetooth or wired), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the Mid_B (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues.

    The Mid_B is a headphone I passed over when it first came out last year, due to my low expectations having owned previous editions of certain Marshalls. The Mid_B's treble is still a bit uneven, but my EQ settings provide a better, cleaner sound than I could get from the Beats Solo3, even though the Solo3 is physically a high-quality headphone made by Apple's Beats subsidiary.

    My recent review of the Marshall Major III will agree 95 percent with this review, as these two models are very similar in sound. However on the below listed music tracks, five of those sounded different with the Mid_B, mostly due to the Mid_B's weaker bass.

    Unusual for me is the fact that I haven't EQ'd the midrange of this headphone, since any existing colorations are not significant enough to distort the musical tonality, or tilt the overall frequency balance one way or the other. I compared the end result of my EQ for the Mid_B to my EQ of the Pioneer HDJ-X10c, and while the X10c's EQ'd sound seems slightly clearer compared to the Mid_B (or conversely the Mid_B's sound is less clear by comparison), I've concluded that I didn't need to go any further with these "re-tunings", since these observations agree more-or-less with my impression of each headphone's basic personality.

    Summing up, correcting frequency balance issues can greatly improve the soundstage and sense of musical realism in a headphone, but the final test is for clarity and lack of distortion, and faithful tonality. The Mid_B sounds right to me - clear and clean, and as hi-fi as is possible in such a small lightweight form factor. Highly recommended, particularly if you have a parametric equalizer.

    I won't waste space on the physical details that a thousand other reviews have listed, so I'll just give my impressions from using the Mid_B. I rarely use Bluetooth, but it works well, was easy to pair with my iPhone XS-Max, and I didn't experience any interference indoors. Outdoors, particularly in industrial areas or near some power lines and cell towers, you might not be so lucky. For corded portable listening, I use the v-moda Speakeasy Lightning DAC cable instead of the cable included with the Mid_B, because it connects directly to my phone without a separate Lightning dongle.

    The Mid_B's build quality is excellent, clean and aesthetically pleasing, with no apparent durability issues given reasonably careful handling. The headband has very decent padding, and the headphone is so light that heads with thin hair shouldn't have a problem. The earpads are very soft and thick enough that they feel perfectly comfortable on my ears. The earcups have a range of adjustment to fit heads small to quite large, and they pull down far enough that the headphone can be worn around the neck all day with no discomfort.

    The Mid_B's isolation is average or better for a closed-back on-ear headphone, but might not be satisfactory for noisy public transportation. The leakage is so low that using the headphone in a quiet office or library should be OK, as long as the volume is kept below ear-blasting levels. Charging is pretty fast - a couple hours at most via Micro-USB. When ordering the Mid_B, beware of fakes and clones - make certain to order from an authorized dealer who certifies that it's the genuine product. The clones almost always sound much worse than the real thing.

    In previous reviews I've included the following music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the Mid_B compares with each individual track. These tracks were evaluated using EQ settings as I noted above. Note that this EQ is not to "personal taste", but rather to approximate the headphone sound to the sound of live acoustic music.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Charleston South Carolina
    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has good detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Mid_B plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled very well by the Mid_B.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel a little of the weight they carry with the Mid_B.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The Mid_B plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the Mid_B.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Mid_B plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are bright, crisp, and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The Mid_B reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the Mid_B renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The Mid_B plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Mid_B reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The Mid_B plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion(Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the Mid_B plays this music very well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The Mid_B plays this track extremely well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the Mid_B. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The Mid_B provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the Mid_B plays those very well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The Mid_B plays this with just enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel some of the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2019, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the Mid_B is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle with the Mid_B.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Mid_B renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Mid_B's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is lighter than ideal.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The Mid_B conveys as much of that drama as I could hope for in a small headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the Mid_B renders the tones and transients extremely well.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The Mid_B's reproduction is excellent, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The Mid_B delivers the impacts with decent weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
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