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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

[Impression] Marshall Minor

Marshall is a fairly well know guitar amp manufacturer. In CES this year, they introduced two new headphones under the brand name, the full sized ‘Major’ and the ‘Minor’ earbuds. However, both headphones are not actually direct products of Marshall but rather seem to be manufactured and sold by a Swedish audio design and OEM firm called Zound Industries (*more on last section).

Transducer: 15.4mm Moving coil dynamic speaker
Impedance: 32 Ω ± 15% @ 1kHz
Sensitivity: 115 ± 3dB @ 1kHz 1mW
Frequency respond: 20 ~ 20kHz
Rated input power: 2mW
Maximum input power: 5mW

Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality
The earbud is very well packed. The paper box might look plain at first, but overall packaging feels well thought out. For example, when the box is opened, the side that holds the earbud in place will lift up as well. Beside the earbud (with a shirt clip attached) and the manual, there is a TRRS to TRS adapter (for audio source that don’t support the iPhone compatible TRRS plug) and 4 pairs of different sized ‘earpads’. If you ever used Sennheiser earbuds (especially the sport series) with the ‘twist-and-fit’ system, the earpads are pretty much the same stuff. They fit into the earbud and stick out on the other end so you can jam it into concha of your outer ears in order to lock the whole earbud in place. Because the earbud itself is pretty big and the earpad fitting can be a hit or miss, those with small outer ears should reconsider before picking up a Minor as it could turn out to be a painful fit issue at the end. Even with regular sized outer ears, getting the optimum fit is also crucial for getting the best sound too. Sometime trying a smaller earpad and twisting the earbud around can turn a distant and hallow sound to warm and bassy. So don’t give up if Minor doesn’t sound quite as good in first listen, just plays with it for a while and see if you can get it to sit in the right position for you.

Beyond the possible fit issue with the earpad, the overall build quality is actually very decent. The cable has a rather thick fabric sleeve but it is still quite soft, even compared to the thinner fabric cable found on Radius DDM series. The good news is that because this is an earbud, microphonics is rather low unless you intentionally rub against the cable sleeve. Of course isolation is close to none as well. The TRRS plug is a bit longer than normal, which is a bit odd. The earbud housing has a golden colored aluminum back plate that looks rather good. The grill in front of the transducer is also gold in color. The whole gold scheme is obviously trying to be in line with the Marshall branding. It feels just a little over the top for me, but not to a point of being ugly or overly flashy.

Sound Quality
A standard 50+ of burn-in was given. The overall sound remained pretty much the same.

The sound signature of Minor is warm, smooth, laid back, slightly thick but not to a point of feeling veil. Bass is a strong point when the fit is right. It is not like PK3 style of fast and punchy bass but the slower kind with a fuller body. Mid is a little further away. Not totally recessed but just lack a sense of sweetness. Treble extends to 16kHz but in a smooth fashion, lacking sparkles and micro detail. Soundstage is only decent and nothing to write home about.

Overall the Minor is a pair of relaxing, laid back earbud to listen to. Technically it is not ahead of Final Audio Design’s Piano Forte II but the lacking of graininess and overly thick notes actually makes it a better earbud to listen to. Instead of the feeling of “trying too hard” like the Piano Forte II, the Minor doesn’t seem to want to push the listener around. That is why prefer it over the Piano Forte II, not to mention a cheaper price and much better build quality. While it might not be a better bang of the bucks when compared to Sennheiser MX58x series, I think it will serve as a good alternative to those who doesn’t like the brighter presentation of the Senn. For the least, it will make a better choice over Piano Forte II.

The earbuds costs around $60 and actually it isn’t particularly expensive for what it does. But if you look around then you will notice Zound Industries also make a similar earbuds called the ‘Medis’ under its own Urbanears brand. I am not really sure whether the Minor and Medis are indeed the same earbud or not, but the Medis is usually $10 cheaper than the Minor. If you really don’t like the gold scheme of the Minor, I reckon Medis should be a good alternative to consider. But as it is, the Minor isn’t too bad an earbud either.

Check out the Earbuds Round-up for a quick rating.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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