What are they?
British audio brand, Marshall, has added Google's voice assistant to its popular Major III headphones. The on-ear Marshall Major III Voice have a dedicated button for Google's personal assistant with one press beckoning the digital butler to start playing a playlist, read out your text messages or give you directions. As with other virtual assistants, you can ask it to tell you today's weather forecast, read the news headlines, set reminders etc.
When it comes to the headphones, the Major III Voice offer up to 60 hours of wireless playtime on a single charge with 40mm dynamic drivers and a 30-foot wireless range.
What are they like?
The Marshall Major III Voice look identical to the Marshall Major III, except for the extra button on the right earcup to call the Google Assistant. Considering the brand is best known for its iconic amps, it makes sense that the design of the Marshall Major III Voice are reminiscent of amplifiers. The sound is also custom-tuned for enhanced bass, smooth mids and clear highs.
They're very stylish and ideal for those who want a set of headphones that set them apart from the crowd. The Voice are Bluetooth and foldable, too, making them useful for commuters and those who have limited bag space. However, they don't come with any kind of carry case. The headphones feel very lightweight, yet durable, as well.
The headband is slim and doesn't dig into our head even after extended durations, while the sturdy adjustment sliders offer a decent amount of size customisation. Although, as with pretty much every set of on-ear headphones we've tested, the Major III do have a tendency to feel like they're pinching on our ears after a while. In fact, we can't really wear them for more than an hour or they give us a slight headache - but that's personal preference. We'd advise trying a pair on for comfort before you buy.
Like the Marshall Major III's predecessor, the slightly chunkier Major II, these headphones have a leather-look - but they’re actually made out of vinyl material. There's only one control on the headphones; a multi-directional joystick button on the left earcup which can be clicked to turn the Major III on, play/pause music and answer/reject calls. Push it forward and back to adjust the volume or skip songs and shuffle your music by pushing the button sideways.
All in all, the singular control button simplifies the headphones, but it does take some time to get used to it. After three days, we were still changing the song by accident when trying to adjust the volume. As for the detachable wire, it feels fairly strong with a coiled section and a one-button, in-line control. A provided micro USB charges the Major III when they run out of juice, but the 3.5mm sockets on both ends of the cable mean the headphones can be plugged in for use even when they're out of power.
As you'd expect from a brand like Marshall, the sound quality is great. The 40mm dynamic drivers offer a warm, well-balanced listening experience. However, it's worth noting that the Major II Voice are Marshall's entry-level option and, as such, don't offer the wider sound scale you'd get with higher-end headphones.
Audiophiles will almost certainly find the headphones lacking, but for the average listener - the Major III offer a very clear, punchy sound. The Major III Voice are £150 on Marshall's website (we can't see them on sale anywhere else yet), which is about a third more than you'll pay for the Major III originals on Amazon (£100 at the time of writing). The Major III are about £130 on Argos.
Etta James' Sunday Kind of Love is wonderfully crisp, with the quiet piano in the background and the highs of the violins coming through well. Where the Major III really shine are rock and indie music, that's what kicked the brand off in the first place, after all. The 40mm dynamic drivers reproduce the mids and highs of guitars, high-hats, vocals and wind-instruments well — meaning that blues and rock sound lush and expressive.
But the III aren't bass-heavy headphones so if your preferred music leans more towards house, R&B or hip-hop — these won't offer the rich bass you're after. You're better off buying a different set of headphones if that's the case, like the Marshall Mid Bluetooth, which also look a bit sleeker in our opinion.
For an office environment, the Major III aren't particularly good at drowning out noise like conversations and phones ringing - which isn't surprising considering you don't get Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) at this price. Isolation of external noise is decent, with noises like the radio in the background, the hum of the air con and typing being mostly blocked out — but then again this isolation is good because of the Major III press fairly tightly against our ears.
Should I buy them?
The Marshall Major III Voice are a great pair of wireless, on-ear headphones with an iconic design and an arguably even more iconic sound signature. They're mid-range in comparison with other Bluetooth, wireless headphones and once you add in the long battery life and addition of Google Assistant - we'd argue they're decent value for money. Whether you actually want Google Assistant, especially considering most people virtual assistant of choice is Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, is your prerogative.
The headphones aren't that comfortable, which is probably our biggest gripe with them, and the single control button works well in theory but doesn't quite work in terms of real-life practicality. The intention to simplify the design is commendable, but when we're trying to turn up the volume or skips songs without wanting to get our phone out, the single button can be a bit of a faff.
They also don't offer as much range, texture or bass as higher quality, more expensive headphones - but it's down to personal preference and what you want to pay in that sense. We personally like the sound signature but then our guitar-heavy music taste dictates that we would.