headphones

Marshall Mode EQ Headphones Review

Stylish with EQ control

December 22, 2014
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The Insides That Count

The Marshall Mode EQ in-ear headphones (MSRP: $99.00) are the most expensive in-ears offered by Marshall. For that price, you’re getting a dedicated EQ switch, a stylish design—even if they aren’t made from the best materials—and audio that is genuinely a pleasure to listen to.

The frequency response test roughly resembled an equal-loudness contour with a noticeable amount of boosted bass. There was also hardly any distortion, at least not enough to be heard by the majority of listeners, and they even provided a fair amount of isolation from the outside world.

These are heavy-hitters when it comes to in-ear headphones. I just hope you enjoy listening to warm, bass-heavy music—otherwise, these may not be the right fit for you.

Frequency Response

The frequency response test forms a lot of our expectations on how well a particular pair of headphones performs. Using HATS (Head and Torso Simulator), we input a parent signal of 74dB and measure the response based on that number. Our results for the Mode EQ roughly resembled an equal-loudness contour, which means that the loudness of each frequency is equalized, so the entire spectrum is can be heard equally. That means that because the spectrum is equalized it results in a very specific type of audio response that may not appeal to everyone.

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Sub-bass—the frequencies between 0 and 60Hz— stick fairly close to 90dB, the highest response we recorded across the spectrum. You’ll also notice that there is a slight disparity here between the right and left channels, but it’s not enough to impact your music. As the frequencies increase into the bass range—60–300Hz—the relative volume, measured in decibels, steadily drops from 90 closer to 77dB. This means that as we head from bass into the midrange frequencies—300–2kHz—the relative volume is about half of what we measured for sub-bass.

There are a couple spikes in relative volume—one in-between 1kHz and 2kHz and the other between 7kHz and 9kHz—that go from around 70 closer to 80dB. This shift in decibels raises the volume of these notes to twice as loud. This means that while your music will emphasize the heavier bass sounds, some of the higher notes won’t be completely muffled or lost.

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Distortion

Distortion is the measure of fuzzy, crackling sounds that is introduced by the hardware. In our tests, we set the threshold of when distortion is audible to most people at 3%. If we measure anything higher than that, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’ll hear unwanted sounds.

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The highest level of distortion we tested was 1.7%, and that was only in the left channel in the low sub-bass frequencies. There is no denying that this is an incredible result. Across the entire spectrum of audible sound—from sub-bass (20Hz) to the high frequencies (10kHz)—you can be confident that the Mode EQ in-ears will deliver sound that’s clean and clear.

Isolation

In-ear headphones have a leg up on their larger cousins when it comes to isolating you from the outside world. The silicon tip creates an effective seal that funnels music into your ears and blocks other sound. But, not every pair of in-ear headphones provide the same amount of isolation.

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The Mode EQ in-ears lowers the relative volume of sub-bass and bass sounds (think engines of subways and planes) by about -5dB, which is about 3/4 it’s normal volume. You’ll still be able to hear the subway coming down the track, but it won’t be as overpowering as it normally is.

Heading into the midrange frequencies—300Hz–2kHz—there is a sharp decline in relative volume. Most of the sounds you hear will be dropped somewhere between half to a quarter of its full volume. Except for the deeper sounds of commuting or construction, this is where the bulk of the sounds you’ll encounter live, so expect a lot more isolation from the typical sounds of your day. While the sounds that are around 1kHz and higher (which you won’t typically encounter a lot of) drop between 1/8 and 1/16 as loud as normal.

Other Tests

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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