Marshall Kilburn II review

Marshall's best speaker to date simplifies the features, tones down the look but tunes up the sound

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T3 Verdict

By streamlining the Kilburn's looks, stripping back the features and beefing up the sound, Marshall makes its best speaker to date

Reasons to buy

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    Excellent sound

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    Moderate moisture proofing gives greater versatility

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    Long battery life

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    Good looks

Reasons to avoid

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    Has apt-X for better sound from Android… but no AAC for iOS

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    A bit overpriced at its RRP

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Marshall's speakers and headphones have a slightly bad rep for some reason, but I usually feel they sound excellent. As their 'distinctive' looks suggest, they do sound quite rockin', but they're perfectly good for other forms of music as well, and by no means completely lacking in subtlety when playing quieter, more 'thoughtful' or 'complex' music. That said, they are probably happier with Mötörhead (or Madonna) than Mozart, but that's fine by most people, I'd have thought.

Marshall Kilburn II: design

Compared to the first Kilburn, this styling is actually quite understated

The styling, as usual with Marshall, echoes its rock gig guitar amps. However, they have dialled back the chrome detailing, removed a few sockets and buttons, to give a more contemporary look that will be more at home in the living spaces of people who do not dress up like members of KISS.

The old Kilburn had a 3.5mm line in and a socket for plugging in your guitar, which I would imagine did not get used a lot. This only has the latter, and is otherwise a pure Bluetooth speaker. The audio quality was been beefed up both by improving either the drivers or the DRM, or possibly both, and also – at least when using a compatible music player (Android, not iOS, to put it as simply as possible) – by adding compatibility with apt-X Bluetooth, which allows higher quality streaming than plain old vanilla Bluetooth.

Battery life is 'over 20 hours', which is plenty, and while it's a bit hefty at 3.2kg, there is a very sturdy strap.

The Kilburn II: it gets wet

The addition of resistance to, if not immersion, then at least 'drops of water' is also a boon. It means you can fairly confidently put it in your bathroom, although obviously not right above the bath, on a rickety shelf. 

Marshall Kilburn II: audio 

KIlburn, are you ready to rock?! Oh, what's that? You are?

So, get this, from the press release: 'The Kilburn was constructed with British engineer Alan Blumlein’s original idea of stereophonic sound. By separating out the spatial content of stereo recordings, Kilburn II enhances the size and reassembles the signal in a way that can be projected in all directions. The experience is completely different to other portable speakers on the market, and results in a rich, multi-directional sound that immerses the listener in their music and gives them a true 360° sound experience – indoors or outdoors.'

Now, I didn't understand a word of that, but I will certainly say that the Kilburn II sounds really good, and for a relatively small speaker, it's got a decently wide sound field.

Crank it up and it's more than happy, and there are even old-school 'bass' and 'treble' knobs to further boost and tweak the sound. However, as noted earlier, the Kilburn II can handle quieter moments without sounding too thin or strained.

Most particularly with rock of all kinds, dance and electronic music it is a great sounding speaker for its size. Textbook.

Marshall Kilburn II: verdict

Marshall Kilburn II: is it worth your money?

It's quite funny that the Kilburn II came out on the same day as the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3. That's because while they're ostensibly the same type of product, they're actually very different.

The Megaboom 3 is cheaper, genuinely portable and totally waterproof. The Kilburn II pays lip service to portability – you can certainly move it around the house easily enough, but you're probably not going to walk to the beach with it. It's only moderately splashproof rather than waterproof. And it's 80 quid pricier.

However on the other hand, it sounds way, way better, and the styling is a bit more adult. If I was being lazy I'd say the Megaboom is a young person's speaker and the Kilburn for a more mature audience but obviously there'll be a certain amount of audience crossover between the two.  But it is probably broadly true.

The problem the Kilburn II has isn't the Megaboom 3, though. It's the fact that it's £70 more expensive than the mainstream smash, the Sonos One, and about the same price as the connoisseur's choice, the Addon Pro C3. That doesn't diminish the quality of the product, but it does put it in a bit of a  difficult situation in terms of shifting units.