Marshall is synonymous with guitar amps (yes, ones that 'go to 11'). But that's not all: for years the company has been outputting headphones and portable speakers too.
Which is where the Kilburn II comes in. This portable Bluetooth speaker updates the original with an all-new design, both inside and out. It doesn't have the complexity of some of its multi-room speaker competitors, but it most certainly can crank the sound out with aplomb.
Design & Connectivity
- Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX wireless, 3.5mm AUX wired input
- No Wi-Fi or multiroom connectivity
- IPX2 water-resistant design
- 243 x 162 x 140mm, 2.5kg
The thing that makes the Marshall more standout and attractive than its boring black-box competitors is its design. It's retro, it's classy, it's riffing on the history of the brand, and it's not cutting corners.
This 2.5kg box comes with a lined leather carry handle, woven metal grille front, protruding Marshall logo, and a faux leather finish that feels hardy. It's also IPX2 water-resistant so that leaving it out in the rain isn't going to cause a rock explosion (of the unwanted kind).
At every corner the Kilburn II looks high quality and less kitsch than the original model (the classic gold finish of which has been banished to make way for a more contemporary take).
However, in keeping with its classic roots, the Kilburn II isn't highly complex in terms of connectivity. There's a 3.5mm AUX port to the rear if you want to plug in using a wire, otherwise it's Bluetooth wireless connectivity and that's your lot. No fancy app, no Wi-Fi, no AirPlay, no multi-room/mesh network functionality.
But then the Kilburn II isn't designed to just sit in range of a network. This is a portable Bluetooth speaker after all, which you could, theoretically, cart about anywhere you fancy. Although at 2.5kgs we doubt it'll ever make it outside of the house. Still, moving it between kitchen, office, bedroom and so on is certainly handy.
Sound Quality & Battery Life
- 1x 20W Class D amplifier for the woofer; 2x 8W Class D amplifiers for the tweeters
- Individual +/-10 volume, bass and treble controls
- 52-20,000Hz frequency response, stereo output
- 20 hours battery life (portable)
- Quick charge (2.5hrs to full)
Comprising three main rotary dials up top, the Kilburn II is switched on with the twist of one, while the other two handle bass and treble controls (5 is the mid point, with +/-5 either side to push or pull the low-end and high-end to your liking). It's a shame there's no mid-band or greater yet equaliser controls, though, as you'll find on both Marshall amps and, indeed, complex EQ controls within some apps.
Even at volume 5 out of 10 this speaker is loud. It kicks fairly weighty bass through the port to the rear, which will make surfaces wobble when really pushing the dial. The low-end frequency delivery is lower than you'll find in a lot of Bluetooth speakers (at 52Hz), while separate tweeters ensure enough treble separation.
However, the Kilburn II isn't the cleanest listen in the world. It's gritty, in that rock-out kind of way, with limited stereo separation, so it suits certain music perfectly, but could do with more preset/equaliser control to be truly customisable. Bring on the wall of sound; ideal for head-nodding or fake riffing on that imaginary guitar.
Marshall claims the Kilburn II has 360-degree sound output, but it's not equal throughout this listening circle. If you want that kind of all-round output for when in the great outdoors then the more affordable and more portable UE Megaboom 3 will suit your needs better.
Not many portable Bluetooth speakers can deliver this kind of thrum, meaning many of the Marshall's competitors will be always-wired speakers. And with 20 hours battery life per charge – which has seemed accurate in our testing at the office over the last few weeks (so long as every dial isn't maxed out) – it lasts for a solid amount of time before needing to see a wall socket again (even then, it'll fully recharge in 2.5 hours).
The Marshall Kilburn II portable Bluetooth speaker blasts out the bass, turns the retro design aesthetic up to 11, and throws the proverbial TV out the hotel window when it comes to battery life (in a good way).
No, you probably won't carry one around with you anywhere except room to room in your house, but that's still a great benefit to a truly wireless design.
While the Kilburn II delivers powerful sound output and has quirky bass/treble controls, its sound profile isn't the most deft nor cleanest listen in its class. But for that wonderful wall-of-sound wrapped into a retro design, it's hard to beat.
B&O Play Beolit 17
The B&O Play might look like a fancy picnic hamper and cost more money than the Marshall, but it's got yet more bass output at even lower frequencies and sounds even more refined.