(Pocket-lint) - The Marshall amp is one of those design icons in the music world. It's instantly recognisable and timeless, with its simple boxy design and grille. Countless musicians have toured with such amps on stage, and made use of their renowned power to give some proper oomph to proceedings.
Marshall has also shrunk the design down in recent years, to fit the wireless speaker market prospect, with the likes of the Stockwell 2 and Kilburn 2 speakers. Now it's the turn of the Uxbridge - a speaker that looks more than ever like it's inspired by that timeless amp - complete with Alexa or Google Assistant voice control.
A unique look
- Dimensions: 128 x 168 x 123mm / Weight: 1.3kgs
- Finishes available: Black or White
- Quad LED feedback display
Marshall's entire brand, whether in the speakers we mentioned above, or its headphones, such as the Monitor II ANC, is founded on the values of old-school rock and roll. Or, less the values and more the visuals.
The Uxbridge is basically a shrunken down Marshall amp, in terms of visual aesthetic - you won't find all the ports and such like here of course. It's about as tall as a normal Amazon Echo, but square and boxy in a way that you simply don't see too often anymore.
That boxiness is fronted by a classic grille, with the Marshall logo in its centre in a bronzed, brushed metal. This matches a band across the speaker's bottom, which houses four LEDs.
These LED lights serve as indicators depending on what you're doing - they'll give you a sense for your volume levels, the amount of bass or treble you're injecting and suchlike.
What you'll think of the Uxbridge's looks is likely to inform and be informed by your thoughts on Marshall's other devices. Depending on who we asked, it was a delightful throwback to a purer era of design, or a little bit outdated. We rather like it.
Bells and whistles
- Top panel physical controls: volume / bass / treble / play/pause / mute
- Amazon Alexa / Google Play voice control options (either/or, not both)
- Marshall Voice app (iOS and Android)
When it comes to the functional side of the design, the Uxbridge sits slightly raised on four solid rubber feet. They don't vibrate the surface it's sat on at all, which is key to an isolated sound.
Meanwhile, on the top of the speaker there are three sets of buttons, each another band of that same metal. One controls the volume, while each of the other two adjusts bass and treble levels.
Finally, you get a play/pause button and a mute button, to turn off Alexa or Google Assistant - we're reviewing the Amazon Alexa model here, but a Google Assistant version is also available; it's either/or, not both in one though - which is on-board as standard for voice-control antics.
That rounds on the functionality on the Uxbridge itself, all of which can also be accessed through Marshall's app, called Marshall Voice, which we find a little clunky compared to some. Still, it all works as advertised.
- Frequency response: 54-20,000Hz
- 30 Watt Class D amplifier
- 1x woofer, 1x tweeter
- Mono output
Marshall has crafted an impressive blend of visual aesthetic and audio impact. The signature sound of the brand is here in force, with warmth being the flavour of the day. Regardless of genre or audio type, we found the sound output from the Uxbridge nicely balanced and full.
For a small speaker it can also crank up loud - to unsociable volumes, if you like - meaning that it could do very well as a party speaker.
The adjustments you can make to the sound balance using those rockers on the top of the Uxbridge are nice, although we're not entirely convinced of how many people will actually use them regularly. The increments are noticeable as you listen, but in most cases we were happy with the default mix, certainly compared to the hassle of readjusting as we changed tunes. Two-band bass and treble adjustment also isn't as refined as more bespoke EQ adjustment.
The major question mark that the Uxbridge does raise is in terms of directional audio, as it's a traditional, front-firing speaker. That means that you can't expect any 360-degree sound here, as you can from the likes of the UE Megaboom 3, so it's best suited to placement somewhere in the room where it can blast sounds forwards.
For some people, that'll be a downside compared to the increasingly ubiquitous 360-degree sound of other speakers, but we're conflicted on it. Much like the design, it's not exactly hiding its sound, so just be aware of it before you decide to buy.
Alexa on my mind
- Mains power only
- Spotify Connect
- Apple Airplay 2
- Bluetooth 4.2
The Uxbridge does well on the sound front, but it's got a few more tricks up its sleeve on the connectivity side of things.
It's a Wi-Fi speaker, meaning it has to be mains powered, so there's no straying from the plug and treating this as a portable. Although you're welcome to use Bluetooth as you like, connecting the speaker to your home network lets you hook it up with Alexa, Spotify Connect, and AirPlay 2, giving it access to most of the useful connection types we covet.
Alexa, obviously, is the most involved of the bunch. There are two microphone pinholes on top of the Uxbridge, which listen to pick out your voice, and we've found them reliable at detecting our wake words and commands, even when music is playing - which is always the key test.
That said, one annoyance that we've previously encountered with Amazon's own devices has migrated over to the Uxbridge with Alexa: when you use the mute function to stop Alexa from listening in, the indicator lights on the speaker will glow red. While we understand that this is useful for checking at a glance whether the assistant is turned on, we find the passive glow that it leaves a (very minor) distraction, especially if it's in your bedroom. It's not as egregious as Amazon's glowing rings, but is on the same spectrum.
The Uxbridge is positioned at the most crowded price-point in the smart speaker market, so it's clearly aiming to provide competition for the likes of the Sonos One and Amazon Echo Studio. It does a good job, offering loud and proud signature sound, wrapped into an unmistakeable design.
The Uxbridge ticks some boxes that others don't; it delivers that old-school cool in droves. So if you want a sound icon for your bookshelf then this little box of audio tricks won't disappoint.
Amazon Echo Studio
Pricing makes this directly comparable to Marshall's speaker - and while they're worlds apart on the design front, we think that if sound is your priority then Amazon's offering is a real winner.
Libratone Zipp 2
The Zipp 2 offers a totally different take on design, delivers a more 360-degree sound, and you can often find one at a bargain price point too.