Marshall’s new Kilburn II is the iconic brand’s latest foray into the portable Bluetooth speaker market, a successor to its original 2015 Kilburn speaker. Kilburn II continues to blend Marshall’s unmistakable aesthetic and rugged design with modern Bluetooth technology, with the latest version toning down the vintage design a bit while boasting improved sound quality and Bluetooth 5.0 aptX support over its predecessor.
If you’ve ever seen a Marshall amp, there’s no mistaking Kilburn II for a Marshall product, and in fact you’ll probably have people questioning whether it’s actually a Bluetooth speaker as opposed to really small guitar amp. It’s a bold look that’s not going to appeal to everyone, but as classic rock and roll fans, we definitely like it, but we have to admit we slightly prefer the cleaner and more modern look that Kilburn II has; the original Kilburn featured a more vintage-style top control panel with brushed metal accents and an actual toggle switch for power. With Kilburn II, Marshall chose to make things considerably more muted, with three black control knobs with white accents, a single Bluetooth pairing button that doubles as source selection, and a multi-LED battery level gauge that resembles the VU meter on a mixing board. The 3.5mm auxiliary in jack has also been moved to the back, and the grille is now also silver mesh with the Marshall logo in white. While these are all relatively subtle changes, the result of them taken together preserves the iconic Marshall look while making the overall design feel more streamlined and modern.
Kilburn II comes with a leather carrying strap attached for portability — which is a necessary add-on if you want to easily carry the speaker around — although the strap can be easily removed if you plan to primarily use it as a tabletop speaker, or you could attach your own guitar-style strap if you wanted to be able to sling it over your shoulder. The box also includes an AC power cable that uses a standard non-polarized EC 320 C7 connector directly into the back, an approach more typical of larger stationary speakers than most portable speakers, which lean toward USB charging. However, Kilburn II obviously has the room for a transformer inside, and we found it refreshing to be able to avoid wrestling with yet another brick plug; Marshall’s cable will fit into any two-prong AC outlet or power bar without any problems. The direct AC connection also allows for more charging power — Marshall promises 20 hours of playtime on a single charge, but has a quick-charge feature that will get you back three hours of battery-powered playtime after just 20 minutes on an AC outlet, and a full charge takes just 2.5 hours.
At 5.5 pounds and almost ten inches in width, Kilburn II might stretch the definition of “portable” just a bit, and we think it’s probably best thought of as a speaker that you’ll carry from place to place for relatively stationary use rather than something that you’d carry around like a boombox; although the latter is certainly an option, there are a lot of other more portable speakers out there that would be better choices for users who are always on the go. That said, it’s an extremely solid and durable speaker, and the heft not only adds to that sense of ruggedness, but is also easily justified considering that Kilburn II actually packs quite a punch.
Under the hood are three separate Class D amplifiers — one 20-watt amp for the woofer, and two independent 8-watt amps for the tweeters — with a bass-reflex design that places the vent on the rear. The three control knobs on the top allow for manual adjustment of power/volume, bass, and treble, allowing Kilburn II to be easily tuned, old-school style, for whatever genre of music you’re listening to. There’s no shortage of bass here, even at the lowest bass setting, so users who like a lot of bass will have plenty to work with. Cranked right up, Kilburn II also reaches just over 100 decibels of volume (SPL of 100.4 dB at 1 meter), so it gets plenty loud. Kilburn II provided immersive room-filling sound with surprisingly good stereo separation for a speaker of its size — we’re not sure what tricks Marshall is using here to accomplish its “multi-directional sound” feature, but whatever they’re doing, it definitely works. There was also no noticeable distortion at even top volume levels, and the character of the bass and treble remain the same across the spectrum. The bass is reasonably well-defined, and although there was a slight bit of muddiness on some tracks, it was minor enough to be of no real concern for a speaker of this size, and honestly is something that we think can only be picked up during critical listening, although serious bass-heads and hip-hop fans may hear more of it. One thing that was certain is that there’s enough bass here to shake the room. Trebles were similarly impressive, offering crisp and textured highs that really come through when listening to guitar-heavy rock — probably not a surprise considering the speaker’s Marshall heritage. It’s also worth mentioning that Kilburn II boasts a frequency response of 52 – 20,000 hertz, which puts the low end measurably below most other speakers in its class.
While its bold design may be somewhat polarizing, the Kilburn II is a speaker that’s definitely worthy of the Marshall name, putting out impressive and balanced sound overall, with deep, earth-shaking bass. Kilburn II plays very well across almost all genres, although we’d say it’s especially great for classic and progressive rock fans, which of course is the audience that its design is most likely to appeal to as well. It’s not the most portable “portable speaker” that we’ve seen, but it’s definitely rugged enough to take on the road, and pumps out loud enough sound for outdoor parties. That said, you’re definitely still paying a slight price premium for the design here, but it’s definitely a quality speaker, so if you’re willing to pay that bit extra for the Marshall look and style, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Company and Price
Model: Kilburn II