Marshall has been continuing to expand its line of speakers, last year introducing its first multi-room system, and more recently an updated version of its portable speaker, the Kilburn II, but it has also returned to its roots with an updated lineup of its three original Bluetooth speakers. Today we’re taking a look at Marshall’s Stanmore II Bluetooth, which falls right in the middle of the three in terms of size, power, and price, while still continuing to sport the same classic design that Marshall has become known for.
We should start off by noting that Marshall’s speaker lineup has gotten a bit confusing, since the company has chosen to use its trio of speaker model names — the Acton, the Stanmore, and the Woburn — across its entire lineup of Bluetooth, Multi-Room Wi-Fi, and Voice Assistant speakers. While there’s some logic to this — each of the models provides a similar physical design and acoustics, differing only in connectivity features — we mention this because it can get confusing. If you’re shopping for a “Marshall Stanmore” you’ll have to pay close attention to whether you’re looking at the Stanmore II Bluetooth, the Stanmore II Voice or the Stanmore Multi-Room.
Unlike Marshall’s Kilburn II, the company’s second-gen update to the Stanmore doesn’t make as many significant design changes. The same brushed aluminum control panel is found on top, although the traditional toggle switch used for power has been modernized somewhat. Brushed aluminum trim with an “Est. 1962” embossed into it also now appears across the bottom of the speaker grille, which otherwise still features the iconic Marshall logo and retro guitar amp look that continues to appeal to classic rock and roll fans in us. An included power cable uses a standard non-polarized EC 320 C7 connector that plugs directly into the back, with a two-prong plug into the wall, so you won’t need to wrestle with external transformers or bricks in order to plug it in — the other end is a standard two-prong AC plug. Stanmore II is no lightweight at 7.7 by 13.8 by 7.3 inches and 10.3 pounds, so it’s clearly designed to be a tabletop speaker rather than something you’ll move around the house regularly. It’s also available in white, although we definitely think that the black version just looks more like a Marshall product.
Atop the Stanmore II are the same controls on the prior version, on a vintage-style control panel. A rocker switch toggles power on and off, while three knobs control volume, bass, and treble, a play/pause button, and an audio source button. Three LEDs provide an indication of which audio source is in use — Bluetooth, the 3.5mm aux in port on the top, or the RCA ports on the rear — and Marshall has more logically labelled these “AUX” and “RCA” rather than the more cryptic “Input 1” and “Input 2” used in the prior version. As mentioned, however, the 3.5mm auxiliary in port is located on the top of the Stanmore II, which is a somewhat unsightly place for it if you plan to keep it regularly connected to a wired audio source, although there are also a pair of standard RCA ports on the rear of the speaker as well. You’ll need to supply your own cables for these connections, however, which was a slightly disappointing omission in a speaker in this price range, although somewhat forgivable due to its strong Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX support.
Under the hood, the Stanmore II packs a pair of 15-watt tweeters and a single 50-watt woofer, with an impressive low-end of 50 Hz, each backed by its own Class D amp. Like the Kilburn II, this is a speaker that’s worthy of the Marshall name, putting out strong and detailed bass where it needs it without being overpowering. Of course, the manual bass and treble controls on top of the Stanmore let you adjust this to your liking, and a free Marshall Bluetooth app gives you a more detailed five-band EQ to play with, so if you like a speaker with a lot of boomy bass, you can certainly get that out of the Stanmore II, but we personally found that the speaker provided great sound across a wide range of genres without the need to fiddle with the controls — for most of our testing and our own listening we just left the bass and treble controls in the middle and didn’t bother with the in-app EQ at all. The only problem we did run into is that tracks with a lot of extremely deep bass did distort at the kind of extremely high volume levels — levels that we would personally consider to be aural suicide in most home environments — but this is a speaker designed for a room at home, and not a large gymnasium or arena, so we really can’t consider that to be a flaw. This distortion also clearly came only from the sub-woofers, and only on tracks with a lot of heavy sub-bass; Stanmore II otherwise produced very clean, distortion free sound at normal levels, and we expect that anybody who isn’t specifically pushing the limits of the speaker for testing like we do probably won’t even notice this issue.
Marshall’s Stanmore II is a solid entry in its class, producing great sound across pretty much every genre, although at $350 it feels like you’re paying a slight premium here for the Marshall name and design, especially considering that, in an era of Wi-Fi and voice-assistant speakers, Stanmore II is “just” a Bluetooth speaker, but if you like the style, you’re definitely going to like the sound that it puts out, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s what really matters in a speaker. While Marshall offers two other options — the smaller Acton II ($250) and the large and powerful Woburn II ($550), we think Stanmore II occupies the sweet spot here for most people, with a size that’s small enough to still sit nicely on a table or dresser, yet sound that’s clean, rich, and powerful.
Company and Price
Model: Stanmore II Bluetooth