STEREO GUIDE test verdict
+ Homogeneous, full-bodied tuning
+ very rich, differentiated bass
+ App with good room compensation
+ HDMI and RCA inputs
+ High quality workmanship with good materials
- a little bulky for a place under the TV
Sound: naturalness / transparency9
Sound: Bass / Dynamics9
Practice / Connectivity8.9
The selection of compact bluetooth speakers by Marshall which we reviewed so far, might not fully drag everyone into the cult as the manufacturer´s guitar amps do. No doubt, this brand has been an icon of rock culture for more than 60 years. Countless guitar heroes prefer to play having a wall of Marshalls behind them – so what about your living room? The new Marshall Woburn III gives a glimpse of true rock´n roll gear – it is as big as a classic Marshall combo, and 120 Watts is what you want to go for.
The most innovative feature about that one is an HDMI ARC: Those who like to watch rock concerts or electric guitar tutorials on their TV might find it useful to connect the Woburn 3 directly and control it via the TV’s RC. However, one should definitily have a bit of space under the TV. The Woburn 3 measures not only a chunky 12″/32 centimetres in height, you also need to control it from above because the control knobs and switches are on the top of the cabinet.
So would a comparably flat lowboard be the best choice or should we put it right on the floor? Marshall´s design engineers might have had this question in mind when drafting the concept for this product. And came to the conclusion: Both, of course. So the Marshall Bluetooth app, which is available for iOS and Android, got a room compensation built in. That turns out to be a very useful feature for such a bass-heavy XL speaker.
The tower of power
Pure power is of course futile in any dynamic system without control of the drivers: Marshall´s Woburn 3 is design as a true 3-way stereo system with fully active crossovers. Two dome tweeters come with horn-like waveguides and are positioned on either side of the baffle to create a stereo reproduction in conjunction with two 2″ midrange. A 6″ bass driver found in the center of the baffle is kicked by a whopping 90 watts of power. A port on the rear side provides a final boost. So one thing is clear already: The Woburn III should be positioned at least a bit away from the wall and not walled in like a brick on the shelve.
As you like it: App or retro control?
The controls finally bring the real Marshall feeling to any living room: The power button is a toggle switch like in the old days. The potentiometer knobs give a satisfyingly analogue feeling to adjust volume, treble, and bass. However, they turn indefinitely unlike the mechanical potentiometer we found in the Marshall Kilburn 2. However, they give a quality feel when turning and allow a fully synchronized volume control when connected your smartphone to the Woburn via Bluetooth.
To take further control, you find only two keys on the panel: A classic button for source selection, which gives a nice feeling of control thanks to four LEDs indicating which source you are playing from right now. The additional push-slider is something smart to initiate both play/pause and skipping. We are fully convinced: You can’t solve this in a simpler and more intuitive way. Some other manufacturers can take a leaf out of this book with their 5-fold multiple key operations and staple monkey grips.
Simple but intuitive app
The Marshall Bluetooth app is nicely made, but its functions are somewhat basic. Running such a bass-rich speaker in small rooms, taming the bass energy is especially crucial. You could somehow manage that with the comparatively coarse bass control, which is hidden under the promising name “Equalizer” but is basically as a simple bass and treble control.
Of course, it is more logical to define the way you placed your speaker in the room. That´s what Marshall calls ´placement compensation´. Depending on the selected scheme, the Woburn 3´s Bass is dosed accordingly. That´s especially important when the Woburn 3 is placed on the floor, close to a wall or in the corner of a room, because these scenarios most likely result in a bloated or boomy bass when not being compensated.
Four ways to get music to the Marshall Woburn 3
Offering Bluetooth 5.2 with AptX for wireless playback, the Marshall is up to date and showed a pretty reliable connection. It also deals with two smartphones connected simultaneously thanks to its multihost option. The connection also enables firmware updates via smartphone, which must first download the necessary data from the Internet. The fact that this task took more than 10 minutes in the test was mainly due to the bandwidth-limited Bluetooth connected as we were using Wifi to download.
Before proceeding with the listening test, a few words about connectivity. An analogue 3.5 mm jack input is what you might expect from any home speaker. An additional pair of RCAs is located at the very bottom of the rear. This one, intended for connected classic hi-fi gear, serves as a separately selectable source. This proves to be very practical if, for example, you want to connect a record player with preamplifier plus an additional MP3 player. An additional HDMI (ARC) is also around making a pretty good match with any likewise-equipped TV. In this case, the TV´s RC takes over the control of the Marshall Woburn III.
Loads of bass and fun: Marshall Woburn 3´s sonic performance
The results of the listening test could be briefly summed up: Sounds as it looks. Its depth, pressure and speed, especially with kicking bassnotes of any kind, is what we would call a sensation taking into account that it is just a one-box system. That is a bold verdict we have never awarded to any compact one-box-system so far, not even a Marshall or Bowers&Wilkins´ acclaimed Zeppelin 4. And yes – we are aware that there are a lot of reviews around fantasising about ´mega bass´ from some tiny speakers when it´s actually just a series of plops.
That´s not our way of testing. We are not just experienced with top-of-the-notch hi-fi and high-end audio gear. Having some active speakers such as the KEF LS50 Wireless II as a reference, we would not be fooled by some pseudo bass. Our sonic standards for bass are serious, and the Woburn III is meeting the
Boosts your mood
That is also true for audiophile virtues beyond just convincing bass. Thus, the Marshall Woburn III turned out to be very versatile mastering every music genre we tried. Some homage to Marshall´s guitar amp roots like Deep Purple´s “Smoke On The Water” were mandatory. Also some pretty demanding electro pop like Yuri Petrovski´s “True” offering tight, rich beats that got some additional authority. I also tried some jazz and even extreme hip hop and electronic. So when writing this review, i realized ´Oops, forgot about about classical´.
This is not only because I personally enjoy classical music at most occasionally when played live. The idea simply sounds absurd – who buys a retro rock speaker to listen to Beethoven on that one? But a comprehensive listening test also includes classical music.
It may also be classical music
So classical music came to quite a surprise. During Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” my jaw almost dropped. Picking the first guitar strings already revealed great impulse response, a finely traced decay of the strings and a full-bodied tonality. Remarkable: the Woburn III managed to perform impulses without a hint of that certain harshness often associated with impulsive reproduction. The rendition of the legendary Spanish guitar concerto succeeded in being distinctly differentiated and elegant, yet balanced and naturally warm. Of course, the staging is not what you would expect from a pair of stereo speakers and it sounded rather vague and wide than being a focussed projection. But, however, that is the limitation of such a comparably narrow speaker design.
The fun factor is clearly greatest with pop, rock and hip-hop. At the same time, it reaches lower and sounds more substantial than competitors that simply kick the upper bass. This makes the bass reproduction more differentiated, its performance more adult. If you compare other speakers in its size or speakers or hi-fi systems in its price range, you can’t help but pay respect to this fine retro speaker. Voices sound bright, clear and differentiated. The treble is present, but never tends o sharpness or metallic harshness.
As substantial as a small stereo system
Actually, it should not be mentioned that the tonal balance and the relaxedness that characterizes the Woburn III gives way to a slight austerity whendriving it to the limit of its immense power reserves. However, this limit is beyond any reasonable SPL. We still want to mention it, because 600 bucks is a hefty budget and the Marshall might provide some higher hopes. It nevertheless is a real bargain from the point of view of anyone who listens to music primarily for fun.
Final warning: Don’t expect the night mode in the app to preserve peace with your neighbours when listetning at high levels late at night. The bass cut of this often-desired function is just marginal. After all, the Marshall Woburn III has a very well-done dynamic loudness control, similar to Sonos, which makes it sound quite full-bodied even at low levels.
Are there any alternatives to the Marshall Woburn III?
If you want to expericence a full rock concert on TV with just one speaker, you won’t find an alternative on the market. When it comes to perceived dynamics and powerful bass, however, the Woburn III has little competition even without taking the HDMI input into consideration. The Denon Home 350 gets similarly loud, but compared to the Marshall, it sounds less homogeneous and the bass gets a bit lost in time and space. Bowers&Wilkins Zeppelin Gen 4 is clearly more audiophile and its imaging more spacious, but it is also more expensive and does not quite offer such a low bass.
Maybe Marshall will add a phono input for turntables to the next Woburn, because many not only like retro design, but also vinyl. Or you might want to choose a turntable with phono-pre built-in`?
Specifications Marshall Woburn 3
- Retail price: 570 dollars/pounds/euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 40 x 31.7 x 20.5 cm
- Weight: 7,5 kg
- Features: HDMI, analogue input, analogue controls
- More at: www.marshallheadphones.com
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