STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ round, rich, pleasant sound
+ high level and impulse reserves
+ very good workmanship, stable
- relatively few fine dynamics and transparency
- no level synchronization with smartphone due to analog volume potentiometer
- Hardly any functionality
Sound: tonal balance / transparency6.5
Sound: Bass / Dynamics7.5
Ease-of-use / connectivity8
Price / Performance8.5
The Marshall Kilburn 2 basks in the light of its legendary kin. The Marshall guitar amplifiers have cult status among musicians and formed the acoustic basis for many varieties of rock music with their characteristic sound. However, Marshall did not have a hi-fi tradition until then, so many reacted skeptically to the brand’s rebirth a few years ago with fancy in-ear headphones and the like.
However, the Marshall Kilburn 2 hardly leaves any doubts about its seriousness: The synthetic leather-covered housing in retro design is too well made for that, with knobs, edge protectors, metal mesh and a stylish Marshall lettering. At 2.5 kg, it is quite heavy for a real mobile speaker, but it is also portable thanks to the (vegan!) leather strap. This creates a reassuring feeling that no savings were made on acoustically relevant parts or the battery. The latter promises over 20 hours of continuous use with one charge.
In any case, the case with a look between a guitar amplifier and a portable radio makes a sturdy impression and meets the IPX2 standard (protection against light splash water). As an acoustic feature, the manufacturer promises omnidirectional radiation in all directions.
Technical data and ingredients
A Marshall must not lack power, of course, and so the Kilburn 2 offers a proud three amplifier channels: Watts for the woofer and two times 6 watts additional for the tweeters. The separation is active. Unusual: there is no pseudo-stereo arrangement with a tweeter on the left and right, but a mono signal to the front, which is emitted together with the woofer, and a differential signal to the rear. So, such an arrangement inspired by the Blumlein arrangement is what the manufacturer means by omnidirectional. A bass reflex tube on the left side of the back serves as acoustic support in the low frequencies.
The controls usually found on mobile Bluetooth speakers are not found on the Marshall Kilburn 2. Instead, three classic analog knobs for volume, treble and bass. The former is also the on/off switch and controls the volume independently of the smartphone setting. If it sounds too quiet at first, you have to turn up one of the two devices connected via Bluetooth 5.0 to full volume because of the lack of synchronization. There is also no dedicated app control, so you have to rely on the smartphone’s Bluetooth functions.
We found the LED display for the battery status particularly practical. This way, you really know at a glance how much charge is still in the retro speaker. If recharging becomes necessary, you gain another 3 hours of playtime in just 20 minutes on the mains, and the battery is completely full in 2.5 hours.
How the music comes to the Marshall Kilburn 2
With Bluetooth 5.0 with AptX for wireless playback, the Marshall leaves nothing to be desired in terms of connection stability for a mobile speaker. It also switches between two simultaneously connected mobile devices.
As an additional feature, it offers a 3.5mm jack input for analog sources. Otherwise, it is really puristic, because there are no other functions.
More pressure than precision in the sound check
Bass and treble controls on the Marshall Kilburn 2 quickly played a role in the sound quality check. In neutral, it remained a bit on the quiet and warm side, with some listeners missing bite and the right kick on impulses. Turning the treble control to the right helps the tonal balance and the perceived speed, without the Kilburn II then really becoming a transparency wonder. Moreover, the treble boosted by the tone control then sounded sharp on the right.
Its bass was thereby somewhat softened in contour, but without reaching too deep. The bass pot accentuated this effect once again and hit the listeners with an even thicker, yet by no means crisper one. The actually natural voice reproduction then receded too much into the background due to a somewhat dull midrange compared to the then bloated basses.
The fact that the trebles didn’t sound particularly brilliant and somewhat washed out in the audition is especially noticeable indoors. The Kilburn sounds bigger than it is with its Blumlein stereophony with a certain rear sound radiation, but it is still not a room sound miracle.
Above all, playing loud was something the Marshall was really good at. However, it neither resolved well nor did it offer a real punch or contour in the bass. Its rather dark tonality was most convincing with quiet but loud music like blues, jazz and classic rock. Nostalgics can also recognize similarities with the legendary Marshall amps from the 70s, especially with electric guitars. It was also noticeable that the “pumping” of DSP-controlled limiters, which is known from most other Bluetooth speakers, was unfamiliar, even at high listening levels. The Marshall is more likely to be heard at a jazz-infused garden party than at a wild party.
Conclusion and alternatives to the Marshall Kilburn 2
The less party-ready, softer sound is unlikely to suit most potential buyers of a mobile party speaker. The Marshall Kilburn 2 is much better suited for soft background sound, but it is also quite heavy and expensive. A Teufel Boomster or JBLXtreme 3 beat it in almost every objective assessment. The JBL Charge 5 doesn’t offer quite the sonic sovereignty, but it’s cheaper, lighter, and more dynamic. However, all of the aforementioned are not as stylish and well-made as the Marshall.
Technical data Marshall Kilburn 2
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 270 euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 24.5 x 14 x 16.2 cm
- Weight: 2,5 kg
- Battery life up to 20 hours
- Special features: Protection against splashing water according to IPX2, analog input, differential stereophony
- More at: www.marshallheadphones.com