Bluetooth speakers tend to have a very same-same look, what with all the small cylindrical or rectangular boxes out there, but Marshall’s Stanmore is something different, very different, focusing on the brand’s heritage and delivering a speaker for musos.
Retro looks seem to be a thing modern designers are embracing, but the Marshall Stanmore looks to take that to the next level, borrowing from the style used in Marshall’s amplifiers and speakers used by professional musicians, and applying that to a Bluetooth speaker with support for other sources.
The design is pure Marshall amp, too, possibly 70s to 80s, with a vinyl covering around what appears to be a wooden box, similar to the speakers the company normally produces.
There’s a fabric cover for the grill, and the typical Marshall script logo, with the top of the speaker decked in brushed metal with knobs, buttons, and switches designed in the same vein, all of which looks like the Stanmore is a piece out of Marshall’s long musical history.
Built in the same vein is one thing, but Marshall wants you to enjoy the sound, too, and has employed two 1.9cm dome tweeters and a 13cm subwoofer to make this happen, working with a Class D amplifier delivering 80 watts of power across these inclusions (40W sub, 20W tweeters).
This technology doesn’t come light, though, with the Stanmore tipping the scales at 5.1 kilograms.
While only one sound device can be used at once, owners will have four ways of transmitting sound to the Marshall Stanmore speaker, with Bluetooth, 3.5mm stereo jack, RCA (red-white), or optical.
A button for source will let you change sources quickly, one by one, with the other button — pair — helping you to initiate the Bluetooth pairing process with a phone, tablet, or laptop computer.
No battery is found here, though, a change from other speakers, and you’ll need to keep the Stanmore plugged into the wall to use it.
Marshall calls the Stanmore a compact product, but in terms of compact Bluetooth speakers, we can already tell you that you’ve likely seen much smaller.
Rather, the Stanmore sits on the larger side of compact speaker world, appearing as a mid-sized speaker and weighing just over five kilograms, well over what most “compact” Bluetooth speakers come in at.
That’s not compact, not by any stretch of the imagination, though it’s definitely compact compared to some of the other speaker boxes Marshall makes, and that’s what the Stanmore has been designed to look like.
In fact, the design is one area we love.
Love with a capital “L,” because it’s pure heritage and rock god style, letting you relive the emotion from when you turned up to your first real rock gig and had your ears blown out by the massive quad-box you for some reason parked yourself in front of, or the amplifier you always wanted to plug that electric bass or guitar into to jam and scream and wail with.
This is a speaker that looks like music, that looks like rock and roll and soul, and while other speakers aim for simplicity with brushed or gun-metal surfaces, and others again look at the perfection that is polycarbonate, Marshall’s Stanmore looks like something a musician would use on stage, with a classic soft fabric grill, black vinyl around the edges, gold metal operation panel, and that original Marshall script logo that has been in use for so long, we’ve lost count.
Marshall’s Stanmore evokes rock and roll in such a way that even before you switch it on and see the red light glow from the power section, even before you feel the amp-inspired knobs and switch, even before you do all of that, it looks like business.
It’s so nice to know that it’s not just a look, either, because in action, this is a speaker that shines, calling out for you to pump it up.
We’ll do our GadgetGuy sound test as per usual, which starts with electronic music.
Starting it off is the “Introduction” from Solar Field off the “Mirror’s Edge” soundtrack, with delicate high notes playing in and out and off each other while a warm backing track is brought in from behind. In this piece, the treble and highs played softly over the top, while a warm bass sailed in, reminding us of a recreation on a larger speaker.
Indeed, when the music starts to glitch out and pop — intentionally, that’s a track thing — the speaker still held its own, soft and vibrant all at once.
On the other side of the spectrum and away from the light and playful stuff is harder music, so we pumped up the bass and brough in Mooro’s “M66R6” and The Glitch Mob’s “Skullclub,” both of which had strong bass with plenty of oomph, while keeping the mids and highs balanced and levelled off.
Over to rock and we start lightly, coming in from electronic with something similar, such as Radiohead’s “Idioteque,” with an electronic feel segmented by solid beats which call out on this speaker, all the while Thom Yorke’s vocals are soft over the top of it all.
Pushing to something a little harder in Muse’s “Supremacy” and Closure In Moscow’s “A Night At The Spleen,” it’s clear that rock is one area this speaker loves, with detail across all the sections, the bass particularly vibrant when it needs to be pushed by the track’s use of bas and drums, and the highs of the guitar and vocals screamed out loud with little to no distortion, and plenty of room to move on that volume knob.
Classic rock and blues are just as solid too, with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Voodoo Child” and “Gimme Shelter” from The Rolling Stones edgy, balanced across all the sections, and ringing out across the entirety of the song. The sound here is warm, friendly, and enough to put you in the mood to dance and rock out.
The bass is deep and noticeable, thick with personality, and makes you believe the speaker is bigger than what is sitting on your desk.
Pop and R&B are equally solid — by this point, we’re not surprised — and in Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean” the bass is strong, but the highs of Jackson’s voice equally strong, balanced across the board. We can achieve similar balance in Jessie J’s “Bang Bang” and Peter Gabriel’s “Steam.”
Jazz is just as strong, too with Dave Brubeck’s “Maria” warm, balanced, detailed across all the main sections, with a lovely rounded double bass in this track, as well as John Coltrane’s “Blue Train.”
Classical shines just as beautifully, with detail across the mids and highs, and a whopping of the bass, something which rang out across the lower instruments in Thomas Newman’s “Define Dancing” from the Wall-E soundtrack, as well as Claude Bolling and Yo-Yo Ma’s “Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano” with its rich cello, strong double bass, soft drums, and delicate piano.
Even on the single instrument classical, there’s a warm sound offered, found in Freddy Kampf’s playing of Chopin’s “Fantaisie Impromptu.”
One obvious positive for Marshall’s Stanmore that helped in our music test is something so few Bluetooth or wired speakers have: knobs.
That’s not to say the speaker is a knob in any derogatory way, but rather that it has control knobs, and useful control knobs at that, with one for bass and one for treble. That’s the sort of control you might see on a guitar amp or speaker box, but it’s not the sort of thing we’re used to seeing on a Bluetooth speaker. Normally, that sound profile is baked into its design, and is one of the things we judge a sound device on.
But here on the Stanmore, Marshall has continued the tradition of letting the speaker’s owner decide on the balance of the sound and put the bass and treble in the hands of the person listening.
And it works a treat, too.
While there could always be more bass, the fact that you have zero through to ten for bass and treble controls helps you get the best balance you could possibly want on a song by song basis.
It’s not an automatic thing, mind you, not like the active equalisers on highly electronic speakers, but rather one that is so perfectly analogue, a process that harks back to a time from when computer controlled systems didn’t take all of the intricate fiddling from us, and lets you get your ears dirty be defining that sound yourself.
We can’t imagine Samsung or LG doing this, mind you, but with Marshall’s music heritage, it totally makes sense here, and wonder how long it is before Fender, Gibson, Orange, or Gretsch get in with their own style or play on the idea.
One obvious negative for this speaker is that it can’t be used like an amp, or even a practice amp, even if it looks like one.
Sorry musos, but the Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth speaker will not double up as your portable guitar screaming protege, as it just doesn’t have that level of power.
It has been designed for music, plain and simple, whether it’s send through Bluetooth, wired 3.5mm cable, auxiliary, or optical; the larger 6.5mm jacks need not apply.
Another serious negative is the price, and this kicks in at $599, making it one of the more expensive of the Bluetooth speakers, especially without a docking mechanism.
This won’t charge your iPhone and it won’t charge your Android; it’s not a dock. It won’t even letting you plug a USB cable out the back to make any of that happen.
What it will do is playback your audio, and do so brilliantly with a style no other speaker that we’ve come across has.
For many, the $599 price tag will simply be too much, but if you love this type of style, or alternatively you love rock and roll and don’t have another dime for the jukebox (baby), that price tag won’t be a haggle at all.
Make no mistake: while it’s not a particularly cheap product, Marshall’s Stanmore is a fantastic speaker, with looks to kill and brilliant sound to match.
This is a speaker the way a music company would design one: for people who love music and want to relive the thrill of listening for the first time every time they switch the speaker on.
Our only complaint is that it doesn’t go up to 11, but like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, you could probably paint that on yourself if you really needed to, because the Marshall Stanmore gets damn close.