Marshall amps have already been an iconic facet of rock and roll for many years. They are the speakers many top-name musicians and bands have used since 1966. They haven’t really been consumer products (not counting garage band members) until recently, though, with the Marshall Monitor($78.99 at Amazon) headphones. Marshall is expanding on that idea with the Stanmore and Hanwell, big Bluetooth speakers that evoke the aesthetics of Marshall amps but offer performance and connectivity well suited for any music lover with a smartphone. We tested the $400 (direct) Stanmore, even though pricier and less lightweight than most Bluetooth speakers, its sound quality and power is top-notch and its own design is a glance at rock and roll’s past. It’s our new Editors’ Choice for high-end Bluetooth speakers.
This is not a Marshall amp converted into a Bluetooth speaker; it’s a consumer speaker built-in China, not Marshall’s factory in England, and its own size and design are designed to evoke the appearance of Marshall amps, not replicate their performance. The Stanmore is a “compact” speaker only compared to its bigger brother, the Hanwell. For practically almost every other Bluetooth speaker currently available, it’s huge. It’s 13.8 inches wide, 7.3 inches tall and deep, and weighs 11.2 pounds. Its size and heft allow it pack more audio tracks power than smaller Bluetooth speakers, though. Beneath the fret grille cloth sit a 5.25-inch woofer, two 0.75-inch tweeters, and an 80-watt class D digital amplifier. That’s much, a lot more power than you will discover behind smaller speakers just like the Bose SoundLink II($499.97 at Amazon), though this means the Stanmore is both chunky and takes a power outlet; you can’t pick it up and operate on battery power like the majority of Bluetooth speakers.
The Stanmore oozes classic rock style. It looks and feels as though a tiny guitar amp, covered in leather with a gold-trimmed cloth grille with a gold-painted plastic Marshall logo on leading. The controls are pure retro, with a brass toggle on / off switch, round metal Source/Wake and Pair buttons, and analog control knobs for Volume, Treble, and Bass. The Bluetooth, Optical, Input 1, and Input 2 lights are tiny, recessed red LEDs that could look in the home on a decades-old audio system, next to a sturdy, brass 3.5mm input jack. The trunk of the speaker is very simple and retro-functional, with optical and stereo RCA audio tracks inputs and a toggle switch for selecting Standard or Powersaver standby modes. All it’s missing is a 1/4-inch jack, but an adapter will allow 3.5mm port at the top do in a pinch. Even the included 3.5mm audio tracks cable is stylish, with a thick, coiled wire and long, guitar input-style brass plugs on each end.
The Bass and Treble knobs are unusual if you are used to other speakers; here, the knobs were created similar to amps, with levels from 0 to 10. I came across the best performance originated from turning Bass and Treble to near maximum, and that lower levels led to a slightly muffled sound. Curiously, even boosting bass and treble to the max didn’t seem to be to do quite definitely boosting of the sound signature, and neither end of the spectrum sounded particularly blown out at those settings.
Marshall claims the Stanmore can span 45 to 22,000 Hz, giving it a hefty reach over the frequency spectrum. With out a subwoofer it can’t dip in to the really thrumming sub-bass, nonetheless it still performed admirably inside our tests. With The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Stanmore reproduced both synth notes and kick drum at full volume and with respectable force, though it couldn’t shake the walls that can compare with full sound systems with dedicated subwoofers can. Having less distortion and surprisingly clear reproduction of the deep bass was admirable, and presented a number of the more subtle information on the opening compared to that track that usually are destroyed by the sub-bass, either by overpowering them through sheer force or distorting together with the bass.