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Review: Marshall Kilburn II

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Nov 19, 2018, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Editor's Choice
Marshall Kilburn II

Looking to add a little rock'n'roll to your life? Don't let the throwback vibe of the Kilburn II from Marshall Headphones fool you. This lunch-box-sized, portable Bluetooth speaker packs the latest tech so it can blast your tunes to the max.

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Fans of arena rock should be pretty familiar with the Marshall brand. No less than the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, and Eddie Van Halen used stacks of Marshall amplifiers on stage to create their signature sounds. Marshall's place in the history of rock and roll is assured.

Marshall Headphones is a separate company, owned by Zound Industries in Sweden. It licenses the iconic Marshall brand to design and sell headphones, speakers, and other audio products.

That brings us to the Kilburn II, a stout Bluetooth speaker that has promises to deliver live sound to your living room.

Hardware

Marshall Headphones makes an entire range of Bluetooth-equipped speakers. The Kilburn II is the larger of the two portable (i.e., battery-powered) options.

The Kilburn II is a stout little thing. If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, the Kilburn II is about the same size and shape as those tin Scooby-Doo lunch boxes we brought to school every day.

In looks, the Kilburn II is brutish. This is no cartoon-colored, summertime-fun speaker; it's an I'm-going-to-melt-your-face speaker. This is the type of in-room speaker I'd expect to see at a Hard Rock Hotel. It's covered in black vinyl, has a metal grille, and a leather strap finishes the look. It might as well be wearing sunglasses. At night.

Front Profile

Front Profile

On the top surface you'll find three knobs for controlling the sound. I like that the power switch is built into the volume knob. The word "off" is just below the "0". When you hear the click, you'll know you turned it off (or on). The knobs themselves have excellent action. Physical knobs make it really easy to tune the speaker.

Controls

Controls

Press the small button marked "Bluetooth" to turn on the Bluetooth radio and start pairing. The light blinks on and off when in pairing mode and remains off when paired and connected to your phone.

You can check the speaker's battery life any time by glancing at the top. A series of many small LEDs make for a battery meter.

The strap is bolted into the sides firmly. It's leather on the top and felt (like the kind you'd find inside a guitar case) on the inside. I like that you can swivel the strap down behind the speaker if you want. You can also remove the strap of you wish.

You might have noticed the "II" in the Kilburn's name. This is an updated speaker, and one of the more significant updates is front and center: the mesh wire grille. It's meant to evoke the metal grille pattern on old microphones while also providing plenty of protection for the speakers behind it.

Grille

Grille

The back panel has a large port to help with bass response. There's also a circular grille that helps make the Kilburn II a multi-directional speaker. A thick rubber flap hides the port for the power cord.

Marshall Headphones included a 3.5mm AUX port on the rear panel for good measure. This means you can bypass Bluetooth and plug directly into the speaker if you prefer.

Rear Panel

Rear Panel

Marshall Headphones says the Kilburn II is "supremely rugged and durable." I don't disagree. The frame is made from incredibly thick material, and all eight corners are protected by hardened plastic. The speaker isn't waterproof, but the IPX2 rating means it can get splashed a bit.

When Marshall Headphones says the Kilburn II is "portable" it isn't lying, but it might not be as portable as you think. It won't fit in your backpack. You'll have to put it in the backseat of your car. There's also the weight. At a solid 5.5 pounds, I wouldn't want to drag this thing to the beach.

Rear Profile

Rear Profile

Performance

The speaker relies on Bluetooth 5.0 and supports aptX for better clarity (when used with compatible phones). There's no app or software involved, so pairing requires you to use the button on the top of the speaker. It supports up to two simultaneous connections, which lets friends play DJ together.

Marshall doesn't explicitly state the Bluetooth radio's range, but I was able to get 50-60 feet away from the speaker before it started to wobble a little.

Strap Down

Strap Down

The Kilburn II has two tweeters and one woofer. The tweeters each get their own 8-watt amplifier, while the woofer has a dedicated 20-watt amplifier. The tweeters allow the Kilburn II to reproduce stereo sound, though it's hard to tell the left channel from the right, given how close the tweeters are to one another. The speaker has a frequency response of 52 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which is about average for a product in this category.

How does it sound? Um, this thing roars. I tested it with Spotify on a Pixel 3 XL and Apple Music on an iPhone Xs Max. The sound is rich, full, and balanced. You can tell the speaker is breathing, it's not suffocating like other compact speakers. The amount of air this thing can push is surprising.

The bass and treble dials on the top really let you create the sound you like. I don't enjoy fussing with app-based equalizers; give me a real knob to turn. No matter what style of music I sampled (rock, metal, jazz, electronic, vocal, organ), the Kilburn II shined. You can overdo the bass, and if you do, it will push the mids and highs out of the way. Treat the bass knob with respect.

Top

Top

The Kilburn II has to be the absolute loudest Bluetooth speaker I've ever tested. It delivers a crushing amount of sound. I easily filled the entire first floor of my house with music. The Kilburn II produced enough volume to overcome a chatty crowd. It's loud, Loud, LOUD.

As for battery life, the Kilburn II will party longer than you. From full to dead, the speaker provides more than 20 hours of playback time. Plug it in for 30 minutes and you'll get 3 hours of battery life. It takes 2.5 hours to charge fully. Few portable Bluetooth speakers offer this much battery life.

Battery LEDS

Battery LEDS

Discussion

The Kilburn II from Marshall Headphones makes no apologies for what it is. It's a tiny terror, a Bluetooth bad-ass.

This speaker is for people who have a dark side, who like it loud, who want something that stands out visually and musically. The metal grille, leather strap, and black vinyl give it a 70s feel that hides the fine-tuned system within. The Kilburn II is tough as nails, thanks to the rugged build.

It's also expensive. It goes for $300, which is a lot of scratch. If you're looking for something to appease your inner rock star, the Kilburn II sounds great and delivers some of the best battery life for a portable speaker.

Our Ratings

5
Overall
 

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