Marshall Kilburn II vs Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3: Which 2018 Speaker Comes Out on Top?


We’ve long been listening to and recommending both Ultimate Ears and Marshall speakers, and they’re at the top of our lists of larger, louder Bluetooth speakers.

Here we’ll do a head-to-head comparison between the latest: the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 and the Marshall Kilburn II. Both are portable party monsters that go very loud, and both sound absolutely great doing so, not just to us but to most audio critics out there.

We’ll start with a side-by-side overview and then dive further into the relative advantages of each.

Update History of This Article

This article was originally published on October 16, 2018.

Side-by-Side Comparison: Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 vs Marshall Kilburn II

Our Very Deep Thoughts on 2018’s Top-Notch Megaboom 3 and  Kilburn II

This has been a great year for Bluetooth speakers, as both Ultimate Ears and Marshall have further refined their best larger options for sound on the go. There are the obvious differences in style; the brash, young party guy Megaboom 3 shimmers a bit, like a wanna-be disco ball, whereas the Kilburn II is more of a classic guitar rock sort of party guy. But let’s do get serious about what’s really different.

Differences in Features

Both of these speakers, thankfully, don’t go over the top by trying to impress with unnecessary features (the days when Bluetooth speakers tried to serve as speakerphones seem to be over). The Kilburn II is generally even a bit more reserved in just focusing on good sound.

  • The most outstanding feature in our opinion is the ability to pair two Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3s together for a stereo pair or more volume (though this does mean the expense of two speakers). The Kilburn II lacks this.
  • We prefer the analogue controls of the Kilburn II; it’s deeply satisfying and much more convenient to be able to twist dials to adjust bass, volume, and treble. The Megaboom 3 does offer equalizer control as well but from it’s dedicated app.
  • The Kilburn II has a 3.5 mm input and includes a coiled cable to boot, if you still have devices that use those. The Megaboom 3 does not.
  • Both advertise 20-hour battery life, with the Marshall Kilburn II claiming “20+”. In real world use, most reviewers and customer reviews say that they get nearly these times when listening at normal volumes.
  • The Megaboom 3 is fully waterproof and dustproof (IP67 rated) and can withstand a lot of drops and abuse. The Kilburn II is only rated to withstand the odd bit of drizzle or splash (IPX2).
  • The Megaboom 3 can be hung from a fabric loop and fits a standard carabiner so it’s easy to hang from anything. The Kilburn II is much heavier and carried with a hand strap. Both speakers sound best placed on a flat, resonant surface, however.

Keep in mind as well the overall sizes and weights of these two. The Kilburn II, at 2.5-times heavier, is simply not as portable.

How the Megaboom 3 and Kilburn II Sound, and How Loud Are They?

When Ultimate Ears updated the Megaboom to the Megaboom 3, the audio criticsbloggersand tech sites all signaled their approval of the improvements in what was already at the top of most lists.

The major problems with lower-quality Bluetooth speakers is that they tend to either distort at high volumes or overemphasize a rather shallow bass end. The Megaboom 3 does neither; it remains even and balanced across bass, mids, and high end, and keeps an impressive clarity and separation of musical instruments for its small size. There’s sweetness in the highs and punchy convincing depth in the bass.

Most impressively, the Megaboom 3 sounds just about the same no matter which side of it you’re standing on. It’s thus just fine when used outside and placed in the middle of a beach or backyard dance party. This is something that the Marshall Kilburn II can’t do; its rear-oriented tweeters provide some multidirectionality but it sounds best from the front.

The recent update of the Marshall Kilburn to the Marshall Kilburn II has also gotten a lot of positive attention from audio critics. It’s classy-looking, sure, and capitalizing on nostalgia for Marshall guitar amps. But it really is a beautiful-sounding Bluetooth speaker that’s able to kick out a lot of volume.

The Kilburn II gets a bit louder than the Megaboom 3 and its bass goes a bit deeper. Thrillingly it still sounds great at the highest volumes without distorting. There’s punchiness and dynamism throughout the range, and good separation of instruments and a bit of a stereo effect from the two rear-firing tweeters. It’s about the best you can do for a road speaker that sounds as good as your living room setup.

Wrap-Up: Which of These Is Right for You?

The cheaper option and the easiest thing to throw in a bag and carry around is the Megaboom 3, and no reasonable person will be at all disappointed with how it sounds.

But if you’re willing to both carry and spend a bit more, the Marshall Kilburn II delivers a more gorgeous performance overall. It’s not built for rough use around water, however.

Our favorite solution: two Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3s paired together, offering great stereo separation, detail, and volume on the go.

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3
The best-sounding waterproof speaker of its very portable size, even better if you grab two for a stereo pair or more volume
Marshall Kilburn II
Bigger and heavier but still portable, sounds almost as great as high-end bookshelf systems

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