There are some major differences in the range of portable Marshall Bluetooth speakers to be aware of, even if the Stockwell II, Kilburn II, and Tufton do have the same outward design and similar sound profiles. (Note that there is no such thing as a Marshall Tufton II; the recently released Tufton is the newest and largest of the Marshall portable lineup.)
Marshall’s portable Bluetooth speakers are some of the most-gorgeous-sounding out there, for true audiophiles that want to be able to carry a nearly-high-end-living-room-system experience on the go. And they’re also quite suitable as home speakers that you might want to occasionally take out onto the patio, picnic, tailgating, or a trip.
The obvious differences are size and price, and as usual with speakers, the larger options provide fuller sound, deeper and more convincing bass, and go louder. But we’ll go more into the features and critics’ reactions to each after a quick side-by-side comparison.
- Side-by-Side Comparison: The Marshall Stockwell II vs. Kilburn II vs. Tufton
- Critical Meta-Review: How the Marshall Portable Speakers Actually Perform
- Contrasts: The Marshall Stockwell II Is the Smallest, Most Portable
- Contrasts: The Marshall Kilburn II Is Mid-Sized, and Just Perfectly All-Purpose
- Contrasts: The Marshall Tufton Sounds Amazing but Stretches the Idea of "Portable"
- Wrap-up: And the Best Portable Marshall Bluetooth Speaker for You Is...
Update History of This Article
Side-by-Side Comparison: The Marshall Stockwell II vs. Kilburn II vs. Tufton
Critical Meta-Review: How the Marshall Portable Speakers Actually Perform
First of all, to burst your bubble, these aren’t technically made by the same people who made the classic Marshall guitar amps. Marshall has for a few years licensed out the name and look to Zound Industries, a Swedish headphone and speaker company.
But that’s not at all to say that these are a gimmick; they are in fact very high end speakers and worthy of the Marshall name. Both the first-generation Marshall Bluetooth speakers and this current generation have been widely loved by critics and consumer organizations, and we’ve been recommending the Kilburn I and then Kilburn II on this site for some time as the best of the larger Bluetooth speakers out there. They’re all deceptively simple, well-built speakers that sound amazing for their portability and price.
As we’ll see below, they’re not for everyone though.
Shared Features and Drawbacks of the Stockwell II, Kilburn II, and Tufton
There’s quite a bit in common that we can say first about all three of Marshall’s portable Bluetooth speakers, as they share the same outward design and sound profile.
Pros of the Marshall Portable Bluetooth Speakers
- Gorgeous overall sound profile: All three speakers have excellent, punchy, deep bass for their size, go quite loud, and have an even mix. See more on each in their individual sections below.
- “Antique” treble, bass, and volume knobs: Having actual old-school knobs on your Bluetooth speaker is a rare and satisfying luxury, and the ability to quickly adjust these basic settings can make a real difference in fine-tuning the mix for specific tracks or tastes.
- Strong multi-directional stereo sound: The Blumlein Stereo technique is used to partially combine the left and right channels, and point sound through the back, front, and side, to give a fuller multi-directional stereo experience. Reviewers of all three speakers have loved the result, as it gives a fuller sense of stereo and soundstage than you can get with other small, one-piece units. Some felt that it was slightly out-of-phase however on tracks with a lot of reverb, and in this case reducing the bass knob can be helpful. Bass for all three speakers can be improved and given more depth when the back of the speaker is near a wall.
- Durable construction, water resistance: These are solidly built, water-resistant speakers with carry straps, well-suited for the road. They have one-year warranties.
- Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX: All three speakers provide excellent connectivity in tests, even through walls or at a distance. The aptX coding supposedly offers higher fidelity on compatible devices, though most listeners will likely not notice the difference. Testing with Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services uncovered no syncing issues. All three allow two simultaneous Bluetooth devices to connect, so you can trade off the DJ, for example.
- Great battery life: While it varies, real-world battery life has been excellent for all three (see individual reviews below); more than enough for a long trip or outdoor dance party. The battery indicator is also useful for keeping tabs.
Cons of the Marshall Portable Bluetooth Speakers
- Heavy: These are each a bit much to carry for their sizes, compared to other Bluetooth speakers, and they’re not shockproof if you were to drop or mistreat them. The lightest is the Stockwell II at three pounds. For a speaker that sounds nearly as good and is much lighter than that and can survive serious drops, check out our favorite travel speaker.
- Not waterproof: No, you shouldn’t use any speaker underwater and this might be a bit frivolous, but a lot of competing speakers are completely IPX7 waterproof. Marshall’s portable speakers are merely rated for water resistance (IPX4 for the Stockwell II, IPX2 for the Kilburn II and Tufton). For great sounding boombox-style waterproof speakers that are completely IPX7 waterproof and even float, check out the JBL Xtreme 2 or Boombox at the larger end. Our favorite smaller waterproof speakers are the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 or Megaboom 3.
- Expensive: As much as we think they’re well worth it, the Marshall speakers are hardly the cheapest out there. Check out the speakers mentioned in the previous two points for cheaper options, or if you’re really on a budget, go for these super-cheap travel Bluetooth speakers.
Note that none of these drawbacks are about how about how the Marshall speakers sound. These are wonderful in terms of providing immersive sonic presence in small, medium, and larger packages.
Contrasts: The Marshall Stockwell II Is the Smallest, Most Portable
The Marshall Stockwell II is the most portable of the Marshall offerings and thus puts it in competition with the crowded market of smaller portable Bluetooth speakers.
As usual, we average out the thoughts from all the best speaker critics in our meta-review, rather than just imposing our own. This is fairly for the Stockwell II, as speaker obsessives and tech reviewers have thus far been in agreement and given the Stockwell II quite high marks overall. One who hated the original Stockwell has already named it the best speaker for 2019.
In general the critics have applauded the Stockwell II’s neutral mix that allows all frequencies to shine (with just perhaps a bit of boost at the top and bottom frequencies), and those that did have quibbles with the mix found that they could make quick adjustments with the knobs and get a sound that they enjoyed.
The Stockwell II is not the best small outdoor party speaker — that would be the waterproof road speakers JBL Charge 4 or Xtreme 2 — as it doesn’t go quite as gorgeously loud as those other guys. But the Stockwell II does go plenty loud enough to fill even a massive indoor living space with sound, and it’ll sound good and kick out a reasonable amount of bass for its size while doing so (and the bass is improved a bit next to a wall). If you’re regularly going to use it in a larger space, however, go for the Kilburn II or Tufton.
Similarly, the Stockwell II sounds good out of doors, it’s just not going to go as loud or animate as large a gathering as the larger Kilburn II or Tufton. But for use on a small patio it’s still excellent.
The multi-directional stereo design, which sends some of the sound out of the back and the side, offers a surprising amount of soundstage for such a small speaker. There were some small complaints about the out-of-phase processing, which can sound a bit odd on tracks with lots of reverb, but adjusting the bass or volume down a bit can usually eliminate that.
Don’t expect a huge stereo separation effect from such a small speaker, but there is some stereo separation and the speaker manages to do this while also sounding great from the front, sides, and back.
The feature differences to be aware of for the Stockwell II as compared to the others:
- USB-C charging: The speaker charges via the new standard that is now found on many mobile phones and other devices.
- IPX4 water resistant: This higher water resistance rating means that the speaker can withstand splashes of water from any angle.
- As noted in the specs at top, the Stockwell II is significantly lighter and smaller (narrower).
- It’s also quite a bit cheaper than the other two.
- Extraordinary battery life: While the advertised battery life is 20 hours as with the others, at middle volumes testers found the Stockwell II to last for much longer than that.
Contrasts: The Marshall Kilburn II Is Mid-Sized, and Just Perfectly All-Purpose
The Marshall Kilburn II is a little bit taller than the Stockwell II and also significantly deeper; it also weighs about twice as much at 5.5 lbs. (2.5 kg.).
As you’d expect, it has larger and significantly more powerful drivers and amplifiers, allowing it to go a lot louder as well as deeper on the bass end. The Kilburn II can fill a large room with sound and sound great doing so; in a pinch I’ve even seen it quite successfully used in a large dance studio when the installed sound system was failing, and the sound was loud and immersive enough that nobody minded at all.
The concept for the sound is about the same as with the later-released Stockwell II and Tufton, and the reaction to the Kilburn II from consumer testing organizations, tech critics and audiophile blogs has been overwhelmingly positive; our meta-review found the Kilburn II to be the most-loved larger Bluetooth speaker (see that article for more on this speaker and similarly sized options).
The Kilburn II is for our money the best trade off between portability and loud, beautiful sound. You’re not going to take it everywhere, but it’s still small enough and got a convenient carry strap so that you’ll absolutely not be bothered to take it out when the occasion permits.
As with the others, the speaker offers multidimensional stereo sound. The bass is more present, deeper, and convincing than the Stockwell II, and there’s a more expansive soundstage to place you right in the middle of the music. The mix is even and smooth and individual instruments are all pleasant and playing nicely with each other.
The feature differences of the Kilburn II, as compared to the other two:
- Standard wall plug charging: The speaker charges with a standard wall plug.
- IPX2 water resistant: The speaker is rated to withstand the odd bit of dropping water.
- This is the mid-sized and middle-weight speaker.
- Also in-between in terms of price.
- Great battery life: The advertised battery life is 20 hours, testers generally found it to last 13-15 hours at loud volumes.
Contrasts: The Marshall Tufton Sounds Amazing but Stretches the Idea of “Portable”
The Marshall Tufton is deeper and taller than the other two speakers and weighs double again what the Kilburn II weighs.
But at 10.8 lbs. (4.9 kg.) and with a durable, felt-padded carry strap, it’s still comfortable enough to carry in one hand. You’ll feel it though; we’re getting a bit closer to the guitar-amp territory of the original.
The sound, as you’d expect, can get significantly louder than the Kilburn II and doesn’t distort, even at top volumes. This speaker has garnered fewer reviews, but those who have given it a listen have been suitably impressed with its performance even compared to other loud speakers of its size. It can fill a large room with the volume at less than 50%, and still sounds great if you go even higher.
Lower frequencies are particularly intense, and if you’re a bass head you can get an even deeper, more powerful bass experience with the analog bass knob. To many it’s a quite appropriate speaker for rock, as its design would suggest, but really any bass heavy genre will sound excellent, even at top volumes.
The bass sounds best and most even when the volume and bass knobs are set back to middle levels, where there’s a punchiness and dynamism that doesn’t take over the rest of the mix. In some cases you may want to dial the bass even lower to keep it from getting muddled, or if the mids get lost or recessed.
As with the Stockwell II and Kilburn II, the Tufton is quite even across all frequencies and offers good separation of instruments and multidirectional stereo sound.
While this is the best sounding and loudest of the three, it’s also the most expensive and heavy; for this high price we’d actually go with the JBL Boombox instead, which is also enormous but sounds even better at top volumes and is waterproof.
The feature differences of the Tufton versus its smaller siblings:
- Standard wall plug charging: The Tufton charges with a standard wall plug.
- IPX2 water resistant: The Tufton can withstand some dropping water.
- This is the largest and heaviest speaker.
- It’s also the most expensive.
- Great battery life: The advertised battery life is 20 hours.
Wrap-up: And the Best Portable Marshall Bluetooth Speaker for You Is…
As I think you can probably tell, the sweet spot for me is the Kilburn II, but what you choose comes down to how loud you need to go and how much you’re willing to carry.
Prices can vary; we try to link to the cheapest versions but click through and check around at Amazon and Marshall as sometimes there are deals to be had by going through the options listed at our links.