See also our comparison of the older Marshall Kilburn I vs newer Kilburn II as well as the Marshall Stockwell I vs II.
We’ve left this article up for now in case you’re considering these older models, which are still available at last check. But the new ones really are better; in the case of the Stockwell II, much better.
In examining every scrap of press on the latest Bluetooth speaker releases, we’ve seen Marshall speakers coming to the top of critics’ lists. So here we’ll look at the portable speaker offerings from Marshall, the famed guitar-amp manufacturer. There are only two truly portable (that is, battery-powered) Marshall speakers to consider: the Marshall Kilburn and the Marshall Stockwell.
The Stockwell is much lighter and narrower, but they have similar features and guitar-amp-like designs, and both sound great. Here we’ll look at the contrasts in detail to help you decide between the two.
Do note that these are on the largest, loudest end of Bluetooth speakers, and they’re not waterproof. If you want something cheaper or smaller (and this does mean sacrificing a bit on loudness and sound quality), consider our guide to smaller, ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers.
Update History of This Article
Side-by-Side Comparison: Marshall Kilburn vs. Marshall Stockwell
Critical Meta-Review: How Performance Compares in Marshall’s Portable Bluetooth Speakers
Opinions differ between audio critics, and also especially between the audiophiles who spend their days testing for national nonprofit consumer organizations. So we immediately paid attention when both Que Choisir (France) and Consumer Reports (USA) gave top marks to both the Marshall Stockwell and Kilburn.
Unsurprisingly, they think the larger and heavier Kilburn is the better-sounding of the two, with excellent balance, and with “real bass and high volumes without distortion” that are absolutely outstanding for a portable speaker. The tech critics who reviewed the Kilburn generally agreed; both they and the consumer organizations generally found it to be one of most hearty and robust sounding speakers that still manages to be portable. There is richness in the low mids, which allows more resonant bass and a fullness in voices and instruments on the deeper end. It doesn’t distort even at top volumes.But when the critics listen to the much lighter Stockwell they are by no means disappointed. It delivers full, clean sound across the spectrum, with clear vocals and detail. It goes very loud for a speaker of its size (certainly enough to fill a room or animate a small outdoor gathering) but does distort a bit at the highest volumes. It sounds best with music that emphasizes vocals. Note that at this size/weight and price there is often a preference among critics for the UE Megaboom (which we discuss more here) — the UE Megaboom gets quite loud without distortion, sounds even and detailed, and is also waterproof and durable, all while being a bit lighter and less bulky than the Stockwell.
Feature Comparison of the Marshall Kilburn and Marshall Stockwell
The Marshall Bluetooth speakers are a bit stripped down compared to other popular Bluetooth speakers; they don’t have voice control or the ability to pair multiple units for example.
But they do have the essentials, plus a few rare extras that are useful for those who appreciate really using speakers for what they’re meant for: listening to great music. Most notably, they have vintage — can we already use this word here? — knobs for controlling volume, bass, and treble. The knobs are convenient, a pleasure to use, and quite useful for getting an appropriate mix.
In another throwback, there is a 3.5 mm input on both speakers that allows you to connect older devices that don’t have Bluetooth, or to connect without worrying about pairing. The Kilburn also includes a coiled cable.
Battery life is excellent for both speakers; 20 hours for the Kilburn and 25 hours for the Stockwell, though your results will vary depending on volume. In any case, there’s more than enough juice to carry you through an all-night outdoor party and into the morning.
The Stockwell has a few tricks that the Kilburn lacks; the Stockwell can work as a speakerphone and can also recharge a a device such as a mobile phone from the speaker’s battery through its USB port.
The Kilburn — thankfully, given its extra weight — has a carrying strap.
How the Marshall Kilburn and Stockwell Stack Up Against their Competition
While these are two of the best-sounding portable speakers on the market, there are other options out there that also sound great and come in at around the same prices or less. They are particularly worth considering if you want more portability, other features like waterproofing, or the ability to buy two units to pair together for true stereo on-the-go.
Most notably, the Bose Soundlink Revolve or Bose Soundlink Revolve+ (we compare them here) are worth considering, though they don’t deliver as much volume or bass as the Marshall units. The Revolves do however knock out beautiful, clear 360-degree sound and are water-resistant. The Bose Soundlink Mini II is also an excellent smaller speaker from the same company. Multiple Bose speakers can be paired together via Bose’s iOS or Android apps for bigger sound or for stereo.
We think that the UE Boom 2 is the very best smaller (tall-beer-can-sized) Bluetooth speaker. It’s easy to take around outdoors, indoors, whatever. It also does great 360-degree sound, and it is much lighter, more durable, and not incidentally cheaper the Marshall offerings. You can also buy two and pair them together.
Marshall itself offers a rapidly expanding lineup of wireless speakers. The Kilburn and the Stockwell that we discuss in this article are the only ones with batteries, so they’re the only ones that are really portable. But if you’re looking for speakers to keep plugged in for purely home use, the same signature sound is on offer in Marshall Bluetooth speakers (in order increasing by price and size): the Acton Bluetooth, the Stanmore Bluetooth, and the Woburn Bluetooth. There are also multi-room versions of the same speakers, which is Marshall’s take on the Sonos.
The major consideration is portability, and as is usually the case, the bigger speaker delivers louder and more convincing sound.
Both speakers have a distinguished, classic look, quality construction, and analog knobs for controlling volume, bass, and treble; they’re a pleasure to use.