The Full Comparison: Marshall Kilburn vs. Stockwell


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

This article was originally published on September 13, 2017.

Side-by-Side Comparison: Marshall Kilburn vs. Marshall Stockwell

Critical Meta-Review: How Performance Compares in Marshall’s Portable Bluetooth Speakers

In comparing all of the larger portable Bluetooth speakers, Marshall’s offerings popped to the top almost immediately. The English company is known for its guitar amp designs, and we were concerned that a Bluetooth speaker line might be a bit of a marketing ploy, but clearly attention has been paid here to keeping the brand’s legacy intact.

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.

Marshall Kilburn’s controls

Marshall Stockwell’s controls

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.

There are even cheaper and still excellent options from Logitech’s UE: the UE Roll 2 and the UE Wonderboom (compared here).

UE Boom 2 $129.99
UE Roll 2 from $62.94
UE Wonderboom $67.99

JBL also has some decent options (JBL Charge 3, JBL Flip 4, JBL Xtreme, and JBL Pulse 3).

JBL Charge 3 $134.00
JBL Xtreme $194.00
JBL Pulse 3 $169.95

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.

Marshall Stunmore from $299.00
Marshall Woburn $500.00

Wrap-Up

The major consideration is portability, and as is usually the case, the bigger speaker delivers louder and more convincing sound.

Marshall Kilburn
A gorgeous, great-sounding piece with fuller mids to lows for a resonant, powerful, convincing bass end; 6.5 pounds
 

Marshall Stockwell
Also sounds great but not at the highest volumes, where it may distort; delivers excellent clarity and solid bass for 2.6-pound speaker

Both speakers have a distinguished, classic look, quality construction, and analog knobs for controlling volume, bass, and treble; they’re a pleasure to use.

2 Comments

  1. Des Walsh
    November 26, 2017
    Reply

    I want to buy a Bluetooth speaker, I had intended to go for a Bose or a Sonos but my head was turned by the Marshall Stockwell, especially after hearing it but after reading the reviews of the Kilburn, I think I’ll go for that. My concern now Is, can you use a SUB with it?. When it comes the spending this type of money, I just want to get my cake and eat (if you know what I mean). So, reading the reviews, I know it has the sound, I love the look, it has the Bluetooth but does it have the USB & speaker in connection?. I look forward to hearing from you. Please, I really want to buy this before Christmas, if I have to buy buy this online, I’ll need to allow time for delivery (I live in Cork, Ireland). Would you know somewhere in Ireland that sells the Kilburn, I know Currys sell the Stockwell.
    Thanks.

    • November 28, 2017
      Reply

      These are single unit portable speakers. It sounds like you want a home wireless system with a subwoofer, so I’d recommend checking out Sonos. They do have sales to Ireland too. 🙂
      If you do decide on a Marshall you can buy here direct from the manufacturer for a good deal, they sell in Ireland and pretty much everywhere else too.

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