Marshall Kilburn II Speaker Review: More than a Unique Look
If you’re looking for something different in the design of your portable speaker that harks back to the glory days of loud rock’n’roll music, you might like to look at the Marshall Kilburn II.
I’ve spent many hours reviewing in detail what you get with the Kilburn II. Not surprisingly with the Marshall name there’s more to it than just the design.
I cover all that you look for in a portable speaker including the all-important sound quality. You may find this portable speaker is right for you despite its design.
An Iconic Design and Durable
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The Kilburn II has been designed with durability in mind but with the Marshall look front and center.
You might even think it’s a small Marshall guitar amplifier at first look with the iconic Marshall logo. But on closer inspection, you can see it’s not.
There are touches of the modern era that differentiate it from the pure classic look of its predecessor; the Kilburn I. Gone are the gold accents.
Make no mistake though it still has the bold Marshall look.
It is a compact rectangular box with a robust vinyl casing and a solid silver-colored metal grille at the front behind the white Marshall logo.
I like that it doesn’t hide it’s rock’n’roll heritage, rather, that it celebrates it. But, for some who prefer their branding to be subtle, this might be a little too much.
Offering more protection than the Kilburn I are the flush mounted plastic caps that protect each corner. And there are four solid rubber feet that keep it stable on the ground and prevent it from moving on a flat surface.
A Sound That’s Loud Yet BalancedThe Marshall Kilburn II comes in at #5 on my list of the loudest portable speakers. For such a small and light unit compared to the Soundboks 2 and DiamondBoxx XL2, the sound it produces is massive at 100.4 dBs.
Yet, for all that loudness the Kilburn II produces a quality sound. It’s not the ultimate sound, but you can’t expect that with a speaker that is small and designed for the outdoors.
What is it behind the casing that produces such a sound?
There are three separate Class D amplifiers:
- One 20-watt amp for the woofer.
- Two independent 8-watt amps for the tweeters.
The bass-reflex design places the vent at the rear. Also, at the rear is a driver that pumps out higher frequencies from the tweeters.
All together these amplifiers produce a multi-directional sound that is impressive for the size of the speaker and almost stereophonic which is unusual for a single enclosure speaker.
There are concerns about how effective the multi-directional sound is over a large area and to get the full stereo effect; it’s best to listen in front of the speaker and not from the rear.
The frequency range is 52-20,000 Hz. 52 Hz is low. It’s close to being the lowest in the portable speaker range and means it there’s more than enough bass to shake the room and to be noticeable outdoors.
Outdoors it’s best to set the bass to 7 or 8 for a quality sound. In smaller rooms, you might need to turn the bass down and the treble up. Only bass purists could complain about the depth of the bass sound.
But it’s not just at the lower ranges. The Kilburn II maintains a quality sound through the mid-ranges to the highest. And no matter how high you turn up the volume there is little if any distortion.
The unique feature that adds so much to the Kilburn II experience is the fine-tuning knobs you can use to create a sound particular to the music you’re playing.
Because of its heritage, it’s ideally suited to heavy guitar rock. Turn up the treble, and you’ll get crisp and textured highs. For hip-hop and dance tracks, you’ll want to bump up the bass.
This makes the Kilburn II a versatile speaker for a wide selection of music genres – rock, metal, punk or folk. For these genres, it remains musical no matter how it is tuned. Only with classical music is it likely to lack clarity.
A Long Playtime Because of the Battery
For a speaker of this size, the rechargeable Li-ion battery comes with an impressive amount of playtime. On a single charge, you’ll get 20+ hours.
Like all speakers though that’s only if you’re playing at low to moderate volumes. Crank the volume up, and the playtime decreases.
A full charge takes 2.5 hours, but the battery does provide a quick charge. Connect the power cable to an AC outlet and a 20-minute charge will give you 3 more hours of portable playtime.
The speaker keeps playing while charging, so you don’t have to worry about a break in the music.
Compact and Relatively Light to Carry
The Marshall Kilburn II is a relatively compact and light portable Bluetooth speaker with a weight of 5.5 lbs. and almost 10 inches in width.
So, it’s not that heavy or awkward to carry. To make it easy there is a removable carrying strap, not unlike a guitar strap, that reflects its heritage. The strap has a plush dark red velvet underside that goes well with the gold screws, but it could do with cushioning on the underside for added comfort.
It’s probably not a speaker that you would carry around like a boombox or around a music festival all day. It’s more likely that you carry it to the party location and leave it there for the duration.
The vinyl enclosure with the protective rubber cover for the power plug provides some protection from water but not much. It has a rating of IPX2 which means the speaker can survive a spatter of water or a light shower, but that’s all.
Play It Outdoors & Indoors
With its long playtime, the Marshall Kilburn II is ideal for a long day out at the beach, an all-day barbeque at home, beside the pool or an overnight party wherever in the outdoors.
You won’t need to worry about the sound being loud enough for the outdoors; it’ll still be heard over the noise of fun and laughter. It won’t just be loud though. There’ll be a quality sound no matter what type of party music you want to play, whether that’s rock, metal, punk, hip-hop or folk music.
What’s in the Box?
It’s always exciting to open the box for any product you buy. Some of that excitement is often about the extras you’ll find.
With the Marshall Kilburn II save all your excitement for opening to find the speaker itself. Because that is about it.
There are only three other items:
- Quick Start Guide.
- Safety Instructions.
- Power Cord.
The speaker weighs 5.5 lbs. with the following dimensions:
- 9.57 inches wide.
- 6.42 inches high.
- 5.51 inches deep.
Note the above dimensions are from the manufacturer’s website and differ from those listed on Amazon.
There is one in-built Lithium-ion battery. In-built is an annoying feature of the Marshall Kilburn II as you’ll have to return the speaker for a replacement battery rather than buy and fit one yourself.
Simple to Get Started
I’ve talked about the distinctive appearance earlier, so in this section, I’ll focus on the functions of the speaker.
Along the top panel, we have the main controls.
From left to right are the:
- Bluetooth button.
- Power and volume knob.
- Bass knob.
- Treble knob.
- Battery level radiator.
The unique feature of the Marshall speaker range, including the Kilburn II, is the sound controls. They’re analog knobs rather than buttons.
So, to adjust each, you turn the knob rather than press a button. Because of this, you can make precise adjustments to suit the sound of the music. Each knob has many more settings than what you get with a button so you can fine-tune your music so much the better.
Turning any knob lights up the battery indicator light so you can see how much battery charge is left. I like that the indicator dims during normal operation to save battery power. You want the music to last as long as possible.
And if the Kilburn II is left unused for more than ten minutes, the speaker goes into standby to save the battery charge. It means though that all indicators are off and the speaker will not respond to any Bluetooth connection.
On the back panel
- Rear driver.
- Bass port.
- AUX input for 3.5 mm plug.
- AC Power jack.
Higher frequency sounds from the tweeters emit through the rear driver which together with the bass port provide for a rounded music sound.
No Hassle Bluetooth and Auxiliary Connectivity
The Kilburn II is equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 aptX technology. This latest version of the technology is designed to use less power and extend battery life.
You can connect to any Bluetooth enabled device like a smartphone, a tablet or a computer.
The range between the Kilburn II and your Bluetooth device is 30 feet which not as far as some speakers but shouldn’t be a problem at most party situations.
Pairing your device is simple:
- Push and hold the Bluetooth button for 2 seconds.
- Enable Bluetooth on your device.
- Select Kilburn II on your device list and initiate pairing.
- Press play on your device
The Bluetooth light on the speaker stops blinking when pairing is initiated and remains that way until disconnected.
The Kilburn II is different from some Bluetooth speaker in that it allows connections to two Bluetooth devices at the same time. It responds to the latest play request, i.e. the device that most recently pressed play.
The device that’s gazumped goes into pause mode and starts playing again when the play knob is pressed.
This could lead to arguments about which music should be playing, but I think it’s better than a total lockout. Who knows it could be fun switching back and forth? Well, at least a couple of times for a laugh.
If you don’t have Bluetooth available, you can always connect a 3.5 mm cable from your audio source to the Kilburn II.
Normally a 3.5 mm cable is supplied with a Bluetooth speaker. Surprisingly that’s not so with the Kilburn II. You’ll have to buy a cable if you don’t already have one.
There’s no Wi-Fi
The Kilburn II can’t be connected to a multi-room system or Wi-Fi to play content directly from the internet.
The Return Period Is Short
If you are not happy with your Marshall Kilburn II, you don’t have long to act.
Many return policies allow a 30-day period but not with Marshall.
14 days is all you have to request a refund or an exchange following the delivery of your order.
Does that mean 14 days from the date it leaves the warehouse or when you receive it? That is unclear from the wording, but my bet is it’s from when it left the warehouse.
So, you have less than 14 days to check out the Kilburn II.
That’s not much time.
If the speaker is not up to scratch for some reason, ensure you return it:
- In “perfect” condition.
- Accompanied with the original invoice (make sure you take a copy).
- With labels and original packaging fully intact.
- By paying the return shipping costs.
You can’t ring to arrange returns. You must send an email to email@example.com.
I thought the returns policy was tough. But the warranty is downright unusual.
The manufacturer warranty is a global warranty for one year. That’s normal, although as a consumer I always like a 2 or 3-year warranty.
It applies from the date of original purchase which again is normal. And there are the usual conditions about using it in accordance with the published guidelines and the limitations stated in the warranty document.
And this is when it gets unusual.
The warranty document states:
“The Warranty does not apply to (a) products that were bought through other channels than the Website.”
So, does this mean that if you don’t buy it through the Marshall website, there is no warranty? It would seem so, but I have to believe that if you buy it from an authorized retailer, the one-year warranty will apply.
A repaired or replaced speaker assumes the remaining warranty of the original speaker or ninety (90) days from the date of replacement or repair, whichever provides longer coverage for you.
What I Don’t Like
- The price is on the high side for its size.
- Only slight waterproof protection.
- Only a 14-day return or exchange period.
What I Do Like
- A loud (100dBs), but at the same time, high-quality sounding speaker across the volume range.
- It has an extended playing time for its size with a quick 20-minute charge to give you another 2 hours.
- Eye-catching nostalgic design.
- The old-style fine-tuning knobs.
With a unique looking strap, the Marshall Kilburn II is portable, durable and not too heavy so you can take it to your friend’s indoor get together or anywhere outdoors, so long as there’s no exposure to rain or water splashing.
With the Kilburn II, you are paying more than you would for a similar sized portable speaker. You are paying extra for the standout Marshall retro classic rock-n-roll look and brand name.
Make no mistake though; you are buying a speaker that puts out a loud yet balanced sound with deep booming bass, that’s great for outside parties.
More than that it’s a sound ideally suited to most genres and its heritage means it excels with rock music. And with the extended playtime battery, it’ll last as long as your party.