At S$499, the retro Marshall Kilburn may seem expensive, but will its sound quality and features justify what you’re paying? When I was unboxing this beast, I was blown away by its packaging. The included mini-jack wire is spring-coiled, a nod to retro guitar amp cables. The instructions manual is so well designed I swear I could have used it as a coffee table book. Up! However I actually found out a few surprising things about this speaker, things that you won’t find in other reviews...
The speaker is wrapped in faux leather and features a removable strap. Front grill is a type of stiff acoustic fabric. Along with the source and pairing buttons its has a series of knobs and a power lever, just like in a classic guitar amp. Either connect your device to it by Bluetooth or by wire. The Kilburn has two drivers and a woofer. It is bi-amped which in technical terms mean you get better bass and treble separation, and if the sound is not to your liking you could adjust it. Battery life is stated at 20 hours, but while playing music at 50% volume, I only got out less than 18 hours. (17 hours 55 mins) To charge it, simply attach the power cord and plug it into your wall socket.
Although the Kilburn may be loud, I was a little bit disappointed that the Marshall Stockwell, which costs less, actually sounds louder than the Kilburn! Weighing 3 kgs with 2 drivers and a woofer for bass, that seems unlikely! But what the Kilburn lacks in volume, it makes up for in sound quality. The Kilburn easily tackles more complicated audio tracks and brings a smoothness to the sound that the Stockwell cannot deliver. At higher volumes the treble is well controlled when I was playing ‘March of the Resistance’ in the Star Wars: TFA Album, but the speaker sounded fairly crowded and only had average track separation when playing ‘Have a good time’ by the Brand New Heavies. The mids retain their weight clarity when listening to ‘Fever’ by Michael Buble, and the speaker sounded very open, wide and tall.
However, bass performance underwhelmed me the most, even when the bass setting is turned up to maximum, it still couldn’t hit the lower registers! While listening to ‘Royals’ by Lorde, although the bass never sounded hollow at all, I really expected to not only hear the bass but to feel it projected across my living room. But nope, no bass projection. This is something I didn’t expect especially since this is a physically bigger box, and the built-in woofer is supposed to be the main reason to buy it. It is still better than the bass performance of the Stockwell though.
I’ve described at length what I think about Bass and Treble controls in portable speakers in my last article about the Marshall Stockwell. The same reasoning applies with the Kilburn and I still find it a gimmick which takes away from the user experience rather than enhance it. The S$499 Kilburn is also lacking in features like water resistance, speakerphone, and an interactive app, which most people would expect at its price point. It is not too heavy but I don’t see myself carrying this out a lot due to its weight, even with a carrying strap.
I’m also highlighting here that while charging the Kilburn attached to the wall socket, you have to switch the speaker on to charge it, which I never needed to do with other speakers. Also, the metal dashboard on top is actually electrically conductive, and I have experience a slight electrical discharge when I touch it. At first, I thought it was just a brief static shock, but it was a small but constant current. It will not cause injuries but it is unpleasant, so I highlighted this to the local distributor. They said that this is not usual in the Kilburn, and they have tested them with a multimeter for any electrical current leakage with results coming out negative. They assured me that this is a very common static current, but I’m sure it would have been better if the dashboard and knobs are made with non-conductive material, or at least covered with it. So I switch the speaker on FIRST before charging it every time, then I avoid touching anything on top at all costs!
To me, the Marshall Kilburn is a decent speaker with its thoughtful, retro design and big sound that will not disappoint most listeners, but at the price of S$499, I expect a bit more bass performance and features! If you want something really unique that blends well with your home decor, the Kilburn is a savvy choice. But if you put the JBL Xtreme, the Elysium Porto VII and the Marshall Kilburn together, it makes the Kilburn a tougher sell.
Available in Black or White.