Marshall Kilburn II review

Small and mighty

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Our Verdict

Marshall’s Kilburn II is a fantastic update to its bestselling predecessor, with a stunning retro amp-inspired design and a well-rounded sound. While the bass can be a little muddy at times, it’s excellent for playing guitar music, and its portability means the Kilburn II is great for taking on the road.

For

  • Clear top notes
  • Rugged and portable
  • Cool retro aesthetic

Against

  • Slightly muddy bass
  • Can feel heavy

Marshall is known for its legendary guitar amps, but its foray into the world of speakers and headphones has seen its products migrate from the stage into our homes. Now, updating its bestselling Kilburn speaker, Marshall has released the Kilburn II, adding new features and functions and making it more roadworthy. 

Design

Like its predecessor, the design of the Kilburn II is inspired by Marshall's rock heritage, although this time the company has taken inspiration from the microphone for the speaker's silver mesh grille. 

Adorning this is the iconic Marshall logo in white, which is a nice touch if you want to flaunt your rock credentials to your friends, although if you're not fan of overt branding you may prefer a more subtle design.

Amp-inspired dials on the top of the speaker are another nice touch, with nifty bass and treble controls adding to the rock'n'roll feel. The controls are pared back compared to the original Kilburn, with Marshall doing away with pair and source switches. While there are still AUX capabilities, the port has been moved to the back of the speaker.

Instead of the amp-style flickable on/off switch for various settings on the original Kilburn, here there's is a small button – it gives the speaker a cleaner look, but may disappoint fans of the more nostalgic design. Another cool feature is the battery life bar, which is styled to look like the lights above the volume fader on a mixing console.

Flush corner caps give the speaker a rugged and durable feel, making it a great choice for taking along to parties and festivals. 

Adding to the portability of the Kilburn II is the guitar-style carrying strap, which has a plush dark red velvet underside giving it a luxe look that's enhanced by the gold screws holding it in place. It’s not the most comfortable carrying strap however, and would benefit from some cushioning on the underside.

Portability is the calling card of the Kilburn II, and in this respect it does well for a speaker of its power, weighing in at just 3kg. However, for music lovers on the smaller side this is still a fairly hefty weight to be carrying around for any length of time, at a festival for example.

Overall the design is far more subdued than the original Kilburn, making it suitable for a wider range of tastes and home decors; however fans of the retro look may prefer the original's signature Marshall black and gold design.

Performance

Marshall has promised that the Kilburn II has improved sound quality compared to the original Kilburn, and it absolutely delivers. For such a small speaker it packs a powerful punch in terms of volume, and we can imagine it making quite the noise outdoors at festivals and parties, thanks to its multi-directional sound and backfiring tweeters.

The bass and treble controls allow you to tailor the sound to your preferences, and also to the genre of music you're playing – you might want to crank up the bass for hip-hop and dance tracks, for example, or increase the treble for guitar-heavy rock.

To test the neutrality of the speaker, we tried out the Kilburn II with the bass and treble dials set halfway, and stuck on punk-rap trio Death Grips’ I’ve Seen Footage.

The oscillating synths came through with sparkle and clarity, while the bass was rich and thumping, although it did feel a bit muddy at times.

True to Marshall’s heritage, the Kilburn II performs best when playing rock music. We tried out Arctic Monkeys’ R U Mine, and were impressed by the clear treble tones, which allowed the wailing guitars and thrashing hi-hats and snares to sound crisp and punchy.

Availability and pricing

The Kilburn II can be ordered now, with shipping from September 13, priced at £249 in the UK, $299 in the US, and US$369 in Australia. That's pretty expensive for a Bluetooth speaker, particularly when you compare it to other models on the market.

That being said, you’re buying more than just a speaker with the Kilburn II – you’re buying into a brand with a history of rock heritage.

If you want to enjoy a similar listening experience for less money, the original Kilburn is currently available for a reduced price of £159 at Marshall's UK website, and US$219 at its Australian website; there's currently no such reduction for US buyers.

Final verdict

Overall, the Kilburn II is an impressive little speaker with a well balanced sound that’s just as suitable for parties as it is for casual listening, with its backfiring tweeters and multi-directional ensuring it fills a room easily.

If you’re looking to buy this speaker, chances are you're into rock music, which is where the Kilburn II excels. However, if you’re a bass-head or into your hip-hop you may find the delay on the bass notes a little too long, resulting in a slightly muddy sound.

However, while it looks and sounds great, the Kilburn II is pretty expensive compared to other Bluetooth speakers on the market, so it's questionably whether you'd want to carry it around unprotected in environments where it's likely to be subjected to knocks and spills. That said, it is fairly rugged, and nicely portable.

Meanwhile rock enthusiasts will love the clear branding – although if you’re looking for a speaker that blends into your Scandi-chic home, this probably isn’t the one for you.

In a world of ubiquitous minimalist Bluetooth speakers, the Kilburn II definitely stands out from the crowd with its cool, retro look, and roadworthy, portable feel, and if you’ve got some money to burn, investing in a little rock cred for your home may not be such a bad idea.