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Marshall London

Michael Sawh

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Summary

Hands-on with the Marshall Android smartphone

  • 4.7-inch Android smartphone with built-in DAC for lossless audio
  • Global equalizer works across all music services
  • Dual 3.5mm headphone inputs and outputs

There's not a lot of phones that look like the Marshall London. A glance at the specs sheet tells you it's a 4.7-inch Android smartphone with mid-range specs. But there's much more to the London. Talking to the software designer who worked on the London since its development over a year ago, I discovered that Marshall's worked closely with Google to get the audio credentials of this iPhone 5-sized smartphone up to scratch. As a result, it's packed to the rafters with kit that audiophiles are going to love.

Watch our Marshall London smartphone hands-on video

But it's the design that draws you to the London first. Its design inspiration is taken from the iconic Marshall amps, with a textured matte black finish on the back and gold trimmings on the ports, buttons and lovely volume dial on the right side of the phone. The plastic trim upsets the balance of the unique look somewhat, but it's nice to hold, and not too heavy, if not particularly lavish.

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At the top are what look like two 3.5mm headphone jacks, but these actually function as dual inputs and outputs, so as well as being able to share listening with a friend, you can plug a mic in to record as well, which is a nice touch.

In between those is a gold 'M' button. When you press this, it'll launch pretty much the only piece of Marshall software on the phone. This pulls you into the music interface where you can tap the button in the top corner and you'll find shortcuts to all of your installed music services, whether that's Spotify, Soundcloud or Tidal. The interface continues the gold theme and has a series of different features that can be activated from inside the software. You can set up a recording, adjust volume and access the Marshall dashboard. Here you'll get a feed of localised gigs and concerts that will be tailored to your favourite music genres.

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There's also an equaliser and this is one of the most interesting features. Marshall is calling it a global equaliser that can help address the varying sound levels you get moving from a service like Spotify to something more mixed like Soundcloud. There's a set of custom equaliser profiles as well and there's even one for when you're listening to music on YouTube.

There are more audio-related features, though. You've got two speakers above and below the screen, and for calls and recordings Marshall's included dual noise-cancelling mics as well. A Wolfson WM8281 DAC lies beneath the exterior, giving you the ability to play lossless FLAC audio files. Considering it measures in at 9.8mm thick and weighs 148g, Marshall hasn't had to make this a seriously bulky phone to accommodate the hardware.

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In terms of core smartphone features, there's perhaps not so much to get excited about. The 4.7-inch screen is 720p HD, so it's not class leading but looked decent to me. The London is running Android 5.0 Lollipop but there are no real signs of bloatware or an attempt to overwhelm it with software you're inevitably going to want to ditch.

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There's a Snapdragon 400 processor, which sounds somewhat surprising, but I was told that the decision was made based on the overheating issues with the 615 and 810 Qualcomm chipsets. There's 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, with a microSD card slot hidden in the back. This is where you'll also find a removable 2500mAh battery on which Marshall has added a nice little message.

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There's an 8-megapixel camera with a flash around the back and a 2-megapixel up front for your selfies. You can expect all of the usual connectivity options, including Bluetooth 4.0 Smart to connect a pair of wireless headphones.

First impressions

If you love music, the London offers plenty to be impressed by, and I'm not just talking about that design. If you keep in mind that this is a £400 Android smartphone and take a look at the specs, you might be less enamoured. Will that processor be able to keep things running smoothly in the long term? It's questionable. What I do know is that there's nothing else like the London and it's guaranteed to strike a chord with anyone who loves Marshall and can accept living with a not-quite-cutting-edge smartphone.

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Dead Words

September 3, 2015, 9:13 pm

Ohh how I wish manufacturer's would do stuff like this more often. I love the look of this phone and it's music credentials are tempting.
I don't need a flagship (I'm using a high mid-range device) but something like this with a FHD 5 inch display, a better camera set up, and a more high end design (a more powerful, future-proofed processor would be nice as well) and I'll buy thirty-seven.

Ed

September 4, 2015, 7:53 am

Haven't you pretty much just described a flagship there. ;)

chaosdefinesorder

September 4, 2015, 8:20 am

"more powerful processor" could technically apply to the S615 (vs. S410 in the London)

Not sure why you have "review price to be confirmed" at the top of this article, the London is available (was released on 17th August) and shipping now from the Marshall online store for £399 (think of that what you will, of course!)

Dead Words

September 4, 2015, 11:20 am

Haha I was thinking more Moto X Play level which isn't quite flagship but getting there.

Yan Huang

September 4, 2015, 3:19 pm

Most flagships these days are 5.2" to 5.5+ " both of which are way too big for me personally. I carry a 5.0" at most which is already too big, whereas I was sorely tempted by the SGS6 which came with a decent Wolfson Audio chip the rest of the drawbacks were too much.

Yan Huang

September 4, 2015, 3:21 pm

Absolutely agree. I've been longing for a global equalizer on Android for a long time, and a phone with a decent DAC that isn't a garbage oversized iPhone clone with no removeable storage. This phone would make a great second/standby phone - it has everything my main phone is missing.

Yan Huang

September 4, 2015, 3:24 pm

Dunno if you're implying the price is too high, but a year ago the RRP on a Sony Z3 compact was about £450, and is still around £350 at retail. That's also a 4.7" phone with a 720p display. (Slightly) better camera, terrible audio credentials, no removeable battery, but a much faster CPU.

£50 extra for a new phone with specialised hardware chops ain't bad.

chaosdefinesorder

September 4, 2015, 4:16 pm

£50 for specialised audio hardware isn't bad compared to Z3C, true, however everything else about the hardware is comparable to the new MotoG, which is half the price! So it's £50 more than an older device (that still has a more powerful CPU than the London given it's S801 CPU!), or £200 more than a brand new device with the same CPU...

The specialist and niche nature of the London does make these kinds of comparisons extremely difficult, however. If it's of use, the audio hardware will be worth the extra. If two head-/micro-phone jacks are of use, then it's worth the extra... (etc.)

I'm actually almost tempted to get the London to replace my ageing Tonium Pacemaker that I've used so much over the past few years that I've run it into the ground and the battery cannot hold a charge any more! At the same time, replacing my Nexus 5 (battery life is horrendous)

Given that I do most of my mobile browsing as Twitter/Facebook/Feedly or use Surface 3 at home, so don't need such high specs (screen, CPU) that much any more. Mostly what I use it for is music, and the London would certainly be a good upgrade for that! Lower end CPU and largish battery will be very welcome for longevity!

I would have to see the screen (or another 4.7" 720p display) in-person, though, because I work in printing so am rather sensitive to display resolutions :-(

Dead Words

September 4, 2015, 8:45 pm

But that's the problem, isn't it? It would make a great second phone, but not a great primary phone (compared to other phones we could buy).

Yan Huang

September 7, 2015, 4:36 pm

Depends on your requirements really. It'd make a great second phone for a techy-geek like me, but I don't profess that everyone else has the same needs. It'd be a perfectly great primary phone for many people, after all I still know people using Galaxy S3's or iPhone 4's.

Stefan Wessels

January 14, 2016, 1:12 pm

We are listening, we promise

Dead Words

January 14, 2016, 3:15 pm

Rubbish. Your promises are mental trousers.

lumberjake

February 1, 2016, 2:12 am

I was specifically searching for a one piece solution to my ridiculous phone and DAC/amp stack. Am so sick of going through stupid connectors and destroying my USB ports. These HiFi audio "stacks" are just a huge bulky PITA, so I searched for phones with good audio sections and saw this...then came the LG V10.
Lol, so much for the Marshall. The V10 is an absolute killer top shelf phone with just about the best of every feature on a smartphone possible but it also has what no other top shelf phone from the others have, an ESS Sabre DAC and amp!
The sound that comes out of this thing is incredible. I guess I just revealed which phone I chose,didn't I?
Its a big phone but if you are serious about audio quality this is the way to go. Just check out the review on Head Fi these guys are hard to please and almost everyone is blown away.

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