Marshall Acton II Review

The Marshall Acton II aims to bring classic styling to the smaller mains-powered Bluetooth speaker, along with physical control knobs, app support and a powerful sound experience.

Verdict

Marshall has created a stunning Bluetooth speaker in the Acton II. With plenty of power and balance in the sound, backed by app support for manual tuning, this is a standout speaker that justifies its price.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Excellent bass for size
  • Physical knob controls

Cons

  • Slight bass distortion
  • No aptX
  • Not battery powered for mobility

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £220
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Physical controls
  • Leather-style finish outer
  • Mains powered

What is the Marshall Acton II?

When Marshall makes a speaker, it doesn’t just produce a sound-sharing machine – it creates a design icon. As such, the Marshall Acton II looks awesome in the company’s classic band amplifier style, which has been shrunk down for this desktop-friendly Bluetooth speaker. Despite its size, the Acton II packs plenty of power.

But can all that justify the £220 price? Or does the competition from the likes of B&O and Bose make this a pricey design decision? 

Related: Best Bluetooth speakers

Marshall Acton II

Marshall Acton II – Design

There’s no denying it: the Marshall Acton II is a stunner. From the leather-style wrapped outer layer to the tactile physical control knobs, this screams analogue, all the while keeping up with the latest Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. The model I tested was white with a rose gold finish, but there is also a black and gold option for an even more classic style.

On top of the speaker there are control knobs for volume, bass and treble – all of which light up indicator bars to show what level they’re at. These are flanked by chunky metal buttons to play and pause, or switch between Bluetooth and auxiliary line-in. On the far end of that top bar you’ll find the power switch and the 3.5mm aux port.

The mains power uses a standard-length cable, so don’t expect to stretch this too far above table height. This isn’t a battery powered speaker – but at 2.85kg you probably wouldn’t want to lug this around as a portable speaker anyway. Also, if you opt for the white leather-style outer layer, it’s unlikely to last long outside the protection of the home.

A really nice audio touch is the inclusion of a guitar sound effect when the speaker turns on or Bluetooth connects. This gives a proper rock and roll feel to this speaker from a brand that formed an integral part of the rock and roll era. These sounds can also be turned off in the app, in case you get bored of them – a thoughtful touch.

Related: Best multi-room speakers

Marshall Acton II

Marshall Acton II – Features

The 30W Class D amplifier for the woofer is what helps this little speaker stand out even when compared with larger units – it’s got plenty of power and bass.

The Bluetooth connectivity is important for easy phone and computer audio hook-ups. The 3.5mm aux input is a great option for higher quality audio, since lots of phones no longer have a headphone port. As such, the latest Bluetooth 5.0 inclusion is very necessary.

That said, the Marshall Acton II doesn’t appear to feature aptX, meaning you don’t get high fidelity audio over Bluetooth – unlike some of the competition, such as the similarly styled but far bigger and pricier BoomBocs. However, it does use digital signal processing (DSP), so the quality doesn’t distort at higher volumes.

There is also a Marshall Bluetooth app, which allows you to connect to the Acton II speaker for updates and finer audio controls. This can be used to tweak the EQ settings with slider bars, but also with presets. So you can pick from the likes of Rock, Metal, Hip-hop, Pop, Jazz and more to enjoy your style of music as the Marshall would have it heard.

Also, through using the app, the unit can be linked to another Marshall Bluetooth speaker to make a stereo pair. This is useful in case you need to add even more power – or if you want to use them as a 2.1 surround sound system for your phone’s movies.

Related: Best surround sound systems

Marshall Acton II

Marshall Acton II – Performance

The Marshall Acton II is relatively small. Yet when you power it up and hear that initial guitar strum to denote it’s ready to play, it threatens plenty of grunt. Once you crank the volume up a little, along with the bass, you realise how much power is at your disposal.

In fact, you’ll likely never need to use the full volume option, even in a loud party situation. This is both good and bad. Good, because you have the power if you need it, but bad as the top end does distort ever so slightly. Since you’ll likely never leave it on full volume, it’s not a massive issue. And if you really want ear-melting power, you can always opt for the slightly larger Stanmore II instead.

Marshall is a company with a rock and roll heritage and you can certainly hear the quality when it comes to guitars – everything is just tuned right. Crank up a bit of Muse and you’ll feel Matt Bellamy’s guitar shred through you and the high end of his cries vibrate your chest – all in a very good way.

That said, if you switch to some hip-hop, the bass kicks in and you’re transported into the studio with clear voices coming over the top end as bass remains solid at the bottom. This kind of balance helps justify the price and shows this isn’t just a speaker designed to look good.

The app works well too. It has a nice simple layout, while offering enough options to make it useful. For those that like to play with EQ levels, this is a must-have. But for those less knowledgeable about what they’re doing, the presets are really helpful too.

The variation between modes isn’t a huge change, just enough to hear the difference. But, bearing in mind this is a small Bluetooth speaker, it does well to offer more manual tuning. You can even change the brightness on the indicator lights if you want – a lovely option that shows Marshall has thought about this in great detail.

Smaller details, like adding lights to the manual knobs and building that layer from hardy metal, go a long way in making this a premium product. The whole unit feels solid, like it will last you a lifetime. The white model may need cleaning more often than the black version, but if you’re buying this as a feature, then the odd clean is a fair price to pay.

Marshall Acton II

Why buy the Marshall Acton II?

If you want a Bluetooth speaker that looks stunning and works as a real feature in your room, then the Marshall Acton II is one of the best options available. On top of that, you can rely on powerful and well-balanced sound, backed by an app that allows for manual adjustments to suit your tastes.

If you don’t mind the lack of aptX for truly top-quality Bluetooth streaming, and Wi-Fi connectivity isn’t for you, then this is a great speaker. For those that want even more power, the ability to pair it with another speaker is a nice stereo option, too. The 3.5mm audio-in for aux is a welcome addition that helps keep that classic look as well as allowing you to use the speaker for higher-quality audio inputs.

Verdict

Marshall has created a stunning Bluetooth speaker in the Acton II. With plenty of power and balance in the sound, backed by app support for manual tuning, this is a standout speaker that justifies its price.

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