The Uxbridge Voice achieves Marshall's goal of delivering big sound from a compact form, but it's outperformed at this price for sound. Features are good, as is connectivity, and if you're waist-deep in the Alexa ecosystem then the Uxbridge is a more fun and appealing alternative to Amazon’s utilitarian range of Echo speakers
- Big, energetic sound
- Distinctive looks
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Small soundstage
- Not the most nuanced of performers
- Review Price: £170
- Wi-Fi, Airplay 2, Spotify Connect
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Amazon Alexa voice control
- Marshall Voice App
The Uxbridge Voice is an Alexa wireless speaker from Marshall and holds true to the English proverb of big things coming in small sizes.
It’s a small speaker – the smallest in the range – and one that Marshall describes as a compact sonic powerhouse. It also comes with smarts in Alexa, so as well as enabling you to play some thumping tunes, you can also sort out your weekly shopping list.
Related: Best smart speakers
Marshall Uxbridge design – A compact speaker with a distinctive style
Closer inspection reveals that, aesthetically, the construction of this speaker feels a step down from the Acton II and Stanmore II Voice. The faux-leather finish of those units has been replaced by a less fetching, hard plastic enclosure. Inside the small confines is a tweeter and woofer driver, driven by a 30w class-D amplifier. The size of the cabinet impacts the spread of sound, but more on that later.
The rotary dials for volume and equaliser on the top panel are also gone, replaced by guitar fret-styled knobs with buttons (play/pause and Alexa) on either side. Around the rear and above the mains is a Bluetooth pairing button (you can also switch Bluetooth on in the Voice app).
At the foot of the speaker’s facade is a four-button light system that indicates the speaker’s state. It will flash blue when Alexa is engaged, yellow if she has a notification for you, and white whenever the volume is adjusted.
From a design perspective, the Uxbridge Voice is a fine-looking speaker – although less alluring than its bigger siblings. Some may find the Marshall look gimmicky, but it makes the speaker stand out from the legion of black-and-white efforts.
Marshall Uxbridge features – Nearly everything you need from a smart speaker
Setup is a doddle. Park it near the mains, plug it in and wait for the voice instructions to guide you through the process. The Marshall Voice and Amazon Alexa app need to be downloaded, with the former offering guidance on connection to Wi-Fi and the latter ensuring Alexa voice control is ready via login to an Amazon account. It’s all done with lots of helpful chimes and assistance from the (rather loud) voice emanating from the speaker.
Despite the rather low ratings on both iOS and Google Play stores, I haven’t experienced any significant issue with the Voice app. While it isn’t always the most responsive, it’s easily navigable, offers customisation and playback options, and basically does what it needs to do.
Treble, bass and volume can be tweaked via the top panel, and more extensive EQ settings and presets can be found nestled in the Voice app. However, customising the bass/treble on the top panel doesn’t have a profound effect on the speaker’s character. Switching between EQ presets didn’t have the most noticeable effect, either.
Alexa proves responsive even when addressed from across the room. You won’t have to shout to get her attention, although when you call out her name, playback pauses instead of the volume being reduced. She can hear your voice above the din of whatever you’re playing, too.
If you’re submerged within the Amazon ecosystem, Alexa goes beyond simply playing your favourite music; there’s integration with smart home systems such as Hive or using the speaker to control a Ring doorbell system.
The Alexa app can be linked to several music streaming services including Amazon Music, TuneIn, Spotify Connect and Apple Music, for quick access to your favourite tracks and albums.
Connectivity is wide-ranging enough to wring a tune from most wireless sources. The Bluetooth version supported is 4.2, not 5.1, and alongside that there’s Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect integration.
I did have issues with Bluetooth connectivity to an iPod Touch, where the Uxbridge would connect and then disconnect. I didn’t experience the issue with an iPad Air or Huawei P30 Pro, but it’s the first time I haven’t been able to connect the iPod to, well, anything.
If you’re looking to send audio to the speaker via Chromecast, you can’t. Marshall is launching a Google Assistant version of the Uxbridge later in the year. While it may be odd that Alexa and Google Assistant couldn’t be combined into one speaker, much like the world-weary lament in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, it is what it is.
Multi-room is possible with speakers that have Alexa built-in or AirPlay 2-enabled speakers. Marshall has said that support for multi-room with an Amazon Echo is on the way, but hasn’t specified when exactly.
Related: Best Bluetooth speakers
Marshall Uxbridge sound quality – Big, loud and energetic, but not the most nuanced
With the Uxbridge, Marshall has said it was pursuing a balanced performance – but this isn’t what I’ve experienced. This is a fairly rowdy, big and energetic sounding speaker, but not one that’s balanced.
That isn’t as much of a negative as it might initially sound, though. If that kind of performance floats your boat then you’ll enjoy what the Uxbridge has to offer. Compared to a wireless speaker such as the Audio Pro A10, available for a similar price and features, it does lack a sense of detail and musicality.
Due to the cabinet’s narrow spread of delivery, the Marshall doesn’t offer the broadest of sound stages. It makes up for this with a big sound, one that fills a room even at half-volume. Despite the cramped stage, room is made for vocals with Erma Franklin’s voice in Piece of My Heart coming across well, even if it lacks the nuance and clarity heard on the A10.
But the Uxbridge has the Audio Pro beat in some areas. For one, the size of its sound is bigger and often discharged with an energy and fullness with which the A10 can’t compete. It’s a delivery that works well with energetic tracks, especially rock and roll. Its character suits a Gary Numan’s M.E. down to the ground with its loud, growly and raucous presentation.
Bass is another area where the Uxbridge has a confidence that belies its size. Drum hits from Kamasi Washington’s Street Fighter Mas hit well; they landed with more force, to the point where I could feel the bass travelling through the table top surface.
Treble is smooth, but there isn’t enough headroom for it to stand out. Mid-range performance seems to suffer, too, with the Uxbridge Voice unable to extract as much detail. This has a knock-on effect on clarity and separation, especially in the upper mid-range to treble area.
The Uxbridge doesn’t need much of an excuse to go loud, but the difference between low and high isn’t much. Nudging it above half-way seems a tad excessive, unless you want to annoy those nearby. Using AirPlay 2 as the source offers a slightly more relaxed performance, zapping it of some energy and introducing a little more subtlety to the mix.
Should you buy the Marshall Uxbridge Voice with Alexa?
The Uxbridge is a satisfying little speaker, with a sound that’s comfortably bigger than its small frame. If energy and bass is what you’re after, the Uxbridge is happy to oblige.
However, there are better-sounding alternatives, especially if the Alexa integration doesn’t pique your interest. If Alexa compatibility is of interest, then the Uxbridge is more fun (and looks better) than an Amazon Echo, but is less feature-rich than the Sonos One.
The Marshall Uxbridge Voice is a fun smart speaker for less than £200, but it’s outgunned by other speakers for both sound and features.
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.