Marshall Kilburn II review: Retro design, thunderous sound

The Kilburn II is a fantastic update to Marshall’s bestselling speaker.

Marshall Kilburn II

The Marshall name is synonymous with guitar amps and pedals, but in recent years the brand has transitioned into the lifestyle segment with its range of headphones and speakers.

Marshall has done a fantastic job porting the design of its amps over to its lifestyle products. Its speakers have the same basic design aesthetic as its amps, but instead of hooking them up to a guitar you pair them with a phone and start belting out tunes.

The first-gen Kilburn continues to be Marshall’s bestselling speaker, and its successor offers a slew of improvements in every area. In short, the Kilburn II is one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers money can buy today.

Party anywhere

Marshall Kilburn II

$249 at Amazon

Portable Bluetooth speakers don’t get much better

Marshall has once again managed to deliver a standout portable Bluetooth speaker. The Kilburn II is one of the loudest speakers in this segment, and the host of improvements from the first-gen model — including more powerful speakers and an updated design — make it an easy recommendation.

The Good

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Great design
  • Rugged chassis
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Analog controls
  • Easy to carry

The Bad

  • Heavy
  • No Wi-Fi connectivity
Like the rest of Marshall products, the Kilburn II has a design that immediately harkens back to the company’s rock pedigree. While the first-generation Kilburn paid homage to the company’s amps, this particular model is inspired by Marshall’s microphones, with the front featuring a woven metal grille emblazoned with a white Marshall logo.

You still get the wonderful rubber-coated analog controls at the top for volume, bass, and treble, but Marshall has made a few tweaks here as well. For starters, the dedicated power toggle is no longer preset, with the volume knob now preferred for switching the device on. Instead of the power button, you now get a battery-level indicator that gives you an easy estimation of the amount of battery life left.

Marshall has toned down the design, making the Kilburn II much more contemporary.

Marshall has also simplified the controls, getting rid of the source button and moving the Bluetooth pair button to the left of the analog controls. The aux input has been moved to the back of the speaker, which leads to a cleaner look at the top as you don’t have to worry about a 3.5mm cable sticking out if you’re looking to hook up the Kilburn II to a Chromecast Audio.

The overall design makes the Kilburn II much more contemporary and less ostentatious than the outgoing model. The switch to a silver grille and removal of the gold accents leads to a cleaner look, and the controls at the top no longer feel cluttered. While the Kilburn II also has the same faux-leather finish as its predecessor, it also has plastic end caps on all corners that vastly improve durability.

You even get IPX2 water resistance, making the Kilburn II resistant to the occasional splash of water. There’s also a leather carrying handle with red felt underlining that makes it convenient to carry the speaker around. On the subject of portability, while the Kilburn II is essentially a portable speaker, its 5.5-pound heft doesn’t make it ideal if you’re looking to carry it to music festivals.

The Kilburn II easily delivers enough sound to fill a small room.

All that weight is due to more powerful speakers. The Kilburn II sports two class D amplifiers with 8 watts for each tweeter, and a 20-watt class D woofer. The result is booming sound that’ll easily fill a small room. Like its predecessor, the Kilburn II is at its best when playing rock ballads, but the balanced sound signature, booming bass, and analog controls make it ideal for cranking out just about any type of music.

The Kilburn II features Bluetooth 5.0 and AptX connectivity, and while there’s no Wi-Fi, you’ll easily get a range of 30 feet via Bluetooth. You can connect it to two devices at once, and you’ll hear a tiny riff every time you connect and disconnect a device from the speaker.

Marshall claims a 20-hour battery life, and that’s what I noticed as well in over a month of testing the Kilburn II. The battery indicator is a great new addition, and the monstrous battery life ensures the speaker will outlast most parties. It takes just over 2.5 hours to fully charge the Kilburn II, but if you’re in a hurry, you’ll be able to get a three-hour battery life with a 15-minute charge.

Marshall Kilburn II Bottom line

There are few portable Bluetooth speakers that are as loud as the Kilburn II. The more mainstream design makes it easier on the eyes, and the powerful speakers combined with analog controls knobs means you can tailor the sound profile to your tastes.

The 20-hour battery life allows the Kilburn II to rock on all night, and the rugged design with IPX2 rating, leather carrying handle, and end caps around all corners ensure it can hold its own on the road.

Overall, the Kilburn II is one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers money can buy today.

4.5
out of 5
The Kilburn II debuted at $299, but it’s already on sale at Amazon for $249. At that price you’d be hard-pressed to find another speaker that sounds quite as good.

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