I actually bought one of the original Marshall Woburn speakers for my birthday back in 2015 and love it. I’ve used it practically every day because it’s a phenomenal sounding speaker even though it lacks some of the more modern features of the new Stanmore II Voice I am reviewing here. These new features enhance the user’s experience through convenience and flexibility. One of the biggest features for me is WiFi streaming audio which is far better than Bluetooth, voice control and the potential of being able to use it with Alexa.
The Marshall Stanmore II Voice comes in an attractive matte black box with tasteful and stylish graphics that suggest expensive, sophisticated quality and leaves you bristling with excitement for what’s inside.
Inside, the packaging is not quite as sophisticated, especially compared to the original launch models. The speaker is sealed in a plastic bag sandwiched in between two molded cardboard forms. A slot in one of them contains the folded AC power cable while some plain folded paper instructions lay loose in the box. I’d rather they cut costs on the packaging than on the actual speaker. Even so, I was disappointed that there was no coiled aux cable like the one that came with my Woburn.
The speaker looks lovely, much like my Marshall Woburn but it’s smaller and reminds me of traditional Guitar amps from the 60’s. It somehow looks luxurious and Rock and Roll. I know that sounds contradictory. It is solid and heavy. It has a luxury feel with nice curve chamfered edges and corners wrapped in a fine leather vinyl. A vintage style salt and pepper guitar amp cloth covers the speaker baffle with a gold Marshall badge centered in front. There’s a brass strip across the bottom, no plastic here. It looks and feels like solid brass and has nice elegant detail. On the left is a row with five holes which light up blue to show Bluetooth LED signal strength when in that mode. The words Est. 1962 are engraved in the center of the brass strip hint at Marshall’s heritage. That’s the year the company established itself in British blues and its place as a cornerstone of rock history. The speaker stands about ¼ inch off the ground on grippy soft rubber feet.
The controls sit in a recessed area on top. The same brushed brass/gold metal is used for the faceplate. Up here you have:
A 3.5 mm aux input jack.
An input select button with the modes listed in a column with intuitively designed icons printed in black on gold. Each mode is highlighted with a red LED dot when selected.
The center of the control plate is dominated with three classic black and gold Marshall knobs just like their amps. These are Equalizer knobs for Volume, Bass and Treble which are used to shape the tone.
To the right of the knobs you have a pause/play button and the microphone on/off toggle button for voice control. The microphone button has a red dot LED to indicate when it is active.
On the rear you have Aux RCA/Phono stereo inputs. These are clearly marked left and right. Other than the AC power input and a bass port there isn’t anything else on the back.
I primarily use my Windows Desktop PC to listen to music, browse the web, watch youtube videos, play guitar backing tracks and video games. For a stationary dedicated player wired inputs using aux cables are usually the best way to hook up for the best audio quality. You have two wired options on the Stanmore which has to AUX inputs you can choose from. So you can hook up two devices either through the dual red and white RCA sockets on the back of the speaker or the 3.5mm headphone type jack set in the plate on top.
The Stanmore II Voice supports two kinds of wireless Bluetooth and WiFi.
Conventional Bluetooth, I believe it is with APTX since the audio quality and lag is less than basic Bluetooth. It’s simple to pair with your Bluetooth phone or notebook but the bandwidth and power conserving limitations of Bluetooth mean the signal is weaker with less punch and lower bandwidth than a wired connection. That’s still good enough for most people who are used to the convenience that often makes up for lower fidelity of Bluetooth audio through their in ear headphones and car stereos.
WIFI (supports 2.4 and 5.0 ghz networks)
WIFI Wireless Audio has been around for a while and, in my experience, has been used primarily in high-end gaming headsets that require the highest quality and low latency audio experience. My last pair of WIFI headphones cost me over $200 and only work with computers. WIFI audio has the full power and low latency of a wired connection; there is no degradation of quality or noticeable lag and the range at 2.4ghz is far superior to Bluetooth. So it’s better than Bluetooth in pretty much every way.
The Stanmore’s WIFI is a little trickier to set up than Bluetooth since you have to install the Marshall Voice app and Google Home app on the Android phone in order to access the Speaker and change its WIFI settings. There are no physical controls for setting it up on the speaker. Once the apps have been installed on your phone or tablet, the Marshall voice app guides you through the setup procedure which is fairly straightforward.
WIFI and Windows 10. WIFI connectivity from a PC computer is currently limited to the Spotify app. Once you have used the app on your phone to set up the speaker on your network, using the Spotify app in Windows to hook up your Stanmore II Voice is simple. Just select your output device at the bottom of the spotify app window and it just works. You will have to subscribe to Spotify to get the highest quality audio.
If you have an Amazon Alexa device then the speaker should be simple to set up. Unfortunately I don’t own one. If you have Alexa and compatible devices such as lights, phones, house thermostat etc., you can use the Stanmore mic as an interface to talk to Alexa and control those devices as well as ask questions and control the speaker and music with voice commands.
I primarily use my Windows Desktop and Notebook PCs for all my multimedia needs. In September, Amazon recently removed the Alexa software from the public domain and licenced it to a handful of computer manufacturers. So Alexa is only currently available on a few specific models by Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Dell. I understand that Microsoft have also teamed up with Amazon and there are plans to allow Alexa to work with Windows Cortana, but that hasn’t been released yet. In Use
The Stanmore is very easy to use once set up. It works like any other amplified speaker/receiver. You just pick your input source and set your volume and EQ to taste and it just works. There have been some major improvements to the ease of use compared to my old Woburn. The Stanmore II has small red LED markers that correspond with the numbers around the knobs. They light up like illuminated markers on an analog watch dial and illuminate from left to right as you increase the volume, bass and treble. So you can read it like a clock and easily see what your settings are even in total darkness. The LEDs illuminate even in standby mode, just very dimly.
Another big improvement is in the standby mode. My old Woburn was not really sensitive enough to wake up from the energy saving sleep mode by simply playing some audio through it. The Stanmore wakes up almost instantly so I don’t have to go over to it and press a button to wake it up like I do with my old speaker.
Stanmore II Voice’s sound quality is superb, especially wired or WIFI. Similar to my larger Woburn it has a big warm full bodied tone. It has a lively warmth that is very pleasing and reminds me of the sound you get from tube amps and juke boxes but without hiss and much more detail. It’s very much aiming for an Audiophile experience and delivers, sounding great especially for its relatively small size. Voices have a lot of crisp detail and sound very real. I’m a bit spoilt having had the Woburn all these years, so I might not appreciate it as much as someone new to these speakers. I have had many speakers over the years and both my Marshalls stand out for their superb sound.
The only limitation is that the small form factor with all the speakers close together means that you do not have as wide a soundstage with just the one speaker. But you still get a big, full bodied sound with plenty of depth. The Stanmore easily fills a room and has plenty of low end. In an average size room at low to medium volume it sounds great and doesn’t distort easily even if you turn it up way too loud. Conclusion
I love the Stanmore II. Having owned a Marshall Woburn for almost four years, I can attest to the build and sound quality of these speakers. The Stanmore is similar and performs admirably considering it is half the size. It easily keeps up with maybe 10% less in the bottom end when the volume is cranked. But at normal conversation to loud TV volumes the Stanmore compares very well. It is an evolution of the original with some cutting edge features that have not quite hit mainstream yet but should be fully supported in the next few months. Otherwise, the biggest changes are ones of convenience. As I mentioned previously, the new Stanmore is far more responsive to an audio signal when sleeping in standby mode. It wakes up and plays almost instantly where my 1st gen speaker often didn’t wake up for several minutes if at all and you might have to physically press a button to wake it up. The illuminated dials are pretty but also practical since you can see exactly where the knobs are set even in the dark.
Of course, you primarily want an awesome speaker, and this is a premium speaker that sounds fantastic, but the little touches really help, and the new WIFI tech is the best wireless sound you can have right now and a welcome addition to these speakers.
So a great speaker. I really recommend it.
Love this speaker
Product Name: Marshall Stanmore II Voice Multi-Room Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa
Product Description: Wireless Wi-Fi Multi-Room Smart Speaker Amazon Alexa Voice Control Built-in Black