Mar­shall Kil­burn II Blue­tooth speaker: Great sound and nos­tal­gic de­sign

Macworld (USA) - - Playlist - BY JON L. JACOBI

Iam al­ways skep­ti­cal about nos­tal­gia-branded prod­ucts, in­clud­ing Blue­tooth speak­ers mod­eled af­ter fa­mous gui­tar amps. But I found my­self quite lik­ing the $300 Mar­shall Kil­burn II. I like its sim­plic­ity; I like its sound, which is well above aver­age; I like its rugged con­struc­tion; and I like the com­fort­able car­ry­ing han­dle. All that said, I’d like it more if it were a bit cheaper.

DOWN MEM­ORY LANE

The Mar­shall Kil­burn II mea­sures ap­prox­i­mately 10 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 5 inches deep, and it weighs around 5.5 pounds. It dif­fers a bit in ap­pear­ance from its pre­de­ces­sor ( go. mac­world.com/mekb). The first Kil­burn’s tweed speaker cover goes hand in hand with the Mar­shall im­age, where the Kil­burn II has a more prac­ti­cal me­tal grill. I think the new model looks even bet­ter. And in the end, the Tolex cov­er­ing, the pro­tec­tive cor­ner pieces, and the Mar­shall logo do the trick. The speaker fairly shouts

Mar­shall stack! Okay, Mar­shall combo amp.

The Kil­burn II is solidly con­structed and its IPX2 rat­ing means it’s mildly wa­ter re­sis­tant; i.e., you don’t need to worry about a few sprin­kles at a pic­nic. Just don’t try float­ing it in the pool.

On top, re­cessed for pro­tec­tion, are the Blue­tooth pair­ing but­ton; amp-style pots (po­ten­tiome­ter/ro­tary con­trols) for on/ off/vol­ume con­trol, bass, and tre­ble; and the bat­tery sta­tus in­di­ca­tor. On the back are a 3.5mm aux­il­iary in­put, AC jack (with a cap­tive rub­ber cover), bass port, and an­other port that al­lows higher fre­quen­cies from the tweet­ers to es­cape and bounce off any acous­tic sur­faces be­hind the Kil­burn II.

Blue­tooth pair­ing is easy, and con­nec­tions were quickly cre­ated with all my de­vices, which is not al­ways the case. The Kil­burn II al­lows mul­ti­ple de­vices to con­nect and al­ways re­sponds to the lat­est re­quest; that is, the de­vice that most re­cently pressed play.

There’s po­ten­tial for bad be­hav­ior there, but I’ve al­ways pre­ferred this type of oper­a­tion to lock­outs. Switch­ing is pretty quick, cer­tainly short enough to keep folks on the dance floor while you and your friends bat­tle over the next tune.

Spe­cial ku­dos to the Kil­burn II’S de­sign­ers for the wide, com­fort­able car­ry­ing strap. It seems to be made from faux leather with a vel­vet liner, but what­ever the ma­te­rial, it doesn’t cut blood flow as so many modern han­dles or straps will, and it spreads the weight nicely.

Mar­shall claims 20 hours of run time, and that’s around what I saw over sev­eral days, though I played the Kil­burn II at rel­a­tively low vol­umes. Re­gard­less, it should last for the en­tire party, and quite a bit be­yond. Note that the Kil­burn II’S AC trans­former is in­ter­nal and it uses a com­mon, eas­ily re­placed two-prong AC cord. There’s no wall wart.

SOUND

While not stu­dio mon­i­tor or high-end book­shelf speaker qual­ity, the Kil­burn II does sound at least as good as Fender’s Mon­terey ( go.mac­world.com/mont) and bet­ter than the Fender Newport ( go. mac­world.com/nwpt), the other two gui­tarnos­tal­gia Blue­tooth speak­ers I’ve re­viewed. And in the grand scheme of things Blue­tooth, that puts it in pretty good com­pany over­all. The only other Blue­tooth speak­ers I’d rate higher for sound aren’t por­ta­ble.

Though the Kil­burn II is a sin­gle en­clo­sure, there is some mild right/left sep­a­ra­tion ev­i­dent, due to the dual-

tweeter/sin­gle-woofer de­sign. The afore­men­tioned bass and tre­ble ports help cre­ate oomph and ra­di­ate the sound to the rear. The tweet­ers them­selves have very wide fre­quency range for the breed. In­deed, I was able to add more high end than I ac­tu­ally wanted, and the port­ing al­lows enough bass to sat­isfy all but the most ar­dent sub­woofer afi­ciona­dos.

As to the one woofer thing:

Bass is gen­er­ally per­ceived by hu­mans as non-di­rec­tional, so that’s no big whoop with only a sin­gle en­clo­sure in play.

But the best thing about the

Kil­burn II is that it starts off sound­ing mu­si­cal at low vol­umes and neu­tral EQ set­tings, and it re­mains so no mat­ter how you tweak the knobs--all the way to its loud­est level. If there’s any­thing that I can see com­plaints about, it’s that said loud­est level is not in­cred­i­bly loud. Cer­tainly louder than I care to lis­ten to, but I don’t throw a lot of dance par­ties. That would be none, ac­tu­ally.

As to the sci­ence be­hind the vol­ume, the sub­woofer is driven with 20 watts, while 8 watts is pro­vided for each tweeter. As usual, I’d like to point out that taste in sound varies. In my book, how­ever, the Kil­burn II, is ver­sa­tile enough to suit just about any­one.

PRICEY, BUT WORTH­WHILE

Once again, the Kil­burn II is a very nice-sound­ing por­ta­ble Blue­tooth speaker. That makes any rec­om­men­da­tion merely a ques­tion of value. As with Fender’s Mon­terey, you’re still pay­ing a lot for ap­pear­ances. If you’re okay with that, I’m sure you’ll be sat­is­fied with the Kil­burn II’S de­sign and per­for­mance. ■

The large comfy car­ry­ing strap and the sim­ple, old-school knob con­trols are shown here. The modern touch is a plasma-style bat­tery-charge in­di­ca­tor.

The Mar­shall Kil­burn II is ported for ex­cel­lent bass re­sponse. It di­rects some higher fre­quen­cies to the rear as well.

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