Marshall Emberton II speaker review: Just keeps getting better

in General Discussion
The Marshall Emberton II is a stylish speaker that builds on the positive reputation of its processor. While there are cheaper speakers out there,

The new Emberton II
The new Marshall Emberton II

Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal. Whatever your music service of choice may be, you'll need a solid wireless speaker if you want to play your tunes out loud.

You can opt for an AirPlay 2 speaker that runs over your Wi-Fi but when going portable, Bluetooth is the answer.

Marshall has a wide-ranging lineup of Bluetooth speakers that span large in-home speakers to compact portable models. The updated Emberton II skews more towards the latter as the second smallest in the lineup.

A familiar design

Marshall wraps the Emberton II in a rubberized material meant to replicate the iconic material surrounding its larger, stage-bound speakers and amps.

As a bonus, this version uses new, more environmentally friendly materials. The speaker body is comprised of 50 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. That includes old electronics and water bottles. It also boasts the fact it is 100 percent PVC-free.

Besides the silicone material on the edges, the front and back have metal grilles with the iconic Marshall script emblazoned on one side. This design looks classic, vintage, and something we'd love to tote around.

The Emberton II getting wet
The Emberton II getting wet

With the Emberton II, you get IP67 resistance which protects your speaker from dust and water. It can handle being submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes before it would start to have issues.

That makes it great for a poolside speaker or getting caught in the rain. In our testing, this has proved to be quite the durable speaker.

Marshall Emberton II button
Marshall Emberton II metal button

On top of the speaker, Marshal has kept with its physical controls, and we couldn't be more pleased. In the center is a multi-directional brass knob while there is a small power button located on the left.

These buttons are incredibly tactile, easy to use, and are far nicer than the usual mushy-feeling buttons or non-tactile touch surfaces employed by other speakers.

We can't say enough about how wonderful these buttons are and that Marshall continues to use them while other speakers often start to cheap out on the physical controls.

The brass knob can be pushed front to back and side to side to adjust volume and move between tracks. It can push down to control playback.

Battery gauge on the Emberton II
Battery gauge on the Emberton II

Located on the top right is a small LED array. It's a series of small red rectangles that each represent 10 percent of the remaining battery life.

Once more, Marshall has knocked this out of the park. It looks like an audio meter and is complete with a slick animation when the speaker powers on.

Most speakers we see have four battery indicators at most and we prefer this more granular approach. You can more easily discern how much of the 30 hours of battery life you have remaining.

Emberton II on the beach
By the beach with the Emberton II

Inside of the Emberton II is a pair of dynamic full-range drivers, each measuring two inches. There are also two passive radiators alongside them.

Passive radiators are common in compact speakers where there isn't enough room for a full vent system that facilitates the low-end frequencies. HomePod mini and the UE Boom are just two of the many speakers that use this technique.

The speaker charges over USB-C with the port located on the side. You can use any USB-C PD charger or cable you have around, such as those for your Mac or iPad.

Marshall Emberton II -- Original versus second generation

With a very similar-looking design, it can be hard to pin down what has changed between generations for the Emberton. While not readily apparent, the Emberton II does have several noteworthy improvements.

The design of the two speakers is nearly identical, though that upgraded exterior has a more pebbled texture than the first iteration. It's also more durable.

Emberton versus Emberton II
Emberton versus Emberton II

Marshall has moved from an IPX7 rating which offers no dust resistance, to IP67 which protects against small particles such as sand. Beachgoers will be overjoyed.

Internally, Marshall has moved to Bluetooth 5.1, up from Bluetooth 5, and the battery has increased to 30 hours. The first generation Emberton only had 20 hours of battery life so the new model has a 50 percent boost.

The most significant new feature to tout is one that, unfortunately, many people may never use. They call it Stack mode and it allows multiple Emberton II speakers to be placed atop one another to create a massive wall of speakers.

Stack mode
Stack mode

You can stack several speakers at once that all compound their sound for an even more impressive experience. Stacking them reminds us of classic Marshall amps stacked up on the edges of a stage,

Of course, this isn't very handy if you only have the one speaker. The most likely use case for this is if your friends commit to the same speaker so you can join forces when getting together.

Marshall Emberton II -- Sound performance

Kicking on the Marshall Emberton II, it is instantly recognizable as one of the brand's devices. It has this raw, rock-inspired tone that we love.

Slipping the Emberton II in our backpack
Slipping the Emberton II in our backpack

That isn't to say that this speaker is only tuned to rock or guitar-heavy tunes. Everything sounded fantastic though there wasn't a big improvement over gen one.

The sound is warm with a large 360-degree soundstage, besting nearly all other speakers in its class we've tested. The speaker gets too loud at max volume when indoors unless you have an exceptionally massive indoor space.

There's decent bass with the Emberton II, rumbling with our tracks. We have tested other speakers with even more bass that extend beyond Marshall's 60Hz limit, but it wasn't something we had issues with.

Playing music on the Emberton II
Playing music on the Emberton II

The ones that pump more bass in a design this size can get a bit sloppy on the low end or unnecessarily over-powering. This felt like a good middle ground with enough bass to get the point across without the excessive shaking of the speaker.

Our biggest complaint with the audio is that the vocals did start to feel slightly harsh or over-processed when the audio was topped out.

When listening to our testing playlist, the highs in Glitter and Gold were tight and crisp while vocals were easily recognizable and clear.

Once we turned to World's Smallest Violin it brought out the middle frequencies well and you can notice the transition between all the instruments during the musical breaks.

Rock, jazz, instrumental music, and acoustic tracks all shined best, which is right up our alley.

Marshall Connect app

If you pair the speaker with your phone and download the free Marshall Connect app you can unlock additional functionality. The app provides useful information on your speaker and helps you install firmware updates when available.

Marshall Connect app
Marshall Connect app

The biggest feature of the app is to tune the speaker with three preset EQs. Unfortunately, there is no manual EQ adjustment you can control yourself.

You can choose between Marshall, Push, or Voice options. Marshall is the brand's signature sound and the one we preferred by far.

Voice is great for audiobooks, podcasts, or any audio where you want that dialogue boost. Push emphasizes the treble and bass for a more robust, heavier sound.

In our tests, Push reduced the soundstage and muddied the mids too much, though the bass was a bit improved. We think Push just sounded overall worse and the trade-off wasn't worth it.

Should you buy the Marshall Emberton II?

Not everyone is going to love the look of the Marshall Emberton II. We're big fans of this retro design that uses high-quality materials, has physical buttons, and is extremely durable.

It's also a great size that can effortlessly slip into a backpack or possibly a back pocket. While we wouldn't say it is lightweight, the audio impresses with its size and weight.

Marshall Emberton II box
Marshall Emberton II box

The new stack mode and EQ tools are nice additions here and it is a good step above the last-generation model, but with a decently high price tag, there are more affordable options to consider if you're ok with the trade-offs in style and quality.

Marshall Emberton II - Pros

  • Improved IP67 resistance

  • USB-C connectivity

  • Metal physical controls

  • Great audio quality with Marshall's signature sound

  • App connectivity

  • Fantastic retro vibes and build quality

  • Awesome battery life

Marshall Emberton II - Cons

  • Slight distortion at max volume

  • No granular EQ controls

Where to buy the Marshall Emberton II

The Marshall Emberton II retails for $169.99 and is available for purchase at Best Buy and Amazon.

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