My endless search for the best Bluetooth speaker money can buy has led me to Marshall, a company you’ve undoubtedly heard of if you’ve ever seen a picture of a rock band on stage. The brand, which recently merged with its licensing partner Zound Industries, has been around since the 1960s and was made famous thanks to artists like Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Eric Clapton, Gorillaz, and others who used their equipment during shows. The name is synonymous with rocking out to your favorite music, no matter what genre. So what better way to capitalize on that perception than by shipping Bluetooth speakers with the name embossed on the front?
I’ve tried their speakers in the past and was impressed with their quality. Recently, Marshall introduced the Middleton, which they sent me to review. It’s on the higher end of the Bluetooth speaker market with a big size, big sound, and a big price tag. At $299, the Middleton isn’t cheap, so my expectations were pretty high the first time I turned it on.
As it turns out, this speaker is excellent. It’s not the most technically advanced, and it won’t satisfy die-hard audiophiles. But its sound quality is still amazing, and its rugged design makes it a great Bluetooth speaker to bring to a barbecue, pool party, picnic, or other outdoor activities as the weather continues to heat up across the country.
Rugged design with iconic character
From the second the Middleton crosses your cornea, you instantly know it’s a Marshall speaker. No, not just because of the signature bronze, cursive logo on the front, but the overall character of the speaker itself. It’s bulky, it’s rugged, and it’s ready to rock. At four pounds, it’s by no means the lightest speaker you can buy, and the ruggedized exterior—while excellent against drops—can’t help but attract lint and dirt from collecting.
Still, this design is pretty killer. The silicon housing, plastic mesh, and perforated metal create an enclosure that looks and feels premium. The top is where you’ll find all of the controls for the speaker, including Marshall’s now signature bronze/gold function button. There’s also a loop on the right side where you can attach the included strap. (I kept it off of my review unit because, well, I couldn’t quite bring myself to dangle a four-pound speaker from anything.)
The speaker comes in two color options: “Black and Brass” and “Cream.” I went with the black model for that classic Marshall look, but if you want to hide dust and lint better, Cream is the way to go.
To further aid in portability, Marshall had the Middleton rated for IP67 certification which protects it from dust, water, and other debris. That’s in line with other popular Bluetooth speakers on the market, such as the Bose SoundLink Flex and JBL Charge 5.
I’d have no problem bringing the Middleton to the beach for a picnic, outback at a family barbecue, a pool party, or any kind of summertime soirée. Because not only is it built like a tank, but the sound quality is perfectly tuned to rock out all season long.
Superb sound quality with plenty of control
Marshall equipped the Middleton with two three-inch 15W woofers, two 0.6-inch 10W tweeters, and two passive radiators to handle stereo playback. The drivers support a frequency range of 50Hz to 20,000Hz, and there are four individual class D amplifiers (two 20W amps for the woofers and two 10W amps for the tweeters).
What does all of this mean when you want to play music? In a nutshell, nothing but exceptional audio quality.
The first thing I noticed about the Middleton was its excellent stereo separation. Typically, speakers of this size and caliber sound like they’re trying to output in stereo, but the components are so close together that it’s much closer to mono. That’s not the case with the Middleton; Marshall’s unique “True Stereophonic” sound technology means that the speaker can drive certain sounds in different directions, giving a much broader definition to the left and right channels and making your music feel more immersive.
It’s most noticeable with anything involving acoustic instruments. A lot of classic rock songs like “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” by Three Dog Night and “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd sound amazing on the Middleton. You can hear subtleties in chord progression on each guitar track in the songs, while drums are crisp and bass levels are satisfyingly deep.
The same can be said about a lot of country tunes. I’ve had Morgan Wallen’s album One Thing at a Time on repeat since it dropped, and the Middleton helped it sound fantastic with clear definition and no distortion.
I also played a lot of hip-hop. From Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP to J. Cole’s The Off-Season to Logic’s College Park, the Middleton provided plenty of punchy bass and crisp highs for a great listening experience.
It also gets really loud. It can easily fill up an entire room (or two if there’s a wide doorway) and has plenty of volume for jamming outside. You lose some of the stereo separation that comes with having the speaker in a controlled environment (a.k.a. four walls), but it still sounds great nonetheless.
If you want to fine-tune how your music sounds, Marshall makes it easy. The Middleton includes a couple of controls on the top that let you adjust its treble and bass levels, which can come in handy if you’re switching genres and need to ensure the next set of tracks sound good. This is a pretty rare feature for Bluetooth speakers (at least generally speaking), and I found it to be a really nice touch.
Lacking in technical features
The Middleton might have excellent audio quality, but it falls short in a few key areas that other Bluetooth speakers stand out in.
For one, it doesn’t have any microphones, so you can’t use it to answer a phone call or summon a digital assistant from your phone. It also doesn’t support any higher-fidelity audio codecs like AAC, aptX, or LDAC. Instead, it’s stuck with SBC which only supports standard audio quality.
Marshall makes up for this by including multi-device connectivity (letting you pair two devices at once like with modern headphones) and a stacking mode that lets you easily pair more than one Middleton together for an even better listening experience. You also get a nifty 3.5mm audio jack on the back for simpler connectivity to analog devices.
That’s all great, but there will undoubtedly be some people who find the lack of mics and hi-fi audio a bit disappointing, especially from a brand like Marshall who’s charging $300 for this speaker.
Solid battery life
Luckily, you’re getting battery life that feels like it’s worth $300 all by itself.
Marshall claims the Middleton can last over 20 hours on a full charge, and in my testing, I found that to be pretty accurate. There wasn’t a time when the speaker lasted exceedingly passed 20 hours, but I’d say it can last anywhere between 16 and 22 hours, depending on how loud your volume is.
That’s very good battery life for a Bluetooth speaker. Typically, speakers like this can last 10 to 15 hours on a full charge, so it’s clear Marshall has been hard at work in perfecting this aspect of the Middleton.
When it comes time to recharge, there’s a USB-C port on the back. Conveniently, that port can also be used to recharge your phone which can be handy in a pinch. Marshall says it takes 4.5 hours to recharge the speaker from dead to full, and I ended up with similar results in my testing. If you don’t have 4.5 hours to wait, the quick charging feature will give you two hours of playtime after 20 minutes of being plugged in.
An actually good companion app
It’s not very often a Bluetooth speaker comes with a solid companion app, but that’s just what the Middleton includes. Marshall’s Bluetooth app is simplistic, easy to learn, and makes controlling any Marshall speaker paired to your phone a breeze.
Once it’s set up, you can control the bass and treble of the Middleton right from the app if you can’t reach the top of the speaker, and you can manage which two devices are connected to it at any given point. It’s also the home to Stack mode, giving you all the settings you need to pair more than one Middleton to your phone.
There aren’t any intricate EQ settings here, nor any fancy environment-based sound quality tuners. For $299, there is a certain expectation that features like that would be available in the Middleton’s companion app. Instead, it’s just an app that pairs with all of Marshall’s products and gives you quick access to their most vital settings. In that sense, it’s great, although I could certainly understand if people found that unacceptable given the speaker’s price.
Should you buy the Middleton?
Yes, I’m a huge fan of the Middleton (in case this review didn’t make that abundantly clear). But I don’t think it’s right for everyone.
The design is robust and iconic, sound quality is top-notch, multi-device pairing is really convenient, and battery life is fantastic. That’s a lot of checked boxes for a higher-end Bluetooth speaker, but with no mics for phone calls or hi-fi audio support, some may find the $299 a bit hard to swallow.
However, if you’re looking for a speaker to take with you everywhere this summer with great sound and battery life, you’d be silly not to consider the Middleton. Assuming you can get past its few shortcomings, this speaker deserves a spot on your beach towel, next to your pool, at the annual 4th of July barbecue, or at your desk for a jam session.
Buy Marshall Middleton
The Marshall Middleton is available from a variety of retailers for $299.99. I haven’t spotted any discounts on it, but if I do, I’ll update this review.
Buy the Marshall Middleton speaker
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