I've been putting off getting a new speaker for years now. I'm about to move to a new flat, so I thought this could be a great option to finally work it out.
I want my new speaker to sound good and sufficiently loud, but I also want it to be a nice looking piece in my living space, rather than just a metal box.
I always loved the characteristic 60's Rock 'N Roll theme hipster design of Marshall speakers, so I started to dig a little deeper with them.
Even though the Acton II may be loud enough for your kitchen (or a smaller bedroom at best), compared to Stanmore II; you'd still get more distortion at lower loudness levels with it, so I'd almost always get the latter!
Later I found out that they have two speakers in their line-up that responds perfect to my needs: Stanmore II and Acton II.
...but the information provided in this post applies to each and all models of both products: Bluetooth, voice & multi-room.
Compared to Acton II, does Stanmore II worth the price increase (MSRP: 350 vs 250 USD)? Or would Acton II be enough for a regular guy like me?
I don't have any idea about these technical specs - Watts, tweeters, woofers, frequency etc. I don't know what to pay attention to either.
So I asked some experts to translate them to English. In addition to that, I took their advice as well, and shared all my findings in this post.
Marshall speakers are far from being cheap, so I'd strongly recommend you to read this short post entirely. But if you need a short answer for some reason, here it is:
I decided to get the Stanmore II Bluetooth. Because...
Even though the Acton II may be loud enough for your kitchen (or a smaller bedroom at best), compared to Stanmore II, you would still get more distortion at lower loudness levels with it, so I'd get the latter. For living spaces larger than, say, 220 square feet (20 square meters); I'd absolutely recommend the Stanmore II.
Let me tell you something right off the bat.
Room acoustics, particularly room dimensions and speaker positioning, will have an immense effect on sound quality.
The impact of the combination of these two is actually so strong that in most cases, it doesn't even make sense to utter a single word on sound quality without speaking of them.
This is why I'd hiiiiiiighly recommend you to check out this simple, 2D, online speaker placement calculator. I've had an Acoustics & Audio PhD build this tool specifically for this purpose. It's also completely free and mobile compatible. It's GOOOOLLLDDDDD.
ASAP Science made a video on the loudest and quietest rooms in the world. A mind blowing example of the importance of acoustics (time adjusted video).
Other parameters such as the age/materials of the building, the furniture & carpets in place, ceiling height, etc can and will, of course, have an effect on room acoustics, too. But much less.
Size of Acton II is small. To the point that at first sight, it was almost going to make the experts I was talking to think that it's a portable speaker.
I think one of the reasons for that is Marshall's portable speaker Kilburn II. It's just as large as the Acton II.
Stanmore II, on the other hand, is twice as big as the Acton II, and is more of a small shelf speaker.
Smaller size of Acton II forces downsizing the amplifiers as well. This is why Acton II is equipped with 30 W woofer and the Stanmore II with 50 W woofer.
The two tweeters at the ceiling are identical (15 Watts) in both speakers.
Difference in the loudness department, on the other hand, doesn't seem as much: 101 vs 98 dB.
Unless you're an audio expert, technical specs might have confused you here. It certainly did confuse me.
Because I thought 50 W vs 30 W woofer difference would cause a bigger gap in loudness, but then I've learned something:
The decibel scale isn't linear, but logarithmic.
Which means that the difference between 101 vs 98 dB is MUCH more than the difference between, say, 83 vs 80 dB.
101 dB is almost 1.5 times as much as the 98 dB!
Because it's not only difficult to measure, but also fails to deliver what a casual customer cares the most about.
So it might not be an efficient indicator of loudness most of the time.
But, in our case, since the inner amplifiers are stacked similarly, it isn't misleading.
So what does this tell us?
It tells us that there will be a significant difference in loudness between the Acton II and Stanmore II.
Now... Assuming average wall insluation, sound proofing and room acoustics... and assuming you're not looking for drunk party level loud but still fairly loud...
Acton II would be able to fill the bill for living spaces up to, say, 160 square feet (15 square meters). Anything larger and I'd recommend the Stanmore II.
Also, Marshall speakers don't propagate sound 360 degrees (unlike Beoplay M5, for example). So the distance from the speakers is also a primary factor here. I'll assume it's either corner or wall placed. If not, shift these values accordingly.
But... loudness isn't the only advantage you get from a stronger amplifier.
Which brings me to my next point...
I think this is at least just as important as loudness.
If you're going to be listening to your speakers in an apartment flat without significant sound proofing, it might be even more important than the loudness.
The winner doesn't change here - it's Stanmore II. And the reason is the same: More powerful woofer.
Don't get me wrong. Acton II still sounds pretty good. Compared to other less capable speakers such as the Kilburn II, it sounds noticeably better.
However, Stanmore II, on the other hand, delivers clearer sound than the Acton II.
It's more distortion free at both high and low volume levels.
Qualcomm aptX impact
Qualcomm aptX is the latest and greatest Bluetooth format.
It basically compresses the digital audio and then decompresses it upon arriving the source. In the end, it minimizes the quality loss. You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AptX
Stanmore II is equipped with the this latest Bluetooth format whereas the Acton II isn't.
Another difference is the availability of the RCA input:
I had no idea what this connection is and whether I would want to have it or not. So I decided to ask about this to a Customer Rep and here's what they said:
Canberk: Hi, do I need RCA input
Pam: Hello, thanks for writing in. I am not sure - RCA is a wired input, usually used with TVs and turntables.
Canberk: Acton II Bluetooth doesn't have an RCA input, right? Whereas the Stanmore II Bluetooth does have it?
Pam: That is correct, yes
Canberk: So I can't connect an Acton II to a TV. No wire connection at all?
Pam: There is an auxiliary connection, but not RCA. You would need to confirm what connection options your TV offers, to know for sure.
Canberk: Does RCA connection have a wider range of use than the AUX? Generally speaking, is RCA used more often than the AUX out in the market?
Pam: I don't believe so, no
Canberk: But I guess what you're saying is that some devices out there might only offer RCA connection and not an AUX connection?
Pam: Yes, that can be true for certain devices, like turntables
Canberk: What about most of the recent TV's?
Pam: They all differ in what they offer, so I am not able to give a blanket statement, unfortunately.
Canberk: OK - thank you !
Even if RCA wasn't another deal on the table when deciding between Acton and Stanmore, I'd still get the Stanmore...
So this was just something extra for me. I was going to get the Stanmore II anyway.
Before you buy go ahead and pull the trigger on one of these speakers, I'd recommend you to consider durability as well.
If you won't be gentle to these speakers, don't get them. Their coverage and overall structure aren't made to stand against strikes and scratches. It seems like it's almost possible to peel the surface with my bare fingertips.
These 60's rock and roll hipster speakers are made to be an elegant and functional piece of your authentically furnished home, boutique store or a music studio, etc.
You can't toss them around or throw them into the back of your pick-up truck and forget about them.
You get the picture. Their outer shell is vulnerable.
Here are some good reviews that helped me:
Marshall Acton II Bluetooth Review
Marshall Stanmore II Review