Reviews

Marshall Willen Test: Our Opinion –

Marshall Willen Def test

With this compact model with a resolutely rock design, Marshall enters the ultraportable Bluetooth speaker segment to compete with Bose and JBL, who dominate it undividedly. Like the more massive Stockwell II and Emberton speakers, the Marshall Willen was designed by Zound Industries, which works for the British firm behind the scenes.

With “the promise of powerful sound wherever you go”, Marshall brings us a 100% nomadic speaker to hang anywhere with 10W of power, Bluetooth multipoint connectivity and a advertised 15 hour battery life. Available in black and copper, and soon in cream, the Marshall Willen is currently on sale for a starting price of €99.

Loudspeaker hard as a rock

The new portable speaker with an instantly recognizable Marshall Willen design also uses the codes of the wellknown guitar amplifier brand. To seduce rock fans, Zound Industries engineers spared no expense: a metallook grille to highlight the iconic Marshall logo, and a black tolexlike finish for the most beautiful effect. Note also the coppercolored control knob, reminiscent of the amplifier’s knobs. It immediately gives the impression of reliability: the speaker is solid as a rock!

Much less bulky than the Marshall Emberton, the Willen shows a reduced size (101.6mm x 100.5mm x 40.4mm) with an almost square format reminiscent of the Bose SoundLink Micro, another competing model among ultraportables. Lightweight at 310g, it can be hung anywhere thanks to the rubber back strap, another common feature with the small Bose Micro.

Like many rugged speakers, Marshall is IP67 certified, which guarantees good dust and water resistance. We also tested it at the edge of the pool, noticing any sound issues or malfunctions. And to further enhance its “tough” side, the Marshall Willen is far less messy than some nomadic models like the Huawei Sound Joy.

Marshall Willen's speaker hangs on the edge of the pool

Equipped with a shockresistant coating, it is easy to use on the street, including on walks. And to add some greenery, Marshall is taking a more sustainable approach with a speaker that is 60% recycled plastic and PVCfree.

Best Ergonomics

In terms of controls, the British firm has gone for simplicity with a joystick like on its helmets that lets you skip tracks, control the volume, take calls or mute the speaker. This little joystick offers real ease of use with very responsive controls, even when the Willen is attached to a backpack. Here Marshall scores points for optimal ergonomics not always found in more expensive models.

Marshall Willen in one hand

At the top, a hidden pairing button is used to pair Bluetooth devices and to activate stack mode to link multiple Willen speakers together. The function is to pump up the sound a little, but unfortunately it will remain in mono.

Application not required

Like the UKbranded wireless and earphones, the Willen can be controlled via the Marshall Bluetooth app (on iOS and Android), which offers a few additional features that are quite limited. It shows the battery level, gives you access to a basic equalizer with just 3 factory settings, allows you to perform updates, activate the stack mode and that’s it. An app we can do without.

Marshall Bluetooth App - Marshall Willen Speaker Control

Permanent autonomy

Autonomy is an important point when it comes to portable speakers designed for hiking. If you like to move to music, be sure! True to the manufacturer’s promise, the Willen speaker won’t let you down as we were able to use it for over 16 hours at moderate volume, which is a slight bonus over the claimed 15 hours of battery life. Either way, these are good specs for a speaker of this size. So in terms of endurance, the little Marshall performs much better than many competing models like the JBL Clip 4 or the Bose SoundLink Micro, which offer 56 hours of battery life.

Marshall Willen hanging from his backpack

It will still take 3 hours to charge via the included USBC cable, but 20 minutes of charging will allow you to listen to music for 3 hours. And a little detail that we really appreciated, the red LEDs on the top of the Marshall speaker let you know the battery level.

Bluetooth 5.1 multipoint connection

Without the connector, Marshall Willen only works in Bluetooth 5.1 with a single SBC audio codec, but still provides a very stable wireless connection at a standard 10 meters range. The speaker is compatible with Google Fast Pair for quick pairing with Android smartphones and also supports Multipoint. This is very handy for quickly switching between computer and phone, because the Willen is very good for handsfree conversations thanks to the builtin microphone, which does its job very well in terms of sound.

Marshall Willen lies, view led

A pleasant surprise also in regards to latency, which is quite well controlled to ensure a very proper viewing of his Netflix series on a PC, just like on a smartphone. The small Marshall speaker does wonders for adding sound to the Stranger Things soundtrack, especially since it has headroom, as we’ll see in the audio section.

Sound quality: Marshall power

The sound is solid too! The Marshall Willen is equipped with a fullrange dynamic driver and two passive bass radiators. And all this at a power of 10 watts. Unsurprisingly, we find Marshall’s signature sound with a powerful driver at high frequencies. But despite its assertive side, the little Willen still has true sonic qualities: a sound rich in detail, with bass that is very present but not exaggerated.

Marshall Willen Coming

Faced with the competition, the conclusion is mixed: less bassaccurate than the Bose SoundLink Micro, Marshall’s small speaker seems to handle distortion better than its direct competitor, the JBL Clip 4. It may not even be noticeable that we’re not pushing the volume too high. If you’re not a Metallica fan, it offers a great listening experience with names like Daft Punk, Ed Sheeran, Clara Luciani or even Soso Manessa rapping. As a result, a fairly versatile speaker, if not much to find fault with the sound.

A small flaw to indicate that the distribution of music is very directed. As soon as you stop being in front of the device or lay it flat, you immediately lose the quality of listening. Shame on the mobile speaker!

marshall willen flat view usb connector

Also, Marshall Willen only supports a basic SBC, but that’s not very dramatic, it’s not an audiophile speaker. What’s even more annoying is that, as we said above, the simplest equalizer in the app won’t help you improve your sound quality. In this regard, some cheaper competing models do much better.

But despite its small flaws, Marshall Willen is a very pleasant mobile speaker that will accompany us in any circumstances, and despite its small size, it does a good job of sounding.

Competition update

Arriving in the ultraportable Bluetooth speaker segment, Marshall Willen faces serious competition, such as the JBL Clip 4, Bose Soundlink Micro or Tribit StormBox Micro. The perfect speaker for adventures, JBL can compete in terms of sound quality with a much more attractive price tag, but doesn’t offer handsfree functionality.

For its part, Bose offers the possibility of true stereo sound in a pocket format, but it is less durable than the Marshall, with only 6 hours of battery life. As for the Tribit loudspeaker, a very compact and waterproof model, it offers very good value for money for musical outings, even if we are far from Marshall sound.

Conclusion

With the small Willen, Marshall fits right into the category of ultraportable Bluetooth speakers. A compact, carefully crafted model with many benefits, starting with the rock design that many people love. Offering the guarantee of powerful sound with multipoint connectivity and unfailing autonomy, this rugged little speaker has everything to seduce adventurers who love Marshall sound. The only downsides to be aware of are the slightly high price, the no interest app, and the multispeaker mode with no real stereo. But if you like powerful sound on the go, do it with your eyes closed!

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