If there’s one thing Marshall does exceptionally well, it’s making beautiful devices. Speaking exclusively to aesthetics, a lot of speakers—and more specifically, Bluetooth speakers—are decidedly clunky and weird-looking. Sure, the most important thing about the function of a speaker is obviously to make your music sound great, but Marshall manages to make devices you actually want displayed in your home. And with the release of the Emberton—the company’s new palm-sized, water-resistant Bluetooth speaker—Marshall manages to pack a lot of sound into a miniature unit that still looks absolutely gorgeous.
I’ve had a first-generation Marshall Stockwell speaker—which was eventually replaced by the current, more square-shaped Stockwell II model—for years, and I’m genuinely pleased with how well it’s held up over time. The one thing that’s always bummed me out, though, was that it was a little too heavy and, truthfully, a little too expensive for me to feel comfortable transporting it beyond the four walls of my home. The Emberton is a speaker I want to bring with me everywhere. At $150, it’s also the most affordable in Marshall’s line of Bluetooth speakers, which can hike as high as $500 with the Woburn II.
I should start by saying the thing that most blew me away about this speaker is how utterly teeny it is. The thing is roughly the length of my hand. It’s fairly hefty at about a pound and a half, but considerably lighter than the 3-pound Stockwell II ($200), your next cheapest Marshall Bluetooth option alongside the similarly priced Uxbridge Voice. Unboxing it was a bit of a shock because it genuinely seemed smaller in my hands than it looked in images, but Marshall didn’t compromise on its aesthetic. The speaker is lovely, with a single button that operates power, volume, and tracking. A separate, discreet button to the left of this multi-function knob is used for pairing. To the right on the top, you’ll see a bar indicator for battery life. The lone port on the unit—it charges with an included USB-C cable—is located on the right-hand side of the device.
One of the neat things about this speaker is that it’s meant to actually leave your house and withstand a fair amount of wear and tear. It’s certainly Marshall’s most rugged Bluetooth speaker, with an IPX7 water-resistance rating, meaning it can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Do you need to be dunking your pricey Bluetooth speaker in the bath? No, of course not. But this means it’s safe for poolside applications, for example.
The other thing that makes this device a truly portable one is the unit’s up to 20 hours of playtime. That’s pretty significant compared to some of the device’s competitors. The Boom 3 ($150) from Ultimate Ears, for example, claims to get about 15 hours out of a single charge. The Bose SoundLink Color II ($130) gets just 8 hours, although the Bose SoundLink Revolve ($200) gets up to 12 hours. Marshall also says you’ll get up to 5 hours of playtime on a 20-minute charge with the Emberton, meaning you can plug and go fairly quickly if you’re bringing it everywhere and often.
The speaker uses Bluetooth 5.0 technology, and that means the range of connectivity is going to be about 30 feet for this one. You probably can’t entertain in the backyard and bring your connected device in with you if you don’t want audio interference. But 30 feet is a good amount of space, and I found that I could walk from one side of my house to the other with my phone on me without incident. One thing you will not get with this device is speakerphone support because it lacks a mic, but that’s not a terribly important feature to everyone, myself included.
As for the sound quality, I was surprised at how rich music sounded on the Emberton. You’re not going to get the gimmicky bass and treble nobs that come standard on the Stockwell II, but you will get a good amount of thump with this speaker. Marshall claims absolute 360° sound with this teeny, six-inch speaker. I will say that I genuinely felt like I was listening to a much, much larger speaker system with the Emberton. I was most impressed with how it handled music on mid-range and higher volumes, which quite honestly I prefer to low-level listening—but you will lose a bit of bass at the highest levels.
There were definitely some things about this device that I did not love. For one, I found the greeting sound at boot-up, a metal guitar riff, incredibly grating. Unfortunately, a spokesperson said this is uniform across all current Marshall products. (My first generation Stockwell instead has a far more pleasant power-on boop beep sound.) I can also see the primary control button being a pain in the ass when trying to pause a song on the unit itself. Because you have to press it straight down in order to pause a track—this is also how you power the device on and off—you have to be careful not to accidentally hit the tracking buttons and skip whatever you’re listening to.
But if you’re like me, you’re probably controlling your listening experience from a phone or other device anyway, making this annoyance less of a big deal. I’m more likely to be shuffling through songs on a Spotify playlist from my phone and tend to listen to music at higher volumes, meaning the speaker is unlikely to be situated directly next to me.
It’s true that there are Bluetooth speakers out there that sound just as good for a little less than the cost of the Emberton. But I can’t overstate that if you’re looking for a speaker that is just as beautiful as it is functional and rugged, this little guy is one you should seriously consider. For me, I genuinely enjoy a speaker that looks as gorgeous as it sounds, even if it means it comes at a slightly higher cost. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another go-anywhere Bluetooth device that gives your buddies the level of speaker envy you get with a Marshall.
- The Emberton is currently the most affordable option in Marshall’s line of Bluetooth speakers.
- It lacks speakerphone support and its power-on sound is jarring as hell, but this is also universal across all of Marshall’s products.
- It’s the most rugged of Marshall’s speakers, and it’s pretty water-resistant—making it a great option for on-the-go.
- It packs a punch for its little size, with rich tones and heavy bass. And while more expensive than other, similar Bluetooth speakers, it looks far more elegant and stylish than many others on the market.