Marshall Headphones, the splinter manufacturer that labels “lifestyle” electronics with the amplifier brand’s logo and styling, is making a new Android phone with music-centric features. There’s a little gimmicky nostalgia here, but forgive me lords of rock n’ roll authenticity if I kind of love it.
The new Marshall London—yes, it’s called London—has all of the traditional Marshall trappings, like the grainy textured finish of the iconic amps. But the music-oriented theme goes deeper than aesthetics. You adjust volume with a wheel, just like you did on your old Walkman. And like the original Walkman way, way back in the 80s, London has two headphone jacks so you can listen to tunes with a friend. The finishing touch is an “M” button, which takes you straight to the music. (Also it stands for Marshall, get it?)
The hardware has an auxiliary Wolfson chipset under the hood. I hadn’t heard of the company before, but it was a British manufacturer of IC chips for music-specific applications. According to this pretty good post, the company had a rich IP portfolio and landed some high-profile contracts with monsters like Samsung—you know back when company’s like HTC were installing Beats-centric music features directly into hardware. Eventually, the business faltered and they were forced to sell out.
Regardless, no word on what that Wolfson chipset might actually do. But we’re finding out.
Some of the audio-centric features are more superficial. This isn’t the first phone to feature dual speakers on the front of the device. And the built-in DJ software and EQ aren’t exactly groundbreaking.
Under the hood, the phone’s core specs are barely respectable compared to a top-of-the-line handset. It’s got a 4.7-inch 720p IPS display, which is going to feel pretty tiny and low-res compared to today’s 5-inch-plus QHD displays. It’s got 2GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage, plus a Micro-SD slot. It’ll run Android Lollipop at launch, which is great! But that Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chipset is a few years old, and might drag compared to a new flagship. We don’t know much about the 8 megapixel camera, but it’s lower resolution than the most up-to-date phones. It’s a low-spec handset, but that doesn’t mean bad.
Unlike other low-spec phones like the totally decent Moto E, the Marshall London won’t be cheap. For now the phone is available for pre-order in Europe for just shy of $600. The company is looking into plans for a US launch, and when it comes here, we’ll be all over it.
Old man Marshall might roll in his grave if he saw a cell phone with his name slapped on the side. Maybe! But I’d like to think he would recognize style when he saw it.