Marshall's 'London' is a smartphone for music lovers

For a long time, Marshall's bread and butter was guitar amps. Then came headphones and Bluetooth speakers (via its partnership with Zound, makers of Urbanears) -- a fairly fitting diversification. Today, the brand is moving on to phones, announcing the "London," an Android (Lollipop) device for music lovers. We bet you weren't expecting that? Us neither, to be honest. But it's happening, and we'd be lying if we said we weren't a little curious.

The Marshall London looks a lot like you might imagine it would, if you've ever set eyes on one of the company's other products. the Flat, rectangular handset has a soft-touch faux-leather finish, with knurled gold color buttons. There are dual speakers on the front, along with two stereo jacks up top. All of which hint at the London's music focus. More on that later.

What about the actual phone? Well, it's a 4.7-inch (720p/IPS) device, with 16GB of internal storage (expandable via SD card), running on a Snapdragon 410 chip (1.4GHz, quad-core), 8- and 2-megapixel cameras and a Wolfson DSP. Some of that specification may seem a little modest by today's flagship standards, but it's fair to say Marshall's not going after the typical flagship-phone buyer here. Marshall partnered with Finnish firm, Creoir, whose previous collaborations include Jolla and Nokia, to create the hardware to Marshall's specification.

The London's music focus is a mix of hardware and software. The dual headphone jacks let two people listen to music in stereo, and mean no more having to split a pair of earbuds. Neat enough, but the London also has a bespoke DJ app, and the dual outputs lets wannabe jocks cue and mix their tunes in headphones, while the current track plays through a speaker. Something that other phones cannot do (without crude workarounds).

If you're into recording, rather than mixing, London's dual microphones will scoop up your impromptu acapellas, and help your calls with active noise cancellation too. Again, Marshall has installed a custom app to help you along with your recordings. We hear there will be some app goodies for guitarists, too, but we've no details on specifics just yet.

Should you just want to consume, rather than create music, then the London's got a few tricks in that department also. We saw a quick glimpse of an app that combines all your music sources (Spotify, music collection etc.) into one place, along with a global E.Q., which sounded impressively loud on the phone's dual speakers. There's also support for FLAC files, which will please audio fiends.

The question is, is all this enough to woo buyers? The London will cost $499/£399 when it's finally available in August (21st). This makes it a tough choice when you compare it to other, higher spec phones at that price (and a world of third-party music apps to choose from). Believers, bands and beat-lovers can pre-order starting today.