Marshall has made some seemingly minor changes for its third-generation of home speakers, but there’s a hint they’re angling to be a soundbar competitor. The Acton III, Stanmore III and Woburn III have all been tweaked so the tweeters are angled outwards to provide a larger, more immersive soundstage than the forward-facing earlier models. They’ve also been upgraded to Bluetooth version 5.2 and we’re told their builds consist of 70 percent recycled plastic and use only vegan materials, similar to what they did with the recent Emberton II and Willen models. The other major update is for the higher-end Woburn III, which gets a new HDMI input, suggesting a more inclusive role for modern media consoles. You can pre-order the Acton III ($279), Stanmore III ($379) and Woburn III ($579) starting today.
These speakers are more powerful than their portable counterparts, although only the Woburn III includes a full-range driver alongside the woofer and tweeters. Interestingly, the press release appears to show that while the Acton III and Stanmore III gained 5Hz in low-end (50Hz to 45Hz) over the previous models, the Woburn III lost 5Hz (30Hz to 35Hz).
On the exterior, there are plenty of physical controls to be found, although little has changed since the previous generation except for the addition of a previous and next function to the play/pause button. A 3.5mm aux input can be found on the top panel of all models, with the Stanmore III and Woburn III have RCA inputs on the back. While only the Woburn III includes an HDMI input next to the RCA port.
As for the wider soundstage, it can definitely be useful when you have a single speaker for your room, especially if you plan to use it as a soundbar for your viewing and listening pleasure. (Although the company stated their speakers aren't necessarily built for TV listening, but rather more specifically for music.) Marshall also notes that there’s a Placement Compensation feature to correct for nearby reflective surfaces that can affect sound output, and a built-in Dynamic Loudness feature to keep things sounding good at all volumes.
To be clear, this third-generation update of Marshall's "home" lineup doesn’t include any smart features and only supports Bluetooth or hardwired connections (3.5mm, RCA, HDMI depending on the model). Smart speaker functionality is currently exclusive to the smaller Uxbridge models with WiFi support and Google Assistant or Alexa. The updated lineup also doesn’t include batteries or IP ratings, since they’re built for indoor use and we assume are expected to be placed in static locations… like your media console.
While these aren’t purpose built as soundbars, I imagine they’ll do well in this regard. The Woburn III with its HDMI input supports ARC and the overall dynamic range and instrument separation that makes Marshall’s sound unique also works well for TV listening. Plus, there's a Night Mode feature to help keep the sound at a normal level even if there are spikes in volume.
One feature I like on the home models that was lacking on the Bluetooth portables is the inclusion of LED highlights on the physical controls, which helps you see them in low light. This isn’t new, but a notable feature nonetheless. The home speakers were also early adopters of the Marshall Bluetooth app, and that continues with these new models, letting you adjust EQs, wake or sleep the devices and also get OTA (over the air) updates. The new Stack Mode feature launched with the Emberton II and Willen isn’t present for these speakers, although given their use-case, it seems of little importance.
Although I haven’t heard this new lineup, the spec lists seem to place the portable Tufton model ($450) that we liked so much in the same range as the Stanmore III, if not slightly ahead given it includes a full-range speaker in the mix along with its higher price tag. That means, while you may not be able to carry these new models around, they’ll likely provide a more robust output to compensate.
The Marshall Acton III, Stanmore III and Woburn III are all available for pre-order today and should be regularly available to order and ship around June 23rd.