There’s a new speaker from the legendary brand, Marshall. The Middleton looks for all the world like someone took one of the more hefty Marshall speakers like the Woburn or Stanmore and miniaturised it. Middleton is portable for short distances or on the road rather than air travel and can work on battery, but at the same time shares a lot with the other speakers in the Marshall portfolio which includes a few other portables and some heavyweight large ones. They’re manufactured by Swedish company Zound Industries under license from Marshall Amplification and are known for that Eric Clapton look.
For its deceptively small size, the Middleton is no ordinary Bluetooth speaker. If you balk at its price of ₹31,999 know that Marshall speakers are always expensive and appealing to a niche audience. Design-wise it too is retro-styled to look like a guitar amp, which is what Marshall makes. There’s the signature gold coloured power button on top and more subtle press buttons for pairing, volume, bass and treble. The buttons are a little too flush against the speaker, which is a slight nuisance but one that you can get used to fast enough.
Takes a dip
The look from the 1960’s just leaps out. When you set it down, the first thing you’ll notice is the large Marshall logo in front on the speaker grill.
The Middleton is dressed in a leathery looking silicone covering which helps give it a quite substantial water and dust proofing rating of IP67. It can actually survive submerged in a metre of water for a half an hour. The grill is on all sides and spreads the sound around a room. There’s an attachable guitar strap like loop in the package that can be fixed on to one side of the speaker, making it carry-and-go, but the speaker is quite heavy so can’t be flung about carelessly. It weighs less than two kilograms (about 1.8) but definitely feels heavier. It’s quite small, perhaps the size of a tissue box but narrower. On the back of the speaker is a slot for a USB charging cable (USB C to A) and an aux slot.
To charge up the Middleton takes four hours. You can see the battery indicator light on top. The same light is also used to show bass, treble and volume levels, which is a clever touch. You can use it on battery or plugged in, depending on what you’re doing. On battery you’ll get about 20 hours of listening, but of course it depends on the volume you like to listen at. You can use the speaker to charge another device, but that will really drain the Middleton’s battery rapidly.
Pairing the Middleton with your playback device (Android or Apple) follows the usual route of heading to Bluetooth settings and connecting. There’s a Marshall companion app, but it’s rather bare bones and doesn’t do very much. You could quite conceivably skip it altogether except that it will make firmware updates easier. Another thing it will help with is ‘stack mode’ because the best way to use a Middleton is to get several of them - or at least two - and use them together. It will pair with and work with other Marshall speakers, but it’s best to stack like with like because there’s little point doing so with speakers that all have different capabilities and configurations. A set of these Middleton speakers around a room will work rather nicely, filling the area with powerful sound.
The most noticeable aspect of the sound from the Middleton (and indeed many other Marshall speakers) is the massive bass it emits. The profile is definitely skewed towards being heavily bass, even though there’s an equaliser and bass and treble controls on the speaker itself that make a slight difference. This is by no means finessed audiophile sound, but it is definitely a profile that will appeal to the masses.
The speaker uses two 3 inch 15W woofers, two 3/5 10W tweeters and two passive radiators. It’s plenty loud and has a lively kick to it as well as adequate clarity. It’s great for electronic, pop, rock, Bollywood, rap, house, and so on but a single one will be too small for a noisy party. Those who are more involved listeners of hi res classical music or jazz will look for more separation and clarity from a speaker and probably not settle for a small portable Bluetooth. Standards supported via Bluetooth 5.1 on this speaker include just the SBC codec.
Undoubtedly the Middleton is rather expensive for what it is. Fans of the brand may not be put out by the price, but those who are not looking for the specific look and sound profile of a Marshall will find plenty of other choices.
The Middleton will be available globally at marshallheadphones.com.