Marshall has made some seemingly minor changes to its third-generation home speakers, but there’s a hint they’re aiming to become a soundbar competitor. The Acton III, Stanmore III and Woburn III have all been modified so that the tweeters face outward 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 are 70 percent recycled plastic and use only vegan materials, similar to what they did with the recent Emberton II and Willen models. The other big update is for the more expensive 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 has a full-range driver in addition to the woofer and tweeters. Interestingly, the press release seems to show that while the Acton III and Stanmore III gained 5 Hz in low-end (50 Hz to 45 Hz) over the previous models, the Woburn III 5 Hz (30 Hz to 35 Hz) lost.
On the outside there are plenty of physical controls, although little has changed since the previous generation, other than the addition of a previous and next function to the play/pause button. A 3.5mm auxiliary input is found on the top panel of all models, with the Stanmore III and Woburn III having RCA inputs on the rear. While only the Woburn III has an HDMI input in addition to the RCA port.
As for the wider soundstage, it can certainly come in handy if you have a single speaker for your room, especially if you plan on using it as a soundbar for your viewing and listening pleasure. The company 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 make things sound right at all volumes.
To be clear, this third-generation update to Marshall’s “home” lineup does not include any smart features and only supports Bluetooth or wired connections (3.5mm, RCA, HDMI, depending on 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, as they’re built for indoor use and we assume they’ll 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. In addition, there is a Night Mode function to keep the volume at a normal level and reduce peaks in volume, such as explosions or gunshots.
One feature I like on the home models that was missing on the Bluetooth portables is the inclusion of LED highlights on the physical controls, allowing you to see them in low-light conditions. This is not new, but a standout feature nonetheless. The home speakers were also early adopters of the Marshall Bluetooth app, and that continues with these new models, allowing you to 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 is not present for these speakers, although this seems of little importance given their usage situation.
While I haven’t heard of this new lineup yet, the spec lists seem to put the wearable Tufton model ($450) that we liked so much in the same range as the Stanmore III, if not slightly ahead, as it includes a full-range speaker in the mix, along with the higher price tag. That means that while you may not be able to take these new models with you everywhere, they will likely offer 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 23.
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