The trouble with most wireless speakers is that they look either like kitchen appliances or like something intended for a teenage girl's room. Hardly the kind of gear appropriate for a man cave. The Marshall Stanmore is here to remedy the situation.
From the retro grill to the curling gold-colored logo, the Stanmore looks as though it belongs onstage at a Who or Motorhead concert, but it's designed for a tabletop or bookshelf. Styled after the guitar amps of old, the Stanmore stands just about 7.5 inches tall and lets you connect a music source in a variety of ways. For a wireless hookup, the speaker uses Bluetooth and the aptX streaming stereo format for improved audio fidelity. There's also an included coiled cord to make a wired 3.5mm jack connection to the headphone output of a smartphone or tablet (so you can pretend your iPad is a Les Paul). On the backside, there's a pair of stereo RCA jacks and an optical port, should you decide to use it as part of a complete sound-system setup. To switch between inputs, there's a push button on top, as well as rotary knobs to adjust volume, bass, and treble. It's all very vintage (but no, it doesn't go up to 11).
Even the sound is retro. Rather than using digital tricks or side-firing speakers to give the music a surround, spatial feel, the speaker sends music to you head on, with a focused and distinct sweet spot. The speaker contains two 3/4-inch tweeters and a 5 and 1/4-inch woofer. With a combined peak power output of 80 watts, the Stanmore manages to re-create a guitar amp crispness and live feel. There's some loss of definition on the mid to high end, but then again, this isn't intended for cool jazz or string quartet tracks. It's rock and roll all the way.
If you're thinking ancient tube amp hiss, you'll be disappointed to find there's no background hum. And we couldn't turn it up all the way without risking hearing loss in a medium-size living room. So there's plenty of sound pressure to fill a basement den. In other words, if you're the type of person who has a Fireburst Fender Strat hanging on the wall or a Pearl drum kit in the corner, then this wireless speaker's for you. [$400; marshallheadphones.com]