Marshall Acton Speaker
What It Is: A compact Bluetooth speaker — though not a portable one, since it's 6.6 pounds, and has to be plugged in at all times — that borrows design elements from Marshall's iconic amplifiers. It comes in black or cream, with a coiled 3.5 mm (headphone jack) cable for connecting directly to audio sources.
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Why We Like It: As convenient as Bluetooth speakers are, putting the Acton in that category is almost an insult. This small-but-substantial speaker isn't something you casually set up poolside, or toss in a bag before heading out to a party. It's serious, old school audio gear — as powerful and balanced as much larger traditional speakers — designed for the smartphone era. There are no options to connect to a receiver or TV. The only port in this little powerhouse (it's the size of two loaves of bread, stacked on each other) is a 3.5 mm auxiliary input, for hooking up a phone or tablet. You can also pair via Bluetooth, but the included cable is too cool not to use. It's a coiled, guitar-style number that makes you feel like you're plugging in a Les Paul rather than an iPad.
The Acton's simple layout of metallic, analog knobs and buttons are just as irresistible. Why mess with an on-screen equalizer, when you can twist the dedicated bass and treble knobs till the song is perfect? And when you hear how loud this room-filling little monster can get, with unbelievable low end and not a hint of distortion, you need to crank the volume knob. If the neighbors need to call the cops, so be it.
Nitpick: Once we heard the Acton in action, we stopped wondering about the high price and lack of portability. For music playback in the home, this speaker is a space-saving bargain, with enough power to rock an entire apartment or floor of a house. Our only gripe is that it doesn't provide the option to hook up to a home theater setup.