Marshall’s latest smart speaker, the $199.99 Uxbridge Voice, is its smallest and least expensive yet. The audio performance is quite good considering the speaker’s size, with rich bass depth balanced by crisp highs. And the sound signature is fairly malleable, with bass and treble controls on the speaker’s top panel, as well as five-band adjustable EQ in the companion app. Those seeking a pure signal should look elsewhere—there’s plenty of DSP (digital signal processing) sculpting here, especially at higher volume levels, and just a single driver. But if you want a compact, stylish speaker with hands-free Alexa access, the Uxbridge Voice delivers a rewarding audio experience, if a slightly overpriced one.
Available in black or white, the Uxbridge Voice is relatively compact, measuring roughly 6.6 by 4.8 by 5.1 inches (HWD) and weighing in at 3.1 pounds. Like most Marshall speakers, the logo is prominently displayed in the center of the cloth grille, framed by eggshell-finish black (or white) material with golden metallic accents. Four status LEDs at the base of the front face tell you what listening mode you’re in. Behind the grille, a single tweeter and woofer are powered by a 30-watt amplifier
On the top panel, there are pinhole far-field mics for talking to Alexa and two small buttons for play/pause and mic/mute. In the center of this panel, three unique, long, narrow rocker-style gold buttons control bass, treble, and volume. The status LEDs light up to show you how much bass or treble level you’re using, so it’s easy to set either to the minimum, mid, or maximum levels (or several levels in between) quickly. So although this is a mono speaker, it does at least give you the chance to dial in your sonic preferences. One minor gripe: There’s a delay between pressing play or pause and it actually happening—sometimes close to two seconds.
The back panel is a black (or white) surface, with a connection for the included power cable and a small Bluetooth button for pairing.
The Marshall Voice app (for Android and iOS) will connect to your speaker via your Wi-Fi network, then install firmware updates if there are any. The next step is connecting you to Alexa, which requires your Amazon login, and briefly sends you outside the app to Amazon, and then to the Amazon Alexa app. Once this is complete, the Marshall Voice app returns to setup mode.
There are various five-band EQ presets in the Marshall app, and all can be adjusted easily. They can be combined with the on-speaker bass and treble controls to really dial in your preferences. The app mainly exists for three purposes—firmware updates, setting up Alexa, and the EQ. It’s entirely possible to ignore the app if you want once setup is complete.
We found Alexa voice control to be solid in testing. Our commands were easily understood, even when music was playing loudly. You can control Alexa with hands-free voice commands, or by pressing the mic button, and you can disable the mic by muting it—just hold the same button down for a few seconds.
In addition to Alexa, the Uxbridge Voice supports AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect playback, as well as Bluetooth 4.2.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Uxbridge Voice delivers solid low-frequency depth. It can sound like it’s on the verge of distortion on this track, but never quite gets there—the DSP keeps the bass clean, but does so by limiting the lows. Interestingly, it’s the opening electronic bass drum hits, not the deeper sub-bass hits that occur about 15 seconds in, that seem closest to distortion—a hint that the sound signature favors lows and low-mids, and there’s not much in the way of powerful sub-bass being delivered.
That said, the Uxbridge Voice does quite well in the bass department for a mono speaker this size. It should also be noted that these tests were done with the EQ on the speaker and in the app at flat default levels, but you can, of course, dial up the bass. However, the DSP prevents things from getting too heavy, thus avoiding distortion even when the lows are pumped up via EQ.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the general sound signature. The drums on this track sound full and rich, but not thunderous or unnatural, as they can on some bass-forward speakers. Callahan’s voice gets an extra dose of low-mid richness and is the most prominent bass sound in the mix when the EQ is flat. Dialing up the on-speaker bass levels shifts things—the drums get heavier and sound more bass-rich than the vocals. The acoustic guitar strums and higher-register percussive hits have a bright, crisp presence, so there’s plenty of sculpted high-mid and high frequency response as well. Overall the sound signature is heavy on bass and treble, and less so on midrange presence. But tinkering with the in-app EQ can change this a bit.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain its punchiness, but it also gets some added bass thump, making the loop sound more powerful than it often does. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with some solid depth, but the actual sub-bass frequencies are more implied than delivered. Raising and lowering the volume with bass boosted on this track gives you a strong sense of the DSP’s grip on the mix—at lower volume levels, the bass sounds full, almost overwhelming things, while at higher volumes, the bass thins out substantially. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity—there’s no added sibilance despite a solid high-mid and high frequency presence.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound a bit too bass-heavy in default mode, but you can dial things back in the app to get to a more flat response sound signature.
One note about the Uxbridge Voice: It doesn’t get terribly loud. This can be a challenge on classical tracks—maximum volume seems pretty moderate when the recordings are mixed for dynamics and are less compressed. The lower maximum volume is to be expected for a compact speaker, but its maximum volume is lower than plenty of portable Bluetooth speakers we test in this same price range.
The Marshall Uxbridge Voice delivers a solid listening experience for its size. For $200, you might expect a little more power—there’s plenty of bass depth, but the maximum volume could be higher. But the price also reflects the inclusion of hands-free Alexa control. For $200 in the smart speaker realm, we’re also fans of the Amazon Echo Studio, which isn’t quite as stylish, but really delivers on power, as well as the Sonos One (Gen 2) if you’re looking to build a multi-room system. And if you don’t mind skipping Alexa in favor of a focus on sound quality and portability, the $180 JBL Charge 4 is an excellent option.
Marshall Uxbridge Voice Specs
|Voice Assistant||Amazon Alexa|