The Middleton is a powerful portable Bluetooth speaker that does everything well. It's easy to set up and use, has a solid 20-hour battery life and looks slick in both modern and traditional setups.
The quality of portable speakers has skyrocketed in the last five years or so, as has the demand for them. Marshall has been making amps to keep pro musicians loud and proud for decades, so it’s no surprise that its consumer audio has been approached with the same level of style, quality and attention to detail.
Right now, Marshall has seven portable speakers, all of which could arguably be named the best Bluetooth speakers – depending on your needs and budget. The middle-priced, middle-sized (aptly named) Middleton speaker has caught my eye though.
At just shy of $300/£270, the Marshall Middleton is by no means a cheap option. But it’s sexy to look at while also being sturdy and offers a solid 20W of sound – enough to entertain a small garden party, especially if you were to pair it with several Marshall speakers to bump up the volume further.
In this Marshall Middleton review, I’ll outline the good bits and less good bits of this premium portable speaker if you’re thinking of buying it. I’ve been using the review sample as my daily tune-pumper, PC companion and movie speaker for almost a month now, and to be honest I’m sad to return it at the end of the loan period. Below, find out whether it’s a good fit for your own audio entertainment needs.
- Great output volume
- Can be played outside
- 360 degree sound
- Bass is heavy by default
- Not the lightest
Marshall Middleton specs:
|Max speaker output
|Dynamic frequency response range (Hz)
|50 Hz-20,000 Hz
|IP67 dust- and water-resistant
|4.29 x 9.06 x 3.74 in (10.9 x 23 x 9.5 cm)
4 lb (1.8 kg)
The Marshall Middleton is class-leading when it comes to battery life. During testing, I found its 20-hour capacity from a full charge to be accurate and didn’t have to plug it in for four days with 4-5 hours of use. A full charge takes 4.5 hours, but thanks to a quick-charging feature just 20 minutes of power will give you 2 hours of playtime. The Middleton can also double up as a power bank via USB-C.
In terms of audio balancing, there are fewer controls than some rivals. Treble and bass levels can be added or subtracted using dedicated buttons on the top, while the Marshall Bluetooth app lets you do the same. Bass notes always overpower treble, so I found it worth setting this to be lower for more gentle genres like folk or classical. For movies, it again depends on the genre.
Audio inputs can be connected to the Middleton via Bluetooth 5.1 or the 3.5mm aux jack. I didn’t have any connection issues at all and found Bluetooth pairing to be seamless on my Windows laptop, iMac, and iPhone every single time.
The Middleton can be stacked with other Marshall speakers together to effectively amplify the sound. I didn’t get to test this because I only had one review unit, but I can see it being a neat party trick.
While looks are subjective, I think the Middleton is a class act. It comes in black or cream colorways with gold/brass accents to give it a retro vibe, and slightly resembles an amp – no surprise given Marshall’s heritage. The Middleton speaker is almost 2kg, and while this weight is somewhat reassuring, it isn’t the most portable option if you plan to chuck it in a bag and head out for the day.
The speaker is dust and water-resistant – with an IP rating that’s higher than most competitors – to the point where it’s protected against rain, splashes and a bit of dirt should you want to use it outdoors or by the pool (I wish). Thanks to the textured, rubberized material it’s wrapped in, there’s a decent grip when you carry it, but you also get a detachable hand strap in the box for this purpose. Marshall says the Middleton is built using 55% post-consumer recycled plastic, which feels like a win for the environmentally conscious among us.
Physically, all of the controls are found on the top of the speaker. The brass control knob is the main event; used to play, pause or skip songs, change the volume and power on or off. There’s also a Bluetooth pairing button, an indicator for the battery and volume, and the treble and bass controls. The operation is pretty simple, and while the middle control knob feels tactile, it’s not reliable to use unless you’re really looking. A few times I leaned over to skip a track and ended up pausing the music instead, for example.
Audio specs on paper don’t always mean much to the layman, and nor do they to me when I’m shopping for speakers. You really need to hear the product in question in real life, or at least read the reviews of people who have used it in real life (hello). As soon as I got the Marshall Middleton out of the box, I was able to quickly pair it with my iPhone via Bluetooth and crank up the volume to the max, as you do with a new toy. My first impressions were very good.
Granted I only have a small kitchen, but with the Middleton at full volume, it was impossible to hear my partner talking to me, or my dog barking, and I was almost certainly annoying my neighbors already. Cheaper Bluetooth speakers can start to sound incredibly janky when you reach the upper limits of their power output, but the Middleton remains balanced, and unlike my Roberts Revival Bluetooth radio-cum-speaker, there was certainly no hissing or reverberation from the bass.
Over the next few weeks, I tested out the Middleton in a number of different scenarios, playing classical music (it’s a little bassy heavy on bass for this), spoken word podcasts (good if you turn up the treble) and while watching movies on my laptop via the best streaming services.
For all music genres, I found the bass to be heavy but crisp – not necessarily a bad thing if you’re pumping party tunes. The bass and treble controls on top of the speaker allow you to tweak the mix, while the Marshall smartphone app also lets you customize the balance more finely.
One downside of the Marshall Middleton’s audio is how it handles sound in between treble and bass. If I was being really picky, and I am for this review, I’d say the mid-frequency sounds were sometimes muffled. Not enough to put me off entirely, but enough to notice.
If you want a heavy bass speaker to turn up loud, then you’ll be very pleased by the Middleton’s performance. And thanks to its multi-directional stereo sound, if you’ve got a gathering of people around the speaker, they’ll all have an immersive experience of its sound.
The Marshall Middleton portable speaker costs around $299.99 (£239.99), which isn’t cheap but also isn’t the most premium tag among competitors. For helpful context, the similarly-priced Sonos Era 100 Bluetooth speaker (about $10/£10 cheaper) comes with features to adjust audio based on your room, as well as built-in Alexa functionality, but I haven’t yet tested it for a comparison of real-life audio quality.
Overall, I think the Marshall Middleton is well-priced for the build, performance and features that you get. Don’t get it if you want a cheap speaker.
Some are calling the Middleton a jack of all trades (master of none), but I think that might be slightly unfair. It’s got long-lasting battery life, and seamless connectivity options and just works as it should do every time. Marshall is renowned for making quality audio products with a distinctive design, and the Middleton doesn’t let down the brand name.
If the looks, features and specs of the Marshall Middleton speaker aren’t a good fit for you, here are some alternatives.