Marshall's Acton II and Stanmore II Voice speakers are now available to buy equipped with Google Assistant. The company confirmed as much today along with explaining the two products are now available to purchase directly from the company's own online store, as well as from authorized Marshall retailers. In terms of the price, the Acton II Voice Google Assistant arrives at $299 in the US, €299 in Europe and £269 in the UK. While the Stanmore II Voice Google Assistant comes in a little higher, priced at $399 in the US, €399 in Europe and £349 in the UK.
Marshall continues to add voice assistant support
At the start of the year Marshall confirmed its ambitions to add voice assistant models to its range of wireless speakers and this first came to realization in August when the company announced initial availability of the Acton II and Stanmore II "Voice" speakers. Although the major difference then was the initial models came with support for Amazon's Alexa solution. The speakers announced today are effectively the same speakers but with Google Assistant support instead. Therefore, Marshall now offers consumers the option to buy these two speakers with the choice of voice assistant support to best suit the needs of the buyer. What's more, the previous models that launched with Alexa also launched at the exact same price points in the US, so consumers are not necessarily expected to pay more for one voice assistant option over the other.
Adding voice support to already good speakers
The company's Acton and Stanmore (along with Woburn) wireless speakers are fairly new entries to the wireless speaker product category considering they were only initially announced in August of 2017. However, and in spite of effectively arriving late to the wireless party, Marshall has been acting extremely quick in updating the models and providing consumers with a variety of versions to cater to the individual tastes of different consumers. For example, in addition to announcing the second-generation version of the Acton and Stanmore models that come with either Alexa or Google Assistant support, the company also launched more standard versions of each speaker that although do not support voice assistant technology, do come with some notable improvements in the sound and performance areas, including Bluetooth 5.0. Albeit not massively cheaper in price, they are more affordable than the Voice versions and considering Marshall's wireless speakers are fairly expensive to begin with, that makes the non-Voice models the best option for those who don't specifically need or want voice assistant functionality.
Those who do opt for either of the Assistant-powered speaker options will be able to make use of additionally features they would not have access to otherwise. As the built-in version of the Google Assistant not only allows the user to receive feedback to questions asked, but also assist with smart home management when compatible smart home products are connected. This is all in addition to the ability to control the actual listening experiencing through compatible streaming services as well as basic play/pause and adjusting the volume commands when a device is wirelessly connected. With the overall experience largely identical to that offered to users who are more tied to the Alexa ecosystem with the Alexa models.
Choosing the right model
With so many variations of similar speakers, choosing the right model might be a little harder than it should be for some buyers. To cut to the chase, if you are after a voice assistant model, then regardless of whether you opt for the Alexa or Google Assistant versions, the Action II Voice is the smaller of the two voice-enabled options available. Offering potential buyers the option to pick up a speaker that while small in size provides a bigger sound than the size might suggest. In contrast, the Stanmore II Voice is the larger option of the two and is therefore designed for those who want an even more powerful and louder sound as it draws on tweeters that are powered by a 15-watt amplifier along with a subwoofer powered by the built-in 50-watt amplifier, compared to the 30-watt amplifier powering the subwoofer included with Acton.
One aspect that should be pointed out is the wireless nature of these devices. As while the Acton and Stanmore models, regardless of whether they are "Voice" variants or not, are wireless in the sense that they can connect over either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and offer the option for users to wirelessly stream music to the speakers from other devices, including smartphones, they are not wireless in the sense they can be taken and used as portable speakers. As these models do require connection to a wall socket at all times. In the instance where buyers are looking for a portable solution, and one specifically from Marshall, then they would be better off considering the likes of the Kilburn II. This speaker was also announced at the same time as the new Voice models but instead comes with a battery that's rated to offer up to 20 hours of usage on a single charge, as well as Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX support, and a overall design that's built to facilitate a 360-degree listening experience.
The Marshall experience
Regardless of which model you do opt for, the company has been keen to ensure the experience is fairly consistent and stays true to the company's approach to audio in general. Therefore, you can expect a fairly rugged and durable build quality, a punchy and loud sound, as well as a look that's very in line with the iconic Marshall brand overall, including a textured vinyl covering. The difference with these newer speakers is that you are getting the classic Marshall look coupled with modern features making them ideal for those who prefer more of a retro design but still want an actual smart speaker. Likewise, all Marshall speakers are compatible with a companion Android app, although like the choice with speakers the right app depends on which speaker is chosen with both a "Bluetooth" version of the app available for non-Voice speakers and a dedicated "Voice" app for the Voice models. Both of which are available to download from the Google Play Store.