Marshall Willen Bluetooth Speaker Review: A Tiny Speaker To Take Your Tunes Anywhere

The tiny Marshall Willen Bluetooth speaker defied our expectations in our tests to become the best value Bluetooth speaker. Read for the full review.

Marshall Willen Bluetooth Speaker Review: A Tiny Speaker To Take Your Tunes Anywhere

The Marshall Willen is our pick for the best value Bluetooth speaker award within our tested best Bluetooth speaker roundup. Here's why we recommend it. Three things immediately stood out when I first began evaluating the Marshall Willen Bluetooth speaker. It's extremely compact, so it fits comfortably in my back pocket. The Marshall Willen also has a high-quality, sturdy design, with a unique joystick button on the front that controls the speaker. Most importantly, my testing revealed that this $120 speaker sounds far better than what I expected from something this size. The Marshall Willen portable Bluetooth speaker sound great and is extremely durable. Illustraion: Forbes / Photo: Jason Rich I looked at dozens of handheld speakers from a wide range of companies before settling on 10 models to test and review. Most of these didn't make the cut, producing music that often sounded tinny, muffled or distorted. The Marshall Willen defied my expectations. In fact, for such a tiny device, I found it produces excellent and rich audio.

Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best for: Listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts Using while hiking, camping or sitting at a desk Attaching the speaker to a backpack, belt loop or arm

Skip if: You want 360-degree audio or stereo sound You need to fill a large space with sound

This speaker feels solid, durable and well made—a distinct contrast to some of the flimsy designs I found on other speakers. Even better: It has the same iconic black and brass look as all Marshall's other amps and speakers.The Marshall Willen is a small Bluetooth speaker with a surprisingly rich sound.Jason R. Rich For Forbes Two things set this small speaker apart: the joystick control dial on the front and the rubber strap on the back. The dial works well for navigating audio playback (more on that later), while the strap made the speaker easy to attach to my belt or backpack. The lightweight speaker is also dustproof and waterproof (with an IP67 rating) and able to withstand being treated roughly—indoors or outside.The rubber strap can be used to quickly attach the speaker to another object.Jason R. Rich For Forbes Marshall says the battery lasts up to 15 hours, which is in line with other handheld Bluetooth speakers. It has an LED battery-level indicator on top of the speaker, so it's easy to determine how much battery life remains. The speaker supports Bluetooth 5.1 and has about a 30-foot signal range. Marshall Willen Controls: Nifty Joystick Button

I found the front-mounted joystick easy to use. This handles seven speaker functions, including volume, answering a call and skipping between audio tracks. The tricky part was memorizing which joystick movement corresponded to which function. But once I knew whether to press the button or move it in a specific direction, I found it convenient to control the speaker.The joystick button on the Willen is used to control seven different functions.Jason R. Rich For Forbes Willen has three audio EQ presets, but they're selectable only via the mobile app. The 'Marshall' preset optimizes audio for music, adding a high gain consistent with what Marshall refers to as its signature sound. Another preset optimizes output for dialogue. The third boosts bass and treble. Unfortunately, you can't manually adjust the audio EQ. However, the speaker's default setting and the presets do an excellent job at outputting clear, rich audio. Beyond setting up the speaker and switching between presets, the mobile app does little else. Marshall Willen Sound: Pleasing To The Ear

The most impressive thing about the Marshall Willen is its sound. Like most portable Bluetooth speakers, the Willen produces only mono audio, but it does this in a way that makes vocals sound exceptionally clear—a useful trait for music as well as for listening to audiobooks or podcasts. It uses a 2-inch full range driver and two passive radiators, which together produce full and clear music that sounds great. And thanks to the built-in microphone, Willen works as a speakerphone when it's paired with a smartphone.

Because it's waterproof, you can take the Willen into the shower or tub for a private concert, or just as easily strap it to your arm or a backpack when you're on the move and not worry if you get caught in the rain. No matter what position the speaker is in, the quality of its audio output remains consistent.Enjoy listening to the Willen just about anywhere, including the shower.Jason R. Rich For Forbes The Willen lacks immersive, 360-degree audio—a feature common on larger speakers, including my choice for the best Bluetooth speaker overall, the Bose Portable Smart Speaker. I found this speaker best for close-range listening, without having to wear headphones or earbuds. If you want to fill a room with sound, a larger Bluetooth speaker, like the Bose Portable Smart Speaker, is a better bet. Overall, I found the Willen satisfying when listening to music. Vocals sounded clear, while instrumentals and complex production elements sounded good, but not at all immersive or as ll-encompassing as on larger, more capable speakers.

The maximum volume of the Willen is about 82 decibels. It produces about 10 watts of audio power, impressive for a speaker that measures just 4 x 4 x 1.6 inches and weighs 0.7 pounds. The Marshall mobile app's Stack Mode feature lets you use multiple Willen speakers to create a louder and more powerful sound, but doing so won't achieve a stereo effect as on some Bluetooth speakers. Marshall Willen Verdict: How It Compares To Other Bluetooth Speakers

Between its rugged design, sound quality and ease of use, the Marshall Willen clearly stood out from all the other handheld Bluetooth speakers I tested. If you want to be able to fill a room with sound or experience 360-degree audio, there are larger portable Bluetooth speakers for that. For example, the Bose Portable Smart Speaker was my pick for best Bluetooth speaker overall. But the small Willen is better suited for personal listening and delivers the best value Bluetooth speaker for the money of any model I tested. My Expertise

I'm not new to testing audio gear: I've been covering consumer technology for more than 25 years, for publications like AARP The Magazine. During my testing, I consulted with two experienced music industry professionals: Drew Ryan Scott (a singer-songwriter and multiplatinum music producer) and Eric Racy (a mixer and engineer who's worked with artists like Katy Perry, Troye Sivan and Kelly Clarkson). We discussed the key features they look for when choosing a Bluetooth speaker and what you can expect from the listening experience. Testing Methodology

I paired the Bose Portable Smart Speaker with an iPhone 14 Pro Max and evaluated its sound quality by streaming music from services that included Apple Music and Spotify. To see how it sounded indoors, I evaluated the sound quality from both five and 10 feet away. I performed similar tests outside to see how the speaker handled outdoor environments.

During my testing, I listened to a series of popular podcasts and audiobooks. I also chose pop music from Katy Perry, Harry Styles and Charlie Puth. Their respective songs contain examples of complex audio production—such as stacks, harmonies, hype tracks and instrumentals—meant to bounce between the left and right audio channels or create an immersive listening experience when played on devices that support spatial audio. I paid careful attention to how each portable Bluetooth speaker adapted music for mono playback. Is The Marshall Willen Speaker Worth The Money?

Most definitely, especially if you plan to listen to audiobooks or podcasts. While the music listening experience is good—especially for the price—it can't compare to larger speakers or how the same music sounds over headphones or earbuds. If you're looking for an easy-to-carry speaker that fits in your hand (or the rear pocket of your jeans), or a speaker for your shower or nightstand or one you can easily attach to something else, the Marshall Willen is a great choice that offers really good value for the money.