The Marshall Tufton is the newest Marshall Bluetooth speaker to make its way to TechHive. It’s a big, powerful, bass-pumping gadget that’s meant for outdoor and party use. It sounds good, and the build quality is excellent, but $400 is a lot of money for a strange stereo setup, no controls for controlling music or answering calls, and no option to charge other devices.
It’s worth mentioning that the Tufton was selling for $330 on Amazon while I was writing this article, and if you buy it directly from the maker, you’ll get a free set of their Major III Bluetooth headphones.
The Marshall Tufton’s design is inspired by… I’m not sure. It has the Marshall logo, a tweed grill, and a Tolex cover, but it’s too tiny to be a combination amp, and it doesn’t look anything like the classic Marshall stack. If that’s what you’re looking for, it shouts Marshall.
The Tufton, as previously said, is on the big side, measuring around 14 x 9 x 6.5 inches (HxWxD) and weighs just under 11 pounds. The weight is due to the MDF structure and heavy-duty components. The back, which is kept in place by high-quality fasteners, comes off, and I had a look inside for many reasons.
Later, I’ll expand on it. Thanks to the broad and robust carrying strap, it seems a little lighter than the quoted weight, but it’s not designed for hiking. A four-way Class D amplifier helps with audio: A 40-watt part is used to supply a single 5.25-inch woofer, two 15-watt sections are used to power a pair of 2.0-inch mid-range drivers, and a 10-watt piece is used to control the Tufton’s single 0.63-inch dome tweeter.
Don’t be fooled by the two mid-range speakers; the Tufton is not stereo in the traditional sense. While the mids of a stereo signal are split because one of the mid-range drivers is facing backward, the high frequencies and low-end are not. In a moment, I’ll go over how it sounds. The device is ported for a bass response for the low end, and it works well.
The Tufton features only four controls: volume/on/off, treble, and bass dials, as well as a Bluetooth connecting button, but they’re silky smooth and sturdy in feel—Marshall didn’t save on quality in any way. Even the Bluetooth is upgraded to version 5.0 for an increased range.
You can’t use the Tufton to control playing from a Bluetooth source since it lacks play/pause and skip forward/back buttons. You can’t use it as a speakerphone, though, because there’s no mic onboard. Given the speaker’s intended job, those are minor problems, but, given the price, it appears to be a little penny-pinching.
The Tufton is certified IPX2, so a few droplets of liquid shouldn’t hurt it too much, but don’t leave it out in the rain or in the pool (you can read more about IP codes here). The two-prong connector for the power cable and its 3.5mm aux input is protected by a captive rubber plug, but it’s only for protection against showers, not immersion.
The battery’s exact rating was not revealed, although it appears to be substantial enough to power the device for at least 20 hours. It takes 2.5 hours to charge completely, yet it may be set in 20 minutes and last 4 hours. That’s very much how I felt, or to put it another way, the manufacturer’s battery-life promise is near enough for rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, there isn’t a USB port to charge other devices.
I was anticipating a terrific audio experience when I saw Tufton’s price tag. The bass and high frequencies are beautifully adjusted at default settings, and it gets loud with no distortion (i.e., zero). However, there is a mid-range deficiency that deprives the entire sound of much bite. Although the Tufton isn’t particularly unpleasant to listen to, I found myself wrinkling my brow and craning my neck forward slightly, as if this would help me pick out the elements I felt were lacking.
This might be because half of the mid-range signal is transmitted to the speaker’s rear, or it could be a feature of Marshall’s 2.0-inch full-range drivers. This is dubbed Blumlein stereo by Marshall, after a two-microphone recording technique for obtaining spatial audio information.
Even if you back the Tufton up to an acoustically reflecting surface, so the rear speaker’s emanations bounce forward, the Blumlein stereo isn’t extremely evident when listened to from immediately in front. That’s an understatement.
If you face one side of the Tufton, you can hear the stereo effect much better, although it’s small and weird because all of the high frequencies are directed towards one ear. Even though I could distinguish stereo music, I had to build a specific file with hardpans to confirm it.
Because bass is perceptually directionless, this isn’t a significant concern. I wouldn’t get the use unless Marshall were having trouble putting both speakers in the front. Both mid-range speakers have their sub enclosures for isolation. The bottom line, the stereo picture is mediocre at best, and I’m not sure why Marshall calls this a stereo speaker.