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Marshall Hanwell Compact Active Loudspeaker Review

Look very closely at the photo above this sentence. Hmm, it’s a recording studio, and it’s a bunch of guitars, and OK, a couple of racks of equipment, and a oh, a Marshall guitar amplifier. Yes?

Strangely, the answer is no. That Marshall you see there is meant for cellphones, tablets, and MP3 players – not Gibsons, Fenders, or Rickenbackers. It’s theĀ Marshall Hanwell Compact Active Loudspeaker and it’s a stunningly good looking piece of equipment. It’s made with the same polish, fit and finish that you would expect from a real Marshall guitar amplifier, and at a hefty 23 pounds, you’d probably need a roadie to carry it from room to room lest you pull a muscle. I almost threw my back out setting it up for that recording studio photo!

Created to help celebrate Marshall’s 50 years (1962-2012) in the music equipment business, and named after the small town in London where Jim Marshall first set up shop, the Hanwell just oozes personality.

The mere act of toggling the solid, chunky power switch and watching the indicator light blaze into life made me feel like a rock star. What other home speaker gives you a visceral thrill just by flicking the power on? I plugged in my MP3 player using the provided (and perfectly matched) old school telephone-cord style audio cable and queued up – what else – some classic rock! Cream, Hendrix, The Who: it only seemed appropriate for a speaker with this pedigree and this brand name.

Everything sounded pretty good out of the box, which didn’t surprise me one bit. I just needed a bit of tweaking with the bass and treble knobs to get the best possible sound for the room I was testing in, and frankly, that’s pretty much all you can do because there are no other sound shaping controls, preset EQ buttons or profiles, or any other sort of wizardry to help you along here. The sound was room filling albeit diffuse, with no real soundstage or stereo field to speak of.

After getting my fill of 70s rock, I then queued up some more modern stuff to test synth bass and drums. How about Skrillex? Yes, to hear the bleeps bloops and burps of Skrillex dubstep coming out of a classic Marshall speaker seems like heresy, doesn’t it. But OMFG the bass on this thing is pretty impressive, folks. From my previous setting of 4 on the volume dial, I dared to crank things up to an earthshaking 6 out of 10 and the fabric covering the speaker drivers was already shuddering with the heavy synth bass notes and pounding kick drums, though without any obvious distortion or painful artifacts. Wow. That was LOUD. Admittedly, the room I was testing in was only about 10 sq m. but it filled every single inch of that area with almost tangible, physical sound. What we’ve got here is a party machine, folks! (Spinal Tap fans: 6 is the new 11.)

Now the bad news. What else does the Hanwell offer other than great looks, decent (and loud) sound, and a possible chiropractor visit? Sadly, that’s where the feature list ends. In this day and age of Bluetooth, AirPlay, WiFi, USB, and Lightning, you get – nothing. No cordless options, no charging dock, no interface of any sort except for that gloriously retro audio cable. That’s it.

Now, to be fair, you could jury rig up a cordless solution using an AirPort Express, or a Bluetooth transmitter, or by plugging your Hanwell into a Mac and using AirPlay from your iPhone, etc etc. But for a not inconsiderable selling price of P34,950, you’d expect there to be at least some sort of nod to modern connectivity bundled into this handsome beast. Yes, this is where you go back and double check the price to make sure you read it right.

Is it worth it? (pained expression) I’m not sure. Is it lustworthy? Hell, yeah. Turn it up and rock! *waving devil horn fingers*

Review unit provided by Digital Walker. Please check their FB page


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Vic spends entirely too much on gadgets. So rather than try and kick the habit, he decided to become the Reviews Editor of Technoodling. Now, he has a perfectly good excuse. It's not an addiction: it's a job. His favorite noodle: Pappardelle.

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