Review The Marshall Acton III wireless speaker follows in the footsteps of its predecessors

manufacturing

Visually, the Acton III hardly differs from the previous model: the mesh fabric grille is slightly darker and the copper strip on the front is thinner. It is also 1 cm deeper (26 x 17 x 15 cm) and has the same weight (2.85 kg). Other than these minor differences, the Acton III is identical to its predecessor in every respect.

The perimeter of the case is still made of an emblematic “Tolex” style synthetic leatherette. The controls are located above the case on a brushed aluminum panel with touches of silicone around the three potentiometers. The Acton III also always rests on four small rubber feet for a perfect grip on the support.

Marshall announces that 70% of the plastic used in the manufacture of its loudspeakers comes from recycled materials.

Marshall announces that 70% of the plastic used in the manufacture of its loudspeakers comes from recycled materials.

If the speaker’s looks can be argued with, its build quality and finish will have everyone agreeing. The only visible signs of assembly are the screws holding the backplate and the connection of the perimeter under the case, but this remains very discreet.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Audio

The Acton III uses a similar acoustic architecture to the Acton II Voice, consisting of a central full range speaker supported by two tweeter. The sound performance of this stereo set is therefore very similar, with a powerful reproduction that benefits from a good extension in the treble and bass.

Measurement of the frequency response (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m).  Potentiometer in the middle (black curve), bass at 10/treble at 1 (purple curve), bass at 1/treble at 10 (orange curve).

Measurement of the frequency response (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m). Potentiometer in the middle (black curve), bass at 10/treble at 1 (purple curve), bass at 1/treble at 10 (orange curve).

By default, bass overemphasis is its aspect booming and “boarding” harms the tonal balance. Fortunately, it’s possible to curb this excess of output at the lower end of the spectrum by tweaking the dedicated potentiometer to find a much more balanced sound without sacrificing depth and fit. Note that the bass has very good precision: bass drum hits or bass lines are faithfully transcribed.

The same isn’t really true for low-mid and mid-range reproduction, the precision of which isn’t that exemplary, especially when the speaker is really being put to the test. If the Acton III performs well on songs with an extremely edgy mix (Frankenstein by Marcus Miller), the reproduction of certain “thicker” pieces, richer in overtones (Land of Bats from Avenged Sevenfold or Develop by Julian Calor), is then more chaotic: the different instruments mix and it is very difficult to distinguish them clearly. The voices are perfectly intelligible – although they can sometimes take up a little too much space – and their timbre is correctly respected.

Measurement of the harmonic distortion rate (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m).

Measurement of the harmonic distortion rate (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m).

The Acton III benefits from excellent stretch in the highs, but again, precision isn’t optimal. Some cymbals can suggest a brittle response and the snare drum hits sound a bit too snappy. We sense a certain lack of naturalness in the high-frequency reproduction and it is possible to discern certain effects of sibilance (aggressive reproduction of sounds). [s], [f] and [ʃ]) when the case is pushed to its limits (above the 90% mark). The Acton III also has some pretty phenomenal performance for its small size. You will therefore have no problem enjoying your content in a spacious space such as a living room, a dining room or a large bedroom.

Measurement of the frequency response (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m).  Measurement microphone facing the housing (black curve), placed at an angle of +45° (purple curve) and at an angle of -45° (orange curve).

Measurement of the frequency response (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m). Measurement microphone facing the housing (black curve), placed at an angle of +45° (purple curve) and at an angle of -45° (orange curve).

One of the novelties of this third iteration lies in the inclination of the two tweeter, is intended to expand the stereophonic scene. It is clear that this arrangement has no real impact on the cabinet’s pronounced directivity. Room effects and other reverberation phenomena can be heard well, but the soundstage is still limited to the physical confines of the cabinet.

Measurement of the frequency response (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m).  Without placement adjustment (black curve), desk/wall adjustment (orange curve), corner adjustment (blue curve).

Measurement of the frequency response (calibration at 85 dB at 1 kHz at 1 m). Without placement adjustment (black curve), desk/wall adjustment (orange curve), corner adjustment (blue curve).

This third version also differs from the second with additional settings designed to counteract unwanted resonances (standing waves) in the low frequencies when the speaker is placed near a wall or corner; which is all the more relevant given that its bass reflex port is placed on the back. These “placement offsets” – as Marshall calls them – contain this phenomenon, which is relevant in practice, by means of more or less pronounced equalization in the bass.

strong points

  • Powerful and balanced sound signature (after user intervention).

  • Deep and precise bass.

  • Ease of use and total control.

  • Impeccable manufacturing quality.

weak points

  • Perfected precision of mids and highs.

  • Directivity that remains pronounced despite the tilt of the tweeters.

  • Limited connectivity.

  • High latency in Bluetooth communication.

Conclusion

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Global brand

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

How does the classification work?

The Acton III doesn’t reinvent the wheel and sets out to follow in the footsteps of the second version. The new features don’t add up to much in the end, except for the placement compensation option that’s welcome here. Lacking any functionality, particularly connectivity, and with few connectivity options, the Acton III nonetheless remains a sedentary speaker that’s thoroughly recommended for those who want to enjoy their music with ease. Its decorative design, childlike handling and powerful sound reproduction will inevitably make people happy.

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