Review The Marshall Acton III wireless speaker follows in the footsteps of previous models

Manufacturing

Visually, the Acton III differs little from the previous model: the mesh fabric grille is slightly darker and the copper band on the front is thinner. It is also 1 cm deeper (26 x 17 x 15 cm) and weighs the same (2.85 kg). Beyond these minor differences, the Acton III is in all respects identical to its predecessor.

The perimeter of the enclosure is still made of an emblematic imitation leather plastic in the “tolex” style. The controls are placed on top of the enclosure, on a brushed aluminum plate with a touch of silicone around the three potentiometers. Acton III also always relies on four small rubber feet for a perfect support grip.

Marshall announced that 70% of the plastic used to make its speakers comes from recycling.

Marshall announced that 70% of the plastic used to make its speakers comes from recycling.

While the speaker’s looks can be up for debate, its build quality and finish will have everyone agreeing. The only visible signs of assembly are the screws that hold the back plate and the junction of the perimeter under the enclosure, but it remains very careful.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Audio

The Acton III uses an acoustic architecture similar to the Acton II Voice, consisting of a central broadband speaker supported by two tweeters. The sound performance of this stereo set is very similar, with strong rendering that benefits from a good treble and bass extension.

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

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

Generally, the overload of basses, their aspect boomy and “going in” will damage the balance of the sound. Fortunately it is possible to prevent this excess power at the bottom of the spectrum by moving the potentiometer provided for this purpose to find a more balanced sound, without losing the depth and seat. Note that the bass shows excellent accuracy: bass drum hits or bass lines are faithfully transcribed.

The same cannot be said for the reproduction of low mids and mids, the accuracy of which is not very good, especially when really testing the loudspeaker. If the Acton III does well on songs with more kit mixes (Frankenstein by Marcus Miller), copying some “thicker” pieces, richer in harmonics (Bat Country from Avenged Sevenfold or Evolve by Julian Calor), then it is more chaotic: the different instruments blend into each other and it is very difficult to distinguish them clearly. The voices are perfectly intelligible – although sometimes they take a little space – and their timbre is properly respected.

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

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

The Acton III benefits from an excellent treble extension, but here too the accuracy is poor. Some cymbals can suggest a brittle rendering and snare drum hits sound a bit too loud. We feel a lack of naturalness in treble reproduction and it is possible to detect some sibilance effects (aggressive reproduction of sounds [s], [f] and [ʃ]) when pushing the enclosure to its limits (above the 90% mark). The Acton III also has an amazing power for its small size. So you will not have difficulty enjoying your interior in a good-sized room, such as a living room, a dining room or a large bedroom.

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

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

One of the innovations in this third iteration lies in the inclination of the two tweeters, to expand the stereophonic landscape. It is clear that this arrangement has no real effect on the declared directivity of the enclosure. Room effects and other reverberation phenomena can be heard well, but the soundstage is still within the physical boundaries of the enclosure.

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

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

This third version also differs from the second by adding settings aimed at combating unwanted resonances (standing waves) at low frequencies when the loudspeaker is placed near a wall or a corner ; which is more relevant because its bass-reflex port is placed on the back. These “placement offsets” – as Marshall calls them – apply a more or less pronounced equalization of the bass to prevent this phenomenon that has proven to be relevant in practice.

Strong points

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

  • Deep and precise bass.

  • Ease of use and comprehensive controls.

  • Impeccable build level.

Weak points

  • Perfect accuracy in the midrange and treble.

  • The directive remains unspoken, despite the passion of the tweeters.

  • Limited connection possibilities.

  • High latency in Bluetooth communication.

Conclusion

we tried that we wanted
Global score

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

How does grading work?

Acton III doesn’t change the wheel and is content to follow in the footsteps of the second version. The new features will not bring much in the end, except for the placement compensation option, which is accepted here. Without any functionality, especially connected, and offering few connection possibilities, the Acton III nevertheless remains a sedentary speaker that is fully recommended for those who want to enjoy their music easily. Its smooth design, its child-friendly handling and its punchy sound reproduction will inevitably make people happy.

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