About two months ago I received my new shiny Marshall Stanmore multiroom smartspeaker. I’ve been dubbing between this one and a Sonos for a long time but when i read that Sonos were planning to build software that basically bricks your system just because “It was old” I decided to get a Marshall.
Now, this is not 100% a Marshall system as the Swedish company Zound has basically licensed the brand name and logo and build these speakers. I guess Marshall themselves stay on the professional line with their high end amplifiers and speakers.
As soon as I unboxed the speaker and started to read the installation manual I already regretted the puchase. The first thing it says is to install the Google Home app on your iPhone or Android. Huh, say what??? Why the hell would I need Google Home to get a speaker to work. What happened with simply interfacing over Bluetooth or maybe even USB. I don’t want to have anything to do with any of the, so called, cloud providers that put a microphone in my house nor do I want them to know what equipment I have. Unfortunately there was no other option to get this thing to work and have it started talking against my home router. As soon that was done I immediately de-installed Google Home from my iPhone and installed the Marshall app so I could get some tunes out of the speaker.
App installed and the disappointment became even bigger. Zound is apparently not a company that deals a lot with HID’s (Human Interface Devices) which basically means their app is a maze of different screens which you have to flick back and forth and up and down to configure, select, play, stop and do all the other stuff you would normally expect to be available in a far more condensed format. For example why do I need to flick an entire screen to get a volume bar and be able to adjust that and not as a standard slider on the screen that shows which songs/stations are played. The same goes for the 7 preset stations, why couldn’t this have been displayed on one screen with a play/stop button besides each of them.
Network setup and Home Automation
Another thing that annoys the hell out of me is that the discovery of the speaker is apparently done via some ethernet L2 broadcast protocol. That basically means that if you have your speaker connected to, lets say, your media network and your phone to another you will not be able to connect the app to your speaker unless you flick back and forth on your wifi networks. It also means that the app to speaker configuration over routed networks does not work and I almost assume that if you have more speakers you will not be able to have them in multiroom configuration if they need to cross wifi/ip subnet networks. Major pain in the behind. There are so many options available like mDNS, DNS service records, UPNP etc etc….. but no these are not the ones they opted for. 🙁
Also the internet radio stations need to be configured via an external party called Frontier Nuvola Smart Radio. Why can’t this be configured locally as a simple few settings on a ESP8266 or ESP32 chip and have this dynamically distributed over the network.
That leads me to the next let-down. The web interface is basically just there for some basic stuff like updating firmware and some wifi settings. Why this can’t be a full fledged interface that also allows you configure all the rest is beyond me. There are a gazillion web-based audio players out there and to just have a fully fitted web interface to be able to configure the box is basically a major flaw. My free Kodi system has many awesome interfaces so why can’t this sitting in a commercial box as well. Major let-down.
As I’m pretty much into Home Automation I dug around in the manuals to see if there is an API that would allow tools like HomeAssistant and others talk to the speaker in the same way Sonos, Sony and lost of others (see here: https://www.home-assistant.io/integrations/#media-player) do. This is also not the case and you’re stuck with the iPhone or Android app. So in addition to a $500 speaker you also have to fork out $600+ phone to be able to use it.
Streaming Music services
Spotify Premium……. (full stop). When the Spotify app is opened it will not let you select the speaker as an output. (yes, yes, there are workarounds but its basically utter nonsense that it won’t allow you to do that with a basic account. You still have to listen to the same nagging ads whether these come out a phone, headphone or smart-speaker shouldn’t matter…)
How do I turn it off??
THERE IS NO BLOODY OFF BUTTON TO STOP THE SPEAKER!!!!!
This had me and my missus a bit confused from the start. It turns out that the “selector” button needs to be pushed to pause the playback. It would’ve been handy if there was a simple play&stop symbol under that button
Is there anything good????
Yes, the sound it produces is pretty awesome and the base, treble and volume settings allow for darn good amount of airwaves to leave the speaker. In addition to that I like the looks of a Marshall brand so it sits great on my benchtop.
Would that justify the purchase of a fairly pricey smart-speaker. I would certainly have second thoughts knowing what I know now. After Sonos CEO Patrick Spence withdrew the “bricking” plans in his blogpost (see here) I would for sure re-evaluate the options and most likely select one of their speakers.
If you still decide to buy one here an amazon referal:
PS. if anyone from Zound or Marshall reads this and has questions don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy to help out.