Can a retro Bluetooth speaker sound as good as it looks? The answer may surprise you…
A Retro Bluetooth Speaker for Every Taste and Budget
Welcome back fellow retrophiles. This time around we’re reviewing some of the best retro Bluetooth speaker systems around. These days it seems like audio technology advances every day, but good style never gets old. There’s no doubt the retro Bluetooth speaker trend is picking up steam. We attended the Hong Kong Electronics Fair in mid October, and saw a bevy of deliciously hand crafted vintage style wireless devices. Keep in mind, these aren’t smart speakers or suitable for microphone based tasks like Bluetooth phone calls. This article focuses on a few key criteria:
- Style. When you’re going vintage, you’re shopping for looks before sound.
- Sound. While looks are important, you want a speaker with rich, full sound at all levels.
- Functionality. We may be talking about vintage style Bluetooth speakers, but that doesn’t mean the guts have to be stuck in the dark ages.
We’ll take a look at each top contender and then provide our overall impressions, good and bad.
1. Marshall Woburn II Wireless Bluetooth Speaker – $499.99
The Marshall Woburn II Wireless Bluetooth Speaker – $499.99 at Amazon.com
Marshall may be the granddaddy of retro speakers, but they manage to keep things fresh with the Woburn II. This giant weighs in at a whopping 26.4 pounds, and sounds every bit as loud as it should. The box contains two 1 inch tweeters and dual 5.25 inch woofers for outstanding dynamic range.
Marshall is known for it’s quality and depth of sound, and the Woburn II sits at the top of our retro Bluetooth speaker list because it lives up to the name. Deep, thumping bass is accompanies by clear, crisp, unrestrained highs. You’ll enjoy a quiet evening listening to jazz just as much as a screaming guitar solo.
The latest technology including Qualcomm aptX and Bluetooth 5 means the Woburn II is a wireless wonder. The included Marshall Bluetooth app allows for fine tuning, and old school aficionados will appreciate these functions are duplicated with analog dials. Also included are RCA and 3.5 mm analog inputs.
Beautiful to look at. Distinctly Marshall through and through, the Woburn II accents black or tan cowhide grain with bright copper accents. It’s not for every taste or decor, but for those in know, it doesn’t get better than this.
The price. Coming in at the top of our retro Bluetooth speaker list, Marshall manages to construct an awesome wireless product – and make us pay for it. This is definitely for high end audio buffs that love the retro Marshall look. Others may find similar sound quality and feature sets in less expensive retro wireless speakers.
2. Klipsch Heritage Wireless Three Tabletop Stereo System – $499.00 at Amazon.com
The Klipsch Heritage Wireless Three Tabletop Vintage Speaker – $499.00 at Amazon.com
Known to all audiophiles, Klipsch is a classic brand known for sound quality above all else. In the case of the Heritage Wireless Three, the name lives up to the reputation. The speaker box features glorious real wood veneer and spun copper switches and knobs. You can’t get more authentically vintage without a DeLorean.
Well balanced, rich acoustics. The Heritage Wireless Three produces a warm, true sound at all ranges. Regardless of your music preference, Klipsch’s vintage Bluetooth speaker will do it justice. Native 192kHz / 24-bit decoding offers the opportunity for audiophiles to play high resolution digital tracks.
Beautiful vintage design details. Everything from the brand mark to the spun copper knobs and walnut finish screams vintage. This wireless speaker is equally at home in a mid-century modern flat as a modern family home.
Multi-room ready. The Heritage Wireless Three is part of the Klipsch Stream Wireless Multi-Room Audio System, meaning you can connect multiple devices a la Sonos and stream music throughout your home. While wifi isn’t necessarily ideal for this, for most casual listeners it works just fine.
Lower volume issues. Though perfectly fine for normal use, cranking up the Heritage Wireless Three may be the best way to experience the power of the speaker. At lower volumes we wish there were more options to equalize and fine tune the sound. The included app allows for basic controls only, and Klipsch does not include analog equalization controls on the box itself.
Expensive. Much like the Marshall Woburn II, the Klipsch vintage Bluetooth speaker response comes at a steep price, while providing fewer features for fine tuning and older technology inside.
3. GGMM M3 Vintage Style Wireless Speaker – $149.99
The GGMM Vintage Bluetooth Speaker – $149.99 at Amazon.com
GGMM has made a name for itself by creating affordable, high quality audio products that feature something special. Their vintage series of desk and portable speakers feature playful, simple designs that feel retro without taking it too far. Their generically named M3 retro wireless speaker has plenty to love at a price point that won’t break the bank.
Unique retro style. There’s no question that the GGMM M3 Vintage Bluetooth speaker is a fun hybrid of old and new. Smooth lines and genuine leather are accented by aluminum, creating a unique and surprisingly authentic appearance in four fun colors (check it out in red).
Surprisingly loud for it’s size. Despite being just over 13 inches long and 5.5 inches tall, the M3 pumps out enough sound to fill a room. GGMM also includes the option to connect multiple speakers via wifi, which can have mixed results.
Sound quality leaves something to be desired. While the sound can get plenty loud for most needs, you may hear distortion when volume is too high or too low. There isn’t too much that can be done here – in audio you typically get what you pay for, and at this price point GGMM does a fine – if not imperfect – job. The included app is convoluted and seems to be more of a Sonos competitor for selecting and playing music. Tuning the speaker to your preferences just isn’t possible.
Dated tech is starting to show it’s age. Bluetooth 4.0 and a 5 year old design is in dire need of an update. The packaging is timeless, so why not update the guts to match?
Toshiba Retro Bluetooth Speaker – $128.48
The Toshiba Vintage Wireless Speaker – $128.48 at Amazon.com
Toshiba surprised us during this roundup. It’s been a long time since one of their audio devices made our top list, and their vintage Bluetooth speaker deserves the accolade. Looking as though it came directly from 1950’s Japan, this speaker also packs a punch when it comes to sound.
Incredibly intricate grill and accents. Rich dark wood, gold flour petal cutout grill, and matching analog knobs create the illusion of a truly vintage piece. No one will guess that a host of modern tech lives inside.
Good, if mediocre, sound for the price. While sound quality and loudness is fine in the near $100 price range, it isn’t top notch. Not that we would expect it to be, but it’s a bit disappointing to see such a beautiful box produce mediocre sound.
Limited connectivity options. Unlike other speakers in this roundup, Toshiba offers no real way to plug in any outside sources. You’ll need to use the top-mounted 3.5mm, USB, or… That’s it. It would have been nice to include at least one analog input on the back of the box to complete the vintage appeal.