The Marshall Acton 3 is Marshall’s latest home Bluetooth speaker and is re-engineered to provide a wider stereo soundstage. It is a 2-way channel speaker and delivers 60 watts RMS of power and comes with 1 woofer and 2 tweeters for deeper bass and crystal-clear highs. The Acton 3 features a bass-reflex design with an additional rear firing port for a deeper bass response (the Acton 2 does not come with a rear firing bass port). This speaker comes with 3 X Class D amplifiers and is equipped with the latest Bluetooth 5.2 for high-quality music streaming. The Acton 3 also a wide frequency range of 45 Hz to 20 kHz and can go 5 Hz lower than the Acton 2.
The Marshall Acton 2 was designed to deliver a well-balanced and powerful audio experience in a compact small space. The Acton 2 is virtually similar in size with the Acton 3 and has a dimension of 10.2” x 6.3” x 5.9” and weighs 4.5 lbs. Just like the Acton 3, the Acton 2 also has a 2-way bass reflex design and delivers up to 60 watts of power with good bass response. This speaker comes with one 4” woofer and dual 0.75” tweeters that deliver an enhanced low-end response together with crystal clear highs and vocal output, and you can also use the Marshall Bluetooth app to fine tune the sound performance of the speaker. This speaker uses Bluetooth 5.0 and also comes with a 3.5mm intput for analog connections – the Acton 2 also features multi-host functionality so that you can easily connect and switch between two Bluetooth devices. The Acton 2 is almost identical to the Acton 3 in design and comes with brass-plated volume and bass knobs at the top of the speaker which gives it a classic vintage appearance.
When we tested out both the Marshall Acton 3 and Acton 2, we were surprised that the Acton 3 delivers better soundstage and bass response despite having virtually the same wattage and power output. The sound signature of the Acton 3 is more forward-leaning and music instruments and vocals sound more realistic and forward (you feel as though the vocalist is standing right in front of you). The Acton 2, by contrast, has a more well-balanced sound signature that sounds like a Hi-Fi stereo system – you get very good stereo separation and details in the upper frequency ranges, and the bass is solid and tight. The Acton 3 provides slightly better bass response and can go down to 45 Hz (while the Acton 2 goes down to 50 Hz), and the bass has depth and substance that gives music performances more gravitas.
We played a couple of soundtracks through the Acton 3 and Acton 2 including jazz and classical music. Jazz music from Dusty Springfield and Nat King Cole sounded especially crisp and clear on the Acton 3 with tremendous soundstage and presence – the music sounds exceptionally clear and the vocals are forward-projecting, while gives you a sense of realism and lifelikeness that you rarely hear in Bluetooth speakers. The bass goes very deep and hits hard – the jazz music that you hear feels very well-defined and the timbre ranges are simply out of this world with their level of smoothness and precision.
The Acton 2, by contrast, has a more well-balanced sound signature. The sound signature is not forward-leaning but rather neutral; this makes it great for listening to classical music with good stereo sound separation. While the soundstage is not as spacious and lifelike as the Acton 3, but Acton 2 is still a very good Bluetooth speaker and delivers superb accuracy and precision in its frequency range. We would describe this speaker as slightly more “netural” compared to the Acton 3 with very bright treble ranges and detailed midrange. The bass on the Acton 2 is also pretty solid and punchy, and rock and hip-hop music sounded quite engaging with nice vocals and punchy low-end bass. That said, we felt that the bass on the Acton 2 was not as refined or impactful as the Acton 3 (due to the fact that the Acton 3 comes with a dedicated rear bass port).
In terms of overall sound performance, we liked the Marshall Acton 3 more due to its lifelike and forward-leaning sound signature. It also delivers slightly deeper bass which makes EDM and rock music sound more engaging and impactful, while vocals sound more forward-leaning and brings a level of realism into the soundstage. The volume output on both the Marshall Acton 3 and Acton 2 is virtually identical and both speakers deliver 60 watts of clean power output.
The Marshall Acton 3 and Acton 2 are virtually identical when it comes to design. Both speakers feature the classic Marshall logo design and come with brass-plated volume and bass knobs on the speaker which give it a really vintage aesthetic. Both speakers also come with 3.5mm input for an analog listening experience and features multi-host functionality so that you can connect and easily switch between two Bluetooth speakers.
The Acton 3 and Acton 2 also have virtually the same speaker dimensions – the Acton 3 is 10.2” x 6.7” x 5.9” while the Acton 2 is 10.2” x 6.3” x 5.9” – and both speakers also have the same weight. The Acton 2 comes with a slightly larger gold-colored stripe at the front of the speaker which gives it a brighter appearance than the Acton 3, but otherwise both speakers practically look the same and will blend in nicely on a bookshelf or tabletop.
One aspect of the Acton 3 and Acton 2 speaker that we really liked is that the volume and bass knobs have cool red backlighting on the volume increments, making them user-friendly and intuitive.
In terms of specs, the Marshall Acton 3 comes with a few minor upgrades. The Acton 3 now comes with a rear firing bass port to improve the lower-end bass response. The Acton 3 also uses the latest Bluetooth 5.2 technology compared with the Acton 2’s Bluetooth 5.0 – both speakers have a wireless range of 30 feet. Both the Acton 3 and Acton 2 speaker also require AC power to operate and both speakers features a 2-way design with 1 woofer and dual tweeters for clear stereo separation and deep bass response. The speakers also use 3 X Class-D amplifiers to power the speaker drivers and they have a virtually similar frequency range (with the Acton 3 delivering a slightly larger frequency band down to 45 Hz).
We definitely preferred the sound performance of the Marshall Acton 3 speaker. The Acton 3 delivers a much wider and detailed soundstage with refined bass performance; the sound signature is forward-leaning and makes jazz music sound much more realistic and lifelike. The Acton 2 on the other hand is a more well-balanced speaker – it delivers pretty good stereo sound with good separation, but it sounds just like any other good Bluetooth speaker. The Marshall Acton 3, by contrast, sounds exceptionally clear and brings a level of realism and presence of the music which we rarely find in any Bluetooth speaker. Both speakers have a 60W RMS power output and delivers very clean sound – you can also optimize the sound performance of both speakers using the Marshall app. One advantage that the Acton 3 has is that it uses the latest Bluetooth 5.2 technology and also comes with an additional rear-firing port for added bass response.
If you are deciding between the Marshall Acton 3 and Acton 2, we highly recommend getting the Acton 3 due to the improved sound performance and better bass response. It is also a reasonable upgrade from the Marshall Acton 2, so if you already have the Acton 2 and want another speaker for that can handle jazz and vocals with realism and clarity, the Acton 3 is a worthwhile upgrade.