Unable to get sound simultaneously from two coupled Acton II speakers


Hello -  After really enjoying the Kilburn II speaker, I bought two Acton II speakers to couple them for ambiant sound when not using traditional speakers since you can't couple Marshall's wireless speakers. The Acton II is fantastic for sound and range individually *before* my attempt to couple them. I've had many complex compatibility issues with products over the years, but in this case, it's most puzzling why two same-model "coupled" speakers can be controlled via the iPhone/iPad I paired with them, as well as with the Marshall app (volume/sound settings) but cannot in any shape or form maintain simultaneous outputs even when they're placed right next to each other (well within the 10-meter Marshall spec). So before returning them back to store, I wanted to check with other customers if they've ever truly achieved the goal of coupling two Acton II's with both of them continuously and consistently playing in tandem without streaming drops. Thank you for letting me know,

What I've tried to so far:

- Followed Marshall's pairing/coupling intructions word-by-word. Though their instructions are incomplete and way below their reputation. 

What's more disappointing is the prompt you get in the app to "stay connected to Acton II but disconnected from Acton II in Bluetooth settings." Anyone know what that means? 

- Tried two iPhones and an iPad (all latest iOS).

- Deleted, rebooted, and re-installed the Marshall Bluetooth app (v1.3.1) for iOS.

- Moved the speakers next to each other to eliminate distance argument.

- Tested each speaker with direct Bluetooth to iPhone/iPad source without any issues. In fact, range is so much more when not using the Marshall app to stream to the speaker.

- Factory-reset the speakers.

- End result: The only way I was able to have them coupled was ignore their instructions, couple the speakers and then completlely shut down their app. after they show as coupled . However, there's no way for them to continuously and play in tandem (even sitting right next to each other with source iPhone/iPad next to them). They continue to switch between each other. 

- Also, Marshall needs to be clear that a "couple" can only function with one lifetime source. As soon as you try to use the speaker "couple" on another source device, you lose everything on the previous device and need to de-couple, forget speakers, re-add speakers to your device's Bluetooth, and then pray that the Marshall app will allow you to couple them again. Most of the 18-20 times I tried the whole process, I needed to uninstall their app, reboot device, and re-install their app. :(

Any help deeply appreciated before I return these speakers.


edited 29 Jan 2022 at 07:18 AM

Farzam T (1)

asked 22 Jan 2022 at 05:30 AM

Farzam T (1)
Answers: 1


I had severe issues with coupling two Stanmore II speakers but eventually got it to work. It is the same app so I suppose below instructions could help you, too.
First off, the app is garbage and instructions are confusing, but here is what did it for me:
-Start simple: connect to one speaker at a time and shut the other unit off. First you want to rename each speaker, because otherwise the app messages make no sense.
(You mentioned that in your OP, it says to connect and disconnect at the same time, but this is actually only hard to understand because by default the speakers have the same name). So e.g. rename exactly one unit to “Stereo”, and the other one to “Mono”. (You’ ll see later why). Mark them somehow, piece of paper, post-it etc. If you are confused you can also use the apps “light“ slider, to change the knob-led brightness, so you know which one is which.
-A big issue is that the app does not reliably detect the speakers. A way to get around this is to simply kill the app (in iOS you can e.g. double click the home button / swipe halfway up to get a task manager) when it fails, and then restart it again. Also, you want to bring the speakers in pairing mode again (hold the source button for three secs). Eventually you will see both speakers in the app at the same time. Only proceed when both speakers show up in the menu. Also resist the temptation to select “connect”. They just need to both show in the list.
-Select the speaker you renamed to “Mono”, then hit the “…” menu. Then “couple speakers”. Now you select the one you named “Stereo”.
-Again there is a confusing menu where you can select which one will be left and which right - the outcome is random, no matter which option you select. Just go with it and later swap speakers in your room if needed.
- Once the stereo link up is complete, kill the app again. In fact you want to delete it now (no kidding), again. Reason comes a bit further down.
- Now the most important part.: From here one the speakers behave to the outside world like one unit - so you really do not want to be connect to both units any more (you do not even want your iOS device to know about both). The philosophy is that you stream music to only one device, and this one then proxies the music to the second unit. This part is written nowhere in the docs, but it makes sense from an engineering perspective. So now kill / delete the app again. Then go to your iOS Bluetooth menu, select the “(i)“ next to both units and select forget. Do this for BOTH! (You renamed them, so iOS is confused, too)
- Next hold the source button again for ONLY the speaker you labeled “Stereo” and connect to it in your iOS Bluetooth settings. Do not start the app, do not connect to any unit with you app. Again, just forget about the App, best is to just delete it.
- So now you should only be connected from your iOS device that says “ Stereo”. Forget about the other (the “mono”) one, it will automatically get it’ s audio stream via the “stereo” unit. You can now start streaming music (but not with the app, just play something from Spotify / iTunes app). If you start the Marshall app or connect to the “mono” unit again you will notice connection dropouts (super annoying), even having the marshall app running in background causes this issue, in my experience it is best to just delete it, you won’t need it again either way. (Think I mentioned this before ;) )
- Never ever link a second phone. It confuses the Bluetooth connection and there will be aggressive switching from one to the other input source, even while playing music. Also keep in mind that once the speakers are coupled, you will no longer be able to select another source (input jack / RCA).
- If you want to go back to square one, use the factory reset (hold source and play for 10 seconds, for both speakers).
Hope it helps. I really hope Marshall will eventually come up with a better solution, most people love the sound but go crazy over the app…

edited 06 Feb 2022 at 05:15 PM

Max Smith

answered 06 Feb 2022 at 05:09 PM

Max Smith
Hello Max - Thank you very much for your detailed steps. It's ironic that I'd done exactly what you suggested thru your post after I posted my original question. Being a hardware engineer, I tried everything possible to get a solid coupling, and three different Marshall support reps gave me three different sets of instructions (albeit, they were truly trying to help).

(For my sake, let's assume the source is an iPad.)

Initial pair/play/re-name:
- Factory reset both speakers.
- When you say "start simple and connect to each and rename them,” they have to be paired to iOS to be renamed. Originally, I paired them individually, played each with iPad while other one was off, and re-named them in iOS BT settings as "Acton II - Right" and "Acton II - Left." After that, regardless of additional factory resets and forgetting them in iOS BT settings, and re-pairing, they continue to permanently show up as the above new names in iOS BT settings which makes sense. But the new names did not reflect in Marshall app.

However, after reading your post today, I decided to try a last gasp attempt and factory reset and rename in Marshall app. The only way a rename is possible in the app is to a) have both speakers paired in iOS, b) press “connect” in Marshall app for speaker 1, c) then speaker 1 is pulled up from “available” to “selected”, d) click "..." e) rename and press “done”, f) “forget device” and g) repeat for speaker 2. Now, I have both new names showing up correctly and both as separate disconnected speakers in the app. Please confirm this is how you did it.

Now on to coupling… 😅

- Start with both speakers *not* paired in iOS.
- I have “Acton II – Right” and “Acton II – Left” showing up under “available" in Marshall app.
- There is no way for me to see the "..." option to proceed to coupling unless I "connect" one of the two speakers in the Marshall app. So when you mention "resist the temptation to select "connect"" that's the only way for me to see the "..." option. I have to press "connect," then the app pulls that speaker up from "available" to the top under "selected." Only then can I see the "...".
- If the speaker is not paired to iPad, the app tells me Acton II – Right needs to be paired in iOS and sends me to iOS settings. I re-pair the speaker in iOS and come back to the app. Now coupling is possible. However, speaker 2 (Acton II – Left -> your “stereo”) does not show up as the 2nd speaker to couple with (ie only my Acton II - Right -> your “mono” shows up with a “✓” mark next to it in the “couple speakers” pane).
- Now I re-pair speaker 2 in iOS, but it still won’t show as available to couple in the app until I press “connect” in the app. Only then will it show up as available.
- I then couple “Left” with “Right” and get a “link” symbol with “Left” (your “stereo”) as the combined set/parent. Now, I have three entries in iOS BT settings as being paired to (“Right” and “Left” with the “i” in circle and a 3rd “Left” entry which represents the coupled instance but without the “i" in circle).
- Now, I unpair both Right and Left in iOS, go over to the Marshall app and still see the coupled speakers showing as coupled with a "link" symbol. I completely close the app (as you mentioned), and the third paired connection (“Left”) disappears from iOS BT settings which makes sense.
- Now here’s what got it to work for me - iOS only streams to one paired connection at a time, so I connected it to “Left” (your “stereo”) which I assumed would be treated as the "parent," and both speakers started playing. Adjusting volume now works in tandem when doing it on one speaker, and no more connection drops. However, adjusting bass/treble on one doesn’t change them on the other. Is that behavior happening for you too?

As you said, the Marshall app needs to be completely closed or deleted. Customers should not try the app to play media.

Thank you again for instilling some hope in me to go back and try the steps again. I was about to return them tomorrow to Best Buy.

If you agree with the above, let’s write up the exact steps and have Marshall support publish them and have the very mediocre user manual updated because it’s truly beneath Marshall’s brand quality.
- Farzam T 07 Feb 2022 at 01:05 AM
Hey Farzam,
glad you got it to work! (High-five!!)

-For the naming: Yes, I did use the Marshall app to rename the devices. My understanding is that the app changes the actual name of the device (means the speaker from then on shows up using a different name, whatever phone/tables/app used to find/scan), whereas the iOS BT menu only sets a local alias (which is not picked up by the Marshall app).

-You are also right about the "resist the temptation part", I did not well formulated it. My point was that in the app both speakers should be listed, but not both can be connected simultaneously (which is also confusing, because you actually are connected to both via iOS BT). In my understanding the Apps "connect" button is mislabeled, because it is actually more a "select" button. You only select which speaker you want to configure, though both of them are already connected to your phone. So to combine to speakers, you have to first "connect/select" only one unit - then in the subsequent join-to menu you "connect/select" the second unit, to make them a pair. (Which as you mentioned is indicated by a nice wedding ring symbol).

- You are also right that after the join process there is a phantom device in the iOS bluetooth settings. When i saw the three instances, i made iOS forget about all of them, turned of BT, turned it on again an then only paired with the new "parent" unit. (in my case labeled "stereo", in your case "Left" - that is also why i named the "parent" unit "stereo", so I would know this is the one to connect to for stereo sound.)

The outcome is exactly as you described! Volume knobs are in sync, treble and bass are not. Also for me the source button no longer works, i.e. not possible to select RCA or jack as input any longer.

P.S.: Software engineer here, that makes two - apparently you need to be an engineer to find your way through the Marshall Bluetooth App ;)

Yes, lets make a clear step-by-step document! Maybe on GitHub as MarkDown? I can also set up a shared document otherwise...
- Max Smith 07 Feb 2022 at 03:19 AM
I did not find a way to direct message you in the forum, but you'll find my email at this 24h link, feel free to contact me for the step-by-step guide!
h-t-t-p-s : //minimalist.etherpad.com/p/marshallapp (remove the "-" and blanks, the forum seems to filter URLS.)
- Max Smith 07 Feb 2022 at 03:41 AM
Hello Max - Thanks again for confirming my verbose steps, but that really shows the ambiguity of the process involved.

So the app needs to stay since the only way to change speaker settings is thru the app. Open, change audio/preset settings, and close it right back up. And never associate more than one source with the coupled speakers (tough one to accept for audiophiles who have multiple sources and need multiple device associations).

I leave you with this: Every media type streamed (local music, podcast streams, media clips) *now* have no issue on the speakers, but for some reason, streaming thru YouTube still seems to have some dropouts or contention. Perhaps it's a YouTube thing, though not happening on my Kiburn II's.
- Farzam T 07 Feb 2022 at 05:56 AM
Thank you. Now I understand more. - Donn Seals 15 Mar 2022 at 02:44 PM
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