If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you will see that I have taken a look at a lot of different speakers over the past few years.
Most speakers have a simple task to fulfil, so most reviews generally focus on the quality of the speaker hardware and the sound that it is able to output. But, as technology inevitably marches on, we are finding new uses for our speakers and ways with which to interact with them.
Libratone produces a range of different audio lines, from headphones to portable speakers for enjoying music on the go, as well as larger speakers for the home. Today, I am looking at the Libratone Zipp range, which encompasses Bluetooth and WiFi connected speakers. This is the first time I have seen both connectivity options in a single device and it definitely opens up some interesting possibilities with some of today’s popular home gadgets.
In a nutshell, Libratone Zipp is a range of mains-powered, connected speakers that also have a built-in rechargeable battery, so you are not tethered to a power outlet like many home-orientated speakers. They can be paired to create a stereo soundstage and multiple units can be linked around your home to deliver multi-room audio. They can be purchased in a number of different colours to match most home decor and they are even available in a premium edition, manufactured from aluminium and pure wool. The feature list looks promising, but how well do they measure up to the competition out there?
What’s in the box?
The speakers arrive really well packaged and presented. In most of my reviews, you will see that I place a lot of importance on how the products are presented to users. I have previously mentioned how some product packaging has a very ‘Apple-esque’ feel and this is definitely the case here. Libratone’s packaging takes the form of a cardboard tube, akin to an expensive artwork holder, albeit it much shorter. The design is simple but effective and certainly makes much of the competition pale in comparison.
Remove the tube lids and you are met with the obligatory quick start guides and safety information. Delve deeper and you’ll find power cables for the speaker with both European and UK connectors (on this European edition). The mains power supply is a little different to your average power brick, with a more sculpted look and feel. The high-quality power cable is also braided, reducing the annoyance of tangled wires and ensuring durability.
Remove the next layer of packaging and you are presented with the speaker itself. The speaker is easy to remove as it has a leather loop to aid portability but it can also be used to lift it out of the box.
As mentioned earlier, the Zipp and the Zipp Mini are identical in their features, but differ in size and output. The standard Zip comes in at 26cm high, 12cm wide and weighs in at 1.5kg. The Zipp Mini weighs in slightly less at 1.1kg and comes in a smaller package, measuring 22 cm high and 10cm wide. The integrated rechargeable battery is of equal capacity in both models, suppoting up to ten hours of continuous payback. Externally, all connections and buttons are again the same with an on/off switch, a power input, a 3.5” audio in (for those of us still using old style MP3 players. A USB socket is also equipped, which allows you to charge other devices from the built-in battery. If you’re on the road, it should allow you to give your tablets or phones a power boost when required and, of course, power them if they are performing playback duty.
Both speakers produce 360 degree sound, but with the Mini being more diminutive in size, the internal speaker configuration is similarly scaled down. The Zipp houses a 4” neodynium woofer with two 1” soft tweeters and two low-frequency radiators, producing a total of 100 watts power. Meanwhile, the Mini has a smaller, 3” woofer and just one tweeter with to 3.5” low frequency radiators. Total output in the Zipp Mini is reduced to 60 watts.
The top of each speaker has a touch interface which allows for intuitive control of the usual media transport functions (volume, play, pause, skip forward/back). The devices can both store five programmable Internet radio stations that can be chosen without the need for an app. There is also a clever hand gesture built into the top of the device for muting audio – simply place your hand on the speaker and the volume drops to a whisper. The Zipp and Zipp Mini can also take on speakerphone duties when connected to your phone via Bluetooth, with noise isolating microphones keeping background noise to a minimum.