Review Price £499.00
Manufacturer: Audio Pro
AirPlay has a lot to answer for. The wireless audio and video streaming technology may be a fine solution for Apple products - but it comes with hefty licensing fees, Apple-exclusivity, and is far from perfect with a frequently complex setup and lots of latency. In consequence, many manufacturers have looked elsewhere, but without Apple's influence their solutions have become fragmented. Audio Pro is a perfect example of this.
The 34-year old Swedish audio specialist has made wireless streaming a primary focus in recent years, built around its own proprietary technology. The technology is excellent (more on which later) as we have seen in its WF100 transmitter, and it has the sonic chops as demonstrated with its LV2e HiFi speakers, but its latest creation takes a very different route. The Living LV1 is a compact (220 x 300 x 100mm) wireless speaker aiming to take a bite out of the premium dock market, which has taken a hit after Apple switched to the new Lightning connector.
In terms of looks Audio Pro has got the LV1 spot on. Scandinavian design has a reputation for elegant minimalism and once more we have a product living up to the stereotype. Essentially a slim rectangular box, Audio Pro has really thought about the LV1's build materials. A premium case is wrapped in leather around the sides (red, white and black finishes available) in a way that feels luxurious rather than tacky.
One quirk is the inclusion of a rest. The LV1 sits on it and this places the speaker at an upwards-tilted angle. This is to help audio dispersion and it looks nice, but it is nothing more than a carved block with no electronics or fixings inside.
As for the front grill, it is stretchy fabric and semi-transparent, allowing a digital volume level to be seen. The grill is also removable which reveals volume and control buttons along with some surprisingly narrow fitted drivers and tweeters. On the rear is just a power port and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack which Audio Pro hopes you won't need much.
Of course the reason for this is Audio Pro's aforementioned wireless technology - and it does indeed have much to recommend it. Like AirPlay it is lossless, allowing uncompressed audio files to stream smoothly and, unlike AirPlay, it offers near instantaneous response thanks to a mere 20ms delay (AirPlay tends to be 3-5 seconds). Range is also roughly akin to WiFi which enables streaming all over the home.
Why this becomes important is the technology's most impressive trick: house codes. Being a proprietary solution it requires dongles at the source, but each dongle has three house codes which can correspond to a different Audio Pro speaker – whether it is an LV1, LV2e or any other Audio Pro model. This means you can switch output destinations at the flick of a switch. Conversely multiple dongles will allow different people to stream to different speakers. Think Sonos without the need for apps or software.
Downsides? By far the most significant is Audio Pro only makes USB dongles and, while they feature a 3.5mm jack to tether a phone or tablet, the lack of a dedicated phone dongle (iPhone or otherwise) is a shame. Given this is a home based system that isn't a deal breaker, but it would be convenient – especially as the phone would double as a remote control.
To that end Audio Pro includes a dedicated remote control. Like most rivals the remote doesn't get the same care and attention as the speaker itself and is made from fairly rudimentary plastics, but it has basic controls for power and playback, along with the three house codes.
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