- Intuitive AirPlay setup
- Powerful, detailed audio reproduction
- Control via smartphone app
- Unique, if polarising, design
- No dedicated remote control
- Limited sound separation
- Extremely expensive
- No iPod/iPhone dock or charging
Review Price £599.99
Libratone Live AirPlay Speaker
Chances are your current phone looks like your last phone and in turn it will look like your next phone. With the introduction of Ultrabooks the same could be said for laptops in a few years, while TVs continue their evolution into a single, wafer-thin piece of glass. We're not saying these transformations aren't desirable, or at least understandable, but it is getting a bit dull. One sector where there is still room for design creativity is audio with unusual speakers and docks appearing on a regular basis and Libratone exemplifies this more daring dynamic to the full …
Following on from its impressive if expensive Lounge, it has launched the Libratone Live - a smaller, relatively more affordable, equally stylish speaker for your iPhone or iPod. In tech spec terms this means dimensions of 47 x 19.5 x 15cm and 6.5Kg verses 100 x 22 x 12cm and 12Kg, £599 verses £1,099 and the same premium build materials with a casing primarily made of wood and covered in wool. Most intriguing, however, is that despite the size and cost differences the Live matches the 150W output of the Lounge and that makes it a very interesting product indeed.
Before we get to audio though, let's get back to style. Coming from the same family the Live may look like the Lounge, but otherwise it looks like no other speaker on the market. Taking it out the box you are initially struck by the weight (it is 300g heavier than a Zeppelin Air), but this quickly gives way to curiosity when you realise what appears to be a wool cover is in fact the finish of the speaker itself. This doesn't immediately make a strong first impression - our unit was covered with pieces of foam from its packaging which had to be meticulously picked out - but you quickly warm to this softer, tactile surface which gives it warmth and even friendliness that is lacking from the myriad of cold, piano black devices that flood the market. It is as if a Toblerone packet and a teddy bear had offspring.
As mentioned, this finish is common to the Lounge, but where it differs for its big brother is its portrait orientation (which despite its overall size gives it a footprint smaller than many speakers) and a Chrome handle on the rear which provides an element of portability. Minimalism is again central to the Live with a 3.5mm jack the only input and no dock or device charging available. Instead how the Live connects is with AirPlay. Apple's lossless, wireless streaming protocol is a wonderfully elegant and dongle-free technology, but can be frustratingly complex to setup. Thankfully, given the Live's lack of other connectivity, it has produced the most intuitive process to date (see video above), so you'll be up and running within minutes.
All of which means the Live is stylish, well made and intuitive, if sparsely featured but for £599 (£699 if you choose an optional cashmere wool finish) the sound needs to be remarkable - and, to an extent, it is…