Few speaker units embody the iLifestyle better than the Libratone Lounge. It's simple, ridiculously so in some respects, but it's the simplicity and sheer loveliness of the design that makes it more desirable than many more capable systems. But whether this desirability can make its £1099 price seem like a bargain is another atter altogether...
The Libratone Lounge is as much a piece of lounge furniture as a speaker system. Not because you're meant to sit on it, but because it's the kind of thing that will come to define the look of your front room. It's about as long as a 42in or 50in television, and should ideally be wall-mounted below your tellybox to get the desired effect.
Really, though, it's just as happy to perch on a mantelpiece or sideboard. As long as it's at least a metre wide, around 15cm deep and terribly, terribly stylish, the Libratone Lounge will look right at home. It's partly the thing's sense of style that will justify a purchase for many - like those willing to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on a chair because it looks astounding. This isn't a criticism of such a person - but an indication that you need to care a lot about style or convenience to be a perfect fit for this soundbar.
The quality of materials used here matches its price. It's made primarily of wood, finished in high-gloss lacquer on the visible top bit, and by an ultra-high quality fabric-covered speaker grille around the front and sides. Not just any fabric is used, either, but thick Italian or cashmere wool. It comes in grey, black, beige, red or green. All are sure to be provocative, because of the unit's sheer size, but for a real "what on earth is that?" reaction, red and green are the natural top picks.
The way it fits together, the ease with which the grille pops off obligingly, and quite how flawlessly firm the rest of the Lounge is, makes a success of its stylistic statement. It's big and bold, but quite unlike the standard black and grey boxes of most Hi-Fi equipment.
What it can do is very limited, though. This is primarily an Airplay device, and there's only one additional input here - a 3.5mm/digital S/PDIF socket. Airplay is Apple's Wi-Fi streaming standard for iOS devices - the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch - and iTunes. It was introduced in late 2010, but has only really taken in third-party devices with crackers like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air and Denon CEOL RCD-N7.
Airplay is dead easy to use, integrated into the interface of compatible Apple devices as well as you'd expect from those user-experience experts. Android phones can get in on the action too, using the DoubleTwist app. If you want to plug in a regular CD or DVD player, you're probably looking at the wrong slab of wood, because there are no phono inputs here.