You can find better sounding wireless speakers at the price, but few more flexible ones
- Cute design
- Wide array of wireless features
- Built-in Alexa
- Mids aren't the most insightful
- Review Price: £279.99
- Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
- Amazon Alexa digital assistant
- 4-inch woofer
- 1-inch tweeter
- 3.5mm aux input
- 6x microphones
What is the Libratone Zipp 2?
The Libratone Zipp 2 is a versatile Alexa smart speaker that sounds bigger, and can do more, than Amazon’s own Echo Plus.
It has a battery, a thick layer of Libratone’s personality-packed style and better sound quality than the first waves of smart speakers.
This is not the best-sounding wireless speaker in its £200-300 class – its mids are a little basic compared to the top performers – but you can’t knock the Zipp 2’s identity shifting smarts.
Related: Best Bluetooth speakers
Libratone Zipp 2 — Design
Libratone speakers are dipped in Scandi chic. It’s minimalist with just a sprinkling of Japanese kawaii, and the result is a very deliberate style far more accessible than speakers desperate to appear grown-up and expensive.
This is a tower speaker, like many smart models. The two-tone style, zip and removable cover make the Zipp 2 immediately recognisable.
Shop at Amazon and you’ll find four different colour variations: black, red, green and grey. You can buy covers separately too, and Libratone may make limited edition covers in the future. It did for the original Zipp.
To remove the cover you simply unzip, unclip and pull it off.
The Libratone Zipp 2 also has a carry handle. This works with the look too. The Zipp 2 is a little large to take around with you. It’s much taller than the non-portable Sonos One, thicker than the Amazon Echo Plus.
Think of the Zipp 2 as a speaker you might take outside, or sling in the car for a weekend away, not one to cram into a suitcase for a flight. It takes up too much space unless you’re very liberal with luggage upgrades.
Related: Sonos One review
Libratone Zipp 2 — Features and Alexa
The battery is crucial to the Zipp 2’s appeal, though. This is a home speaker when you want it to be, but it’s not tethered to Wi-Fi or its power adapter.
It has Bluetooth, so you can stream music wherever you like, although reception can be patchy. And there are also wired 3.5mm and USB inputs.
The Wi-Fi side is comprehensive too. It has AirPlay 2 for easy connection to an iPhone, Spotify Connect and Alexa support.
This is Amazon’s digital assistant, and the one most commonly seen in smart speakers. The Zipp 2 has a six-mic far-field array, designed to let you speak fairly quietly and still be understood.
Related: What is Apple AirPlay 2?
You’ll find several user reviews online suggesting it is not reactive enough, but this was not my experience. It responds quickly, its ability to understand you is just as good as an Echo’s. They use the same speech recognition software, after all. You can leave the speaker for quite some time, make a request using the wake word, and the Zipp 2 responds as if you never went away.
Unlike some speakers with Alexa support, this is fully-featured. You don’t have to press buttons to talk to the assistant.
Some other practical elements do take a hit as a result of Libratone’s design priorities. Zipp 2 has a touch panel on its top, rather than buttons. A long press lights-up otherwise hidden shortcuts to your radio presets, a feature that tweaks the sound to your room layout, and Sound Space. You use this to link up Libratone speakers.
I bet a significant proportion of Zipp 2 owners will ignore these semi-obscured features, but this does not mean the touch panel will go unloved. Swirling around it with a finger alters volume.
Libratone Zipp 2 — Sound Quality
The Libratone Zipp 2 has a practical, low-fuss approach to sound. It has one 4-inch main driver and one tweeter. Both of these use a “360 degree” reflector to make sound seem to emit from all angles.
Put the Zipp 2 in the middle of a table and everyone at it gets more-or-less the same experience. It’s perfect for late-night poker games.
There are also two fairly large passive radiators, which help reinforce bass.
The Libratone Zipp 2 is comfortably better than the Amazon Echo speakers. If that is its main job: mission complete. Its tonal cohesion is better, bass is reasonably deep and better controlled than the Echo standard.
However, I find the 360-degree dispersal the most notable thing here. And as someone who uses wireless speakers while cooking more than at social events, I’m not even that fussed by the feature.
Compare the Libratone Zipp 2 to the JBL Xtreme 2, Harman Kardon Citation 100 or Sonos One and you realise its mids are relatively crude. They are not distorted, not remotely harsh. But they are also not particularly detailed, are dynamically a little flat, and there’s little sense of airiness to them.
The result: vocals don’t sound as alive or as realistic as they do from the best-in-class performers. For dynamics and that sense of hi-fi flair, the Zipp 2 is beaten by the JBL Xtreme 2.
The Libratone Zipp 2 has a very important trump card. Not only does it have all the techy features the JBL lacks, it is portable, unlike the majority of the slightly better-sounding digital assistant speakers. What slight hits there are to the sound are made up for elsewhere.
Should I buy the Libratone Zipp 2?
The Libratone Zipp 2 is not the best sounding option if you open up its competitors to include every sub-£300 wireless speaker. It’s a very pleasant listen, but doesn’t have the mid-range fidelity to be a perfect mini hi-fi replacer.
However, the design is cute and practical, and its combo of features is near-unbeatable.
It’s an Alexa speaker. It’s portable. It has Bluetooth. There are even radio presets if you look deep enough to find them. As long as you aren’t a true audio snob, you’ll love the Zipp 2. And even if you are, it’s a good choice for a casual listen.
You can find better sounding wireless speakers at the price, but few more flexible ones.