Back when we reviewed the Libratone Live we were impressed – fine Italian wool, great wireless sound and a head-turning design. However, it was hefty. The company hopes to remedy this with its new Zipp speaker, which still offers AirPlay functionality and premium materials but in a much more portable size.
The Libratone Zipp comes with its own tagline: The world’s first Wi-Fi-free AirPlay speaker. The Zipp is unique in that it can create its own Wi-Fi network, allowing you to connect an iOS device and stream wherever you are.
Libratone has a history of great designs and the Zipp follows their usual design ethic. Designed to be portable, the Zipp is cylindrical and around 30 centimetres tall. It features a leather carrying strap that rotates to hide away and cover up the ports and buttons panel – a nice touch, we thought.
The speaker gets its name from the zip that runs from top to bottom on the speaker. Unzip this and you can remove the luxurious woollen cover, revealing the inner workings. These covers can be interchanged and come in all sorts of colours – ours came with red, grey and turquoise-blue covers and we have to say we liked the red best.
The design is overall simple and uncluttered, with a small panel housing the 3.5mm and USB ports alongside pairing buttons and a power indicator, the charging socket hidden away on the bottom and a multi-function power button and volume buttons on the top.
Going from the box to blasting out your music won’t take all that long. There are three different ways of playing music from a device on the Zipp – one requires a physical connection (AUX) and the other two are wireless (AirPlay and PlayDirect). A simple AUX connection to the headphone socket of any gadget gives you instant sound output through the Zipp, but if you want to go wireless then a few more setup steps will be required.
AirPlay is Apple’s standard for wireless audio streaming, and thanks to some clever technology it’s easier than ever to set up with this speaker. All we had to do was hold the top button for 5-10 seconds until it glows white, then connect to the Libratone Wi-Fi network on our iOS device.
Libratone’s own PlayDirect app aims to make setup nice and easy, but we found using Apple’s own AirPlay method easier – for those who haven’t used an AirPlay device before we would recommend using the colourful and helpful app to guide you through. Alternatively you can use the USB port on the back and connect your iDevice with an Apple docking cable to aid with setup. If you don’t have an iDevice and want to use a different tablet, smartphone or MP3 player then you do have the option of connecting via the 3.5mm AUX socket.
On the bottom of the speaker you have an AC connection to connect the mains charger and juice up the battery, which takes around 3 to 4 hours to fully charge and will then last somewhere between 3 and 4 hours, we found.
For a comparatively small device, the Zipp pumps out some serious sound. The cylindrical shape might not be to the taste of some in terms of design but there’s no arguing with how it projects sound in all directions to really fill a room. Unzip and remove the wool cover and you can peek inside to see what makes provides the impressive sound quality; a 4-inch bass unit and two 1-inch tweeters.
That 4 inch driver gives the Zipp a very impressive level of bass, although when listening to particularly bass-heavy music we found ourselves having to tweak the EQ to reduce the bass or turn the music down altogether for fear of getting complaints from the neighbours.
For a portable speaker this thing is capable of pumping out the tunes at some seriously impressive volumes, and easy filled this Gadget Helpline blogger’s small house without needing to crank the volume up to full. We found that the louder you go with the Zipp the more clarity you lose, with the high end getting a little swamped by the bass. However, it’s easy to find a sweet spot that gives both great detail and plenty of volume.
The Libratone Zipp is a portable speaker that belies almost every conception we had about the portable speaker. It’s incredibly loud and offers great quality sound, as long as you don’t push volume levels to the limit. Setup is simple and in terms of wireless connectivity we had no trouble setting up or when using the device.
The design won’t suit everyone’s tastes but we feel that being upright and cylindrical, the Zipp can sit in the corner or on a shelf and not really be noticed in a room. Interchangeable covers are a nice touch too, to pair the speaker to the décor of a room.
Battery life could be a let-down for some, with 3 to 4 hours being the average. This is fine if you’re using the device at home and can have it plugged in, but take it camping or to a festival and you’ll run out of juice in an afternoon of listening.
At £329 the price won’t suit everyone’s pocket, but that price does bring style, good sound quality and a well-made product. Being able to set up wireless audio streaming without the need for Wi-Fi and in minutes is brilliant, too.