Minimalist design, easy to set up, untethered and hi-fi sound quality. These are the points that Libratone puts forward with their latest product, the Libratone Live. Does this $700 USD product live up to expectation or does it fizzle and categorize as a pretentious and overpriced audio system? Technoodling dives head first and gives the Libratone Live a thorough review!
Vertically oriented and bearing a triangular dimension, the Libratone Live towers above other speakers with almost 9 inches of height. The design is simple yet elegantly stylish. The whole triangular tower is equipped with speakers on three sides, which is then wrapped with cashmere on its whole circumference. The top of the speaker is flat with a huge handle affixed to it, with the bar traveling to almost half the length of the Libratone Live. The power cord outlet, power switch and 3.5 jack connector is placed discreetly at the lower back side (near the foundation) of the speaker. Only the multi-functional button and a discreet name tag can be seen on the facade of the unit. On the whole, the Libratone Live is a perfect example of minimalism at its most beautiful, as it definitely looks the part of a high end and classily designed piece of technology.
Ease of Use
The Libratone Live is designed in such a way that it is easy to place in just about any part of the room. Thanks to its triangular shape, the Libratone Live will even look at home in corners or a center table.
There are two ways to pump sound into the Libratone Live: via analog connection using the 3.5mm stereo plug or using it wireless via Apple’s Airplay Technology. Using the analog connection is simple, simply purchase a 3.5mm male to male audio jack and connect the Libratone Live to a TV, music player or stereo component. To connect via WiFi, there are two ways to go about it: either use your router’s quick setup button (WPS) or use a computer to connect to the speaker over ad-hoc WiFi and manually setup the Libratone Live to your wireless home network. Manually setting up the Libratone Live into a wireless home network is not as complicated as it looks, I was able to do it in just a couple of minutes since the instructions and web setup interface were very easy to follow.
Functionality and Control
A speaker with just a single button, the Libratone Live had me scratching my head during the initial set up phase. There are exactly two things to do before one should start using the Libratone Live: read the manual to understand the use of multi-functional button and download the Libratone app to your iOS device.
The single multi-functional button of the Libratone Live is basically its interface, as the button changes color depending on how the speaker is used. For example, it’ll flash a solid red color when the speaker is in sleep mode and it’ll flash a soft white color when it’s physically connected to a source via the 3.5mm plug. The button also recognizes multi-presses. Press once to pause/unpause, and press thrice to enter WPS mode. It takes a while to get familiar with the button presses and light indicator commands, but it’s by no means confusing.
The Libratone iOS app gives the user the ability to update the firmware of the device, perform sound optimization based on where the speaker is placed, and control the volume whenever the speaker is physically connected to a source via the 3.5mm plug. For the Libratone app to work, the iOS device and Libratone Live must be connected to the same home network.
I tested the Libratone Live by connecting it simultaneously to both my TV (via the 3.5mm plug) and my wireless home network. First order of business was streaming music to the Libratone Live from my iPhone 4S using Apple’s Airplay. I listened to a variety of music genres from Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop and Dance and the sound pumped out by the Libratone Live was quite robust, full, and loud. By pure volume alone, the Libratone Live outmatched my Philips Soundbar. On max volume, the Philips Soundbar had a tendency to distort the audio, but on the Libratone Live, sound quality was consistently clear and rich. My Apple Lossless audio files sounded so nice coming out of the Libratone Live.
On the other hand, my Philips Soundbar clearly had the edge when it came to movies and games, but that’s only because the Philips Soundbar came with a huge subwoofer which enhances the sound to cinemalike quality. If I was to remove the subwoofer before pitting the Philips Soundbar and Libratone Live head to head, the Live would win by a landslide.
While the Libratone Live is probably the best wireless speaker I have ever used, it’s not a product that I would easily recommend, and it’s not because of its asking price. For a speaker of this calibre (in both design and sound output), its asking price of $699 is very much justified, and for someone who’s work and personal life is entrenched deep into Apple’s tightly controlled ecosytem, the Libratone Live is a no-brainer accessory to have. But is it for someone who owns nary an Apple branded device? That’s a bit of a 50-50. The Libratone Live can work with any wifi router, and even if all computers in a particular household are running on Windows, the Windows version of Apple’s iTunes can still be made to work on the Libratone Live. But without an iOS device, there is no way the Libratone Live can be updated and optimized properly.
In a nutshell, if you’re an Apple/iOS user, the Libratone Live is a must have. Windows users can still use the Libratone Live, but their enjoyment may be a bit diminished.
$699.99 USD (Approx. around Php 31,000)
Online at Libratone’s website (coming soon locally, Philippine SRP to be determined)
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