LIBRATONE ZIPP

£370

We were already smitten with the Libratone Zipp. Not only can you dress it up in brightly coloured Italian wool covers, this AirPlay speaker now also supports Android streaming via DLNA.

The ability to change the Zipp’s cover is still our favourite feature. It’s fun, and adds a splash of colour to the sea of grayscale that dominates the market. You get three covers with every unit.

Quirky design pays off

The upright cylindrical shape of the Zipp is another unusual take on speaker design. And it’s about more than just style: it’s essential for delivering the 360-degree sound that Libratone calls ‘FullRoom’. Build quality is good, and a sturdy leather strap makes it easy to carry the Zipp around the house.

Apple fans can still stream via AirPlay (setup is easy with the free Libratone app or via USB), or use Libratone’s PlayDirect option. This generates a network between the speaker and your smart device so you can stream without Wi-Fi. It’s simple to set up, and we preferred its stability to that of AirPlay.

The cherry on top is that you can play music via USB while it charges your device. Other speakers only charge, but that extra feature makes a difference when you don’t want your smartphone to die. A 3.5mm input is also available for hardwiring other music players.

We applaud Libratone’s policy of catering for other operating systems.

The Zipp’s firmware update (available in the iOS app only; others can update via the internet or USB), paves the way to stream from all Android devices and Windows computers. And the set-up app is now available on the Google Play store, although there’s no version yet for Windows Phone 8. But there is a beta version of ‘Play To’ for Nokia phones that can be used to stream songs to the Zipp.

The Libratone app is more than just an AirPlay setup tool. The FullRoom Optimization mode is good for tweaking the Zipp’s sound according to its surroundings, including customising the parameters for if it’s placed on the floor, table, shelf or taken outdoors. We’d steer clear of the sound enhancements in the ‘Voicing’ section, though, as the EQ settings detract from the Libratone’s already well-balanced sound.

Fantastic sound

Style and connectivity aside, we wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about the Libratone Zipp if it didn’t deliver such a beautifully clear and open sound.

Whether you’re playing Led Zepp or classical piano, the Zipp delivers a confident performance that’s full of subtle detail and excellent timing. It’s lively and agile too, with a gentle, well-balanced presentation that’s lovely to listen to. Voices are nuanced and emotional, and the remarkably clear treble never sounds bright.

The way the Zipp spreads sound around the room is unmatched by any of the other speakers here. It sounds far more open than the B&W or Cambridge Audio, for example, and its dynamic composure is impressive – going loud seamlessly without ever shouting at you or losing control. There’s a decent amount of weight to its performance too, although those wanting more attack and energy might prefer the JBL’s presentation.

However, only the Geneva Model S can give the Zipp a run for its money when it comes to absolute insight.

It ticks all the boxes

Libratone has hit the jackpot with the Zipp. Catering to both Android and Apple users is a smart move, and it sets the standard for wireless speakers with its easy portability and customisable design. It looks gorgeous, it’s versatile, and it sounds lovely.

Rating ★★★★★

FOR: Clear, agile and detailed sound; top-class design and build; versatile and portable

AGAINST: Some might prefer more punch and bass; battery life could be longer

VERDICT: Stylish, portable, and full-featured, the Zipp will keep you endlessly entertained

NEED TO KNOW

Consider if you want a stylish speaker that’s easy to listen to.

Make sure it’s charged before going portable — it lasts just 4 hours.

Avoid using AirPlay if your Wi-Fi network isn’t stable — use PlayDirect instead.

You’ll need the Libratone app to set up the speaker and access EQ settings.

Highlight wonderful detail and a balanced, open sound. Not to mention colourful, swappable covers!

Living with it. Take it outside.

The Zipp adds portability to its list of features, although we wish the battery lasted longer than four hours. The Sony SRS-BTX500 lasts six, but we can’t see ourselves taking the Zipp too far from our garden for fear of attracting dirt.

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