Libratone Zipp Wireless Speaker Review

I first came across Libratone at the The Gadget Show earlier in the year where their colourful hi-fi speakers with interchangeable covers stood out against the more run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speakers. On the back of my interview, Libratone kindly sent me a Zipp, a portable wireless AirPlay speaker, to further my education in their products. Let’s take a look and a listen.

Libratone Zipp Box

The Libratone Zipp is very much fashioned in iStyle but takes a welcome break from monochrome with interchangeable coloured covers. The Zipp comes with three covers in the box from three collections and the supplied Zipp came with the “Funky collection” – pepper black, plum purple and pineapple yellow. Additional covers are £39 which may seem expensive but the covers aren’t felt or fleece, they’re Italian wool. Here’s the Zipp in its different clothes.

Libratone Zipp Magenta

Libratone Zipp Mustard Strap

Changing a cover is easy – just unzip the cover, carefully remove it, fit the the new cover and zip it back up. There’s a small frame which fits around the control panel but it clips in firmly and helps get everything lined up. The panel’s neatly hidden behind the leather carry strap.

Libratone Zipp Mustard Strap Up

As a wireless speaker, the Zipp uses wifi rather than Bluetooth to stream music and until relatively recently, you would have needed Apple products to use AirPlay. Android users can now join the party as the Zipp now provides a DLNA interface which several music apps now support including Robin Davies’ 2player, which I used for this review. Sadly, many don’t, including Spotify, which is a shame.

The speaker can work in two modes, DirectPlay and WiFi Play. In the first, the speaker creates its own little wifi hotspot and the smartphone or tablet connects to the hotspot. This mode is used both for initial configuration and for playing music away from home, say, at a friend’s BBQ. With the WiFi Play mode, the Zipp connects to the same wifi network as the music-playing device, which is the way you’d use the Zipp at home.

Setting up the Zipp is a little fiddly but otherwise straightforward and only needs to be done once. Libratone’s free app helps with this but the steps are broadly turn on the Zipp, connect to the Zipp’s wifi hotspot, enter the main wifi key and restart the Zipp. It’ll then connect up to the main wifi network and the speaker will be available for music output.

Libratone App 2player Erasure

Obviously the Zipp is only a single unit, although it has an amazing capacity to fill a room. Libratone have developed a set of acoustic tricks called “FullRoom” which let the Zipp’s tweeters and drivers expand the sound, but you need to tell the Zipp where it is in the room to take full advantage. The Libratone app helps with that too. You can hear the impact of some of the changes if you fiddle with the settings while music is playing but much of the change is subtle.

Voicing Position

In addition to setting the spatial characteristics, the type of music can be enhanced through preset equalisations such as “Easy Listening” and “Rock the House”.

Aside from the interchangeable covers, the other cool feature is that the Zipp is portable and has a built-in battery which Libratone says will last about 4 hours playing music over wifi and twice as long using a cable. I didn’t try running the Zipp very long from a lead but the time seems about right for wifi. The Libratone app helpfully shows the battery level so you know when to recharge. There’s a small bag included in the box but Libratone could do with a dedicated Zipp carrying bag as it’s heavy to lug around – it’s portable but it’s not a travel accessory.  I liked the liberty that this gave as I moved the Zipp between rooms and was able to have music in rooms that didn’t normally have sound without using headphones.

Libratone Zipp Panel Libratone Zipp Top Control

The pictures above show the panel on the side and the top-mounted controller. The USB port on the side-panel can be used to power the music player (and for configuration when using Apple devices) when using the 3.5mm jack for the audio feed.

Generally the Zipp worked well. I did have the occasional problem with the Zipp not being recognised either as an output option in the 2player app or by the Libratone app when trying to change the FullRoom config. Usually a restart of either the app or the Zipp itself would sort it out but it’s a bit irritating when the dropout occurs halfway through an album. To be fair, the issue could lie with my wifi network or with the music app itself and I’ve no experience with other AirPlay devices for comparison. For now, it’s something to be aware of.

As a reminder, Android users needs to confirm that the apps that they want to use with the Zipp are AirPlay or DLNA-compatible. Unlike Bluetooth speakers, where the driver is at lower level and makes almost any app capable of outputting sound to a wireless speaker, the apps needs to be DLNA-aware to use the Zipp wirelessly. Searching the Play Store reveals several good apps that can be checked for full compatibility.

So….does the Zipp sound good? In short, it’s very impressive with music retaining clarity and detail even at higher volumes and the Zipp has a surprising amount of volume for such a small unit. Obviously any single speaker unit is going to be lacking in comparison with hi-fi separates but the Zipp knocks into a cocked hat any of the speaker docks that I’ve heard. Finally, it’s absolutely, definitely the best portable speaker that I’ve ever listened to. At GB£369, it’s not cheap but if you have a bijou pad that needs filled with sound, you should give the Zipp a listen. It looks great too.

Thanks to Libratone for the loan of the Zipp.

Tego Power Portable Speaker and Power Grid for Travelers

CERA Wireless Portable Speaker Tego PowerTego Power has two portable products that may be very useful for people who will be doing some traveling this summer. The CERA Wireless Portable Speaker is a small speaker with a big sound. The Power Grid offers on-the-go charging for mobile devices.

The CERA Wireless Portable Speaker boasts version 3.0 Bluetooth Technology. It offers superior sound quality from up to 33 feet away. It is possible to daisy chain multiple CERAs that will all play at the same time. Voice notification informs the user when CERA powers on, enters paring mode, and when the pairing is complete.

Each speaker weighs just 5.5 ounces. They come in red, black, or white. You can buy a three-pack for maximum value (and choose any combination of colors). CERA can achieve up to 7 hours of playback with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. These colorful portable speakers have an illuminated touch control panel that intuitively displays playback options.

Tego also has a Power Grid. It can automatically charge devices once they are connected to it. This 4,200 mAh dual output power bank can fully charge a smartphone twice and can be connected to multiple devices. It automatically powers off when it has not been in use for more than seven seconds. It has integrated LED lights that indicate the charge level.

The Power Grid comes in black, pink, green, and blue. You can purchase them in a three-pack (with any color combination) for maximum value. Each Power Grid has twin USB ports to accommodate two devices at the same time. You can also connect the Power Grid to a wall outlet so that it can charge itself as well as two additional devices.

Libratone Speakers at The Gadget Show

Danish audio specialists Libratone are relative new kids on the block, being established in 2009/10, but they’re making a strong impression with their colour co-ordinated hi-fi wireless speakers. I took the opportunity to learn more about Libratone’s range from Tom at The Gadget Show.

Libratone Speakers

Libratone ZippLibratone works with both Apple and Android devices supporting a range of protocols, including AirPlay, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA, Libratone has four models in the range;
– the Lounge, a soundbar to go below a flatscreen TV
– the Zipp, a cylindrical speaker which is both AC and battery powered
– the Loop, a freestanding or wall-mounting round speaker
– the Live, a freestanding three-sided dipole speaker

All the speakers have removable covers that can be changed to suit the decor, either fitting in discreetly or standing out as a feature. Although it’s difficult to assess the audio quality in an exhibition hall, the demo I heard was suitably impressive and if you are in the market for this kind of product, I would definitely give them a listen.

BRAVEN Shows off the BRV-X Outdoor Speaker System at CES

BRAVEN-logoBRAVEN is showing off it’s new Outdoor speaker system at the 2014 International CES this week in Las Vegas. The BRV-X is touted as “The First True Outdoor Speaker” featuring an exclusive outdoor listening setting that maximizes sound quality and volume in open-air environments. The BRV-X is IPX5 water-resistant rated (which means it was tested with water projected by a nozzle (6.3 mm) against enclosure from all directions with no harmful effects for up to 15 minutes). It also features a Noise Canceling mic for taking bluetooth calls.

bravenSpeaker

The BRV-X can even charge USB Devices with an integrated power bank. You can pair a second BRV-X using TrueWireless™ Technology for true left and right stereo sound.

“The BRV-X’s proprietary settings rearrange the frequency of the audio to achieve the best sound in both indoor and outdoor environments,” stated Andy Fathollahi, Chief Executive, BRAVEN. “Different from any other self-proclaimed outdoor speaker in the market, the BRV-X is fine-tuned to its surroundings, guaranteeing crisp, clear and loud audio in any location.”

brv-x

At this time there is no Pricing or Availablity information. See http://www.braven.com/ for information and annoncements about BRAVEN.

Logitech z50 Multimedia Speaker Review

Logitech LogoWith a few notable exceptions, the speakers on most mobile devices aren’t up to much, limiting any chance of an impromptu party rocking out to Spotify’s top 100. An external speaker is needed for bigger sound and the Logitech z50 Multimedia Speaker might be the answer. Coming in hot pink, sky blue and, err, boring grey, the z50 is intended to be fun without costing a fortune. Let’s take a look and a listen.

The Logitech z50 is shaped a little like a flower pot, with the speaker driver facing upwards rather than horizontally towards the listener. The picture doesn’t really show it, but the speaker is tilted at a slight angle and isn’t pointing straight up. On the more colourful versions, the grey band at the bottom is pink or blue.

Logitech z50 speaker

The z50 connects to the sound source via a stereo 3.5 mm jack rather than any wireless technology and is powered via DC jack. There’s no option for batteries which is slightly surprising to me.

Logitech z50 Speaker.jpg

Enough of how it looks, how does it sound? I wasn’t expecting much from the z50 but it definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s quite loud when cranked up to full volume and the sound quality is good in the mid-range. Songs similar to Lianne La Havas’ Au Cinema still captivate, but Adele’s Skyfall sounds flat, failing to project the fuller range. It’s not unexpected with a speaker of this size and weight, but the bottom line is that the z50 sounds better than all the smartphones, tablets and laptops that I’ve ever heard.

Overall, I think that the z50 sounds good for the price but I feel that not having a battery-powered option restricts its appeal. The z50 would be perfect for moving round the house, taking on holiday or camping but needing a power adaptor limits its usefulness. The ideal solution would be a battery unit that took a couple of C cells and clipped to the bottom of the z50, giving power and sound on the go. This gripe aside, it’s a fun speaker.

The Logitech z50 Multimedia Speaker is available from Logitech and other retailers for GB £17.99 or US $19.99. Thanks to Logitech for the loan of the z50.

Loop by Libratone Named CES Honoree

Libratone_Loop_PassionPink_Window-1Libratone has been named an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree for their Loop wireless speaker. It is an effective speaker that is in a unique, circular, shape.

Loop is a wireless speaker that delivers 360 degree stereo sound with the convenience of wireless Airplay and DLNA streaming. It does not require a Wi-Fi router. Instead, it uses Libratone’s PlayDirect technology.

One of the things that immediately caught my attention about this speaker is its shape. It is a round, disk shaped, speaker that comes in a variety of colors. The covers are made of Italian wool. Loop comes in either Pepper Black, Salty Grey, or Raspberry Red. Other colors, like Pineapple Yellow, Passion Pink, Plum Purple, or Icy Blue, are sold separately.

CEO of Libratone North America, Greg Stein, said:

“The nomination of the Loop marks the third year in a row that a wireless speaker in the Libratone family has been recognized by the Consumer Electronics Association for outstanding design and engineering. Past honorees include the portable Zipp and the Live speaker. We are thrilled that the Loop has been named an honoree in this year’s Innovation Awards and look forward to showcasing it at CES.”

Will you be at CES? The Loop will be on display at Libratone’s booth, #6275 in the North Hall for CES 2014. It will also be among the Honorees displayed at CES Unveiled: The Official Media Event from 4:00 to 7:00 pm on Sunday, January 5, 2014, in the South Seas Ballroom C at Mandalay Bay.

Melody by Soundcast Named CES Honoree

soundcastmelodySoundcast Systems has announced that it has been named as an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree for its Melody by Soundcast portable Bluetooth speaker system. It is in two product categories: Portable Media Players and Accessories.

Melody by Soundcast has an omni-directional 360° 8-speaker design. It offers high-quality sound with a deep bass. You can get 20+ hours of uninterrupted use with its internal rechargeable battery system. It has the latest v3.0 Bluetooth and AAC/ Apt-X codecs. Use it to stream music from your own library or from Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, iTunes, TuneIn and other apps from both Apple and PC devices.

Melody by Soundcast has a weather resistance case. It also has a built in handle that makes it easy to carry to wherever you want to listen to music at. I can see where it would be really useful at an outdoor or backyard party.

Mike Weaver, president of Soundcast, stated: “The entire Soundcast team is honored beyond measure to receive the prestigious 2014 Innovations Honoree Award for our new Melody portable Bluetooth speaker system.”

The 2014 International CES will run from January 7, 2014 through January 10, 2014. It takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada. Those of you who are attending can check out Soundcast’s Melody in The Venetian Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Pavilion, where it will be on display.

UGO Makes Little Speakers with Big Sound

UGO SpeakerI had the opportunity to check out these cute, colorful, speakers in person yesterday. This was completely unexpected, because the place I found the UGO speakers at was a Strawberry Festival. That isn’t the type of event where one would expect to find anything tech related. (The festival did live up to its name, however, and had plenty of desserts that were filled with some of the biggest strawberries I’d ever seen).

The name of the company is UGO (which is pronounced “you- go”). They were among the many booths of vendors at the festival. What immediately caught my attention about them was that I could hear the music that was playing through the little speaker from several feet away over the noise from the crowd. I can see where having just one UGO speaker would work well for a person to use at home (or wherever else they decide to go).

UGO speakers come in six different colors: pink, blue, red, purple, black, yellow, and silver (as shown in my photo). The UGO mini-speaker costs $39.95, and the UGO Bluetooth Wireless Mini-Speaker costs $129.95.

Each has a micro SD slot. You can load your favorite songs onto a Micro SD card, insert it into the UGO speaker, and the speaker itself becomes your music player. It also has a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. The website says it has a 30′ (9.14m) range in which the sound will carry. UGO offers a 12-month manufacturer guarantee. The vendor at the UGO booth at the Strawberry Fest said that the UGO Bluetooth Wireless Mini-Speaker can be used with any Bluetooth enabled device.

Vivick’s Latest Gadgets

Vivick HeadphonesCanadian firm Vivick produce a wide range of gadgets, covering everything from iPhone cases, laptop accessories and AV gear. Andy and Scott look at three of the latest products.

On show from Vivick is anLED desk lamp speaker that can be driven via Bluetooth but wouldn’t look out of place on the set of a 70s sci-fi movie. Continuing the theme, they had a Bluetooth headset which looked a bit more up-to-date but I can’t comment on the sound quality. Finally, they showed off a combo-laptop / USB rechargeable battery which had some really good design ideas. It seems to be a brand new product as it doesn’t yet feature on their website, but if you are a battery hogging traveller, keep an eye out for it.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live for the TechPodcast Network, who should be commended for keeping the interview going.

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Underneath The Pringles Tree

PringlesPringles are running a Pringles Tree competition in December and each day you can open a virtual Pringles can to reveal the prize within. The prizes are inexpensive but there seems to be a good chance of winning as I’ve picked up a Pringles Speaker and a voucher for 7digital already. Other prizes include on-line games and receipes.

The Pringles Speaker arrived yesterday and it’s much better than I expected. The idea is that the speaker is inserted into the top of a Pringles tube once the contents have been munched. Powered by three AAA batteries (supplied), the sound quality and output is surprisingly good. For sure it’s not hifi and the bass isn’t great but for an impromptu party, it’s perfect. Plug in your mp3 player or smartphone and away you go.

Pringles Speaker

There’s 11 days left of Pringles Tree. Get popping, though it looks like this promotion is for UK residents only.