My house is full of speakers from brands you’d easily recognize (Bose) and those you wouldn’t (Revo), but one of my new favorites is from a Scandinavian company called Libratone. More specifically, it’s the Libratone ZIPP, a speaker I feel is a good match for designers and creative types and anyone who gets tired of black, unchanged objects in their environment.
While the bright, customizable design is, in my opinion, the Libratone ZIPP’s standout feature, I’m going to start by talking about the sound quality and capability since nobody wants to look at a cool speaker whose sound is ugly.
I’d call the Libratone ZIPP’s sound clear. That might be an overused word when it comes to speaker reviews, but it’s the best fitting in this situation. Acoustic guitar sounds incredible; I seem to be able to hear the minutest detail to the point where a song with multiple musical textures, like Mat Kearney’s Let It Rain, seems to come alive in unexpected ways.
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The bass coming from the Libratone is deep but not boastful. It’s there but it won’t rattle objects on your desk, for instance (in case you were wondering). But I’d call it enjoyable; not overpowering and rich enough to matter. But know that this isn’t a bass beast.
I appreciate the circular design of the ZIPP as it pumps out sound in all directions, whereas other speakers seem to be destined to sit on a bookshelf or counter top and aim in one particular direction. Plus it just looks cool; it’s not a rectangular box and really like that.
So the sound is very good, but perhaps not quite as good as the Bose SoundTouch.
But the Libratone beats the Bose (and so many other speakers) in terms of looks. Unlike most wireless speakers, the ZIPP is meant to be seen AND heard. I’m a colorful soul and I appreciate a speaker that’s as aesthetically loud as the music I play on it. The ZIPP gets it’s name from it’s distinct ability to zip on/off felt-like covers in a variety of cool hues (14 to be exact). That makes it the most customizable speaker I’ve run across; and I love this aspect of it.
Changing the color covers is pretty simple, though it takes a bit of getting used to. It’s one thing to zip up a jacket that’s on you; but if you’ve ever tried to zip up another person’s jacket (like a young kid’s), that’s a bit like zipping a new color onto the ZIPP. But it’s not much of a hassle and it’s well worth the minute or two invested in swapping out one color for another; again, what other speaker lets you do anything remotely close?
Right out of the box, the Libratone ZIPP comes with a few different colors you can choose from including black, red and a turquoise-green (at least in my box). The other 11 colors are available on Libratone’s website.
As advertised, the ZIPP is very portable. It’s larger than many “portable” wireless speakers, but small enough that it’s convenient to bring with you to another part of your house or our and about. I’ve reviewed plenty of speakers that are much smaller than the ZIPP—but the smaller you get, the less capable the speaker. Just like I mentioned earlier that you wouldn’t want a speaker that looks good but sounds ugly, you also wouldn’t want a “portable” speaker that sounds bad; that wouldn’t be much of a speaker at all. So I feel like the ZIPP is truly portable in that it’s small enough—yet robust enough—to take with you.
The ZIPP is very minimalistic when it comes to physical buttons; there is a round button surrounded by a ring (thing original iPod track wheel minus the touch ability) which controls the volume (up/down). On the back of the device (or side I guess—circles don’t really have “backs”) there are two more buttons used during setup; one for activating the WiFi and another for settings. There are also two ports: a standard USB port and an audio-in port. There is no screen—but you can interact via the Libratone app.
I will admit that setup of the speaker using the Libtratone app was a bit cumbersome, but then again most speakers that I’ve tested are as they have a focus on sound engineering rather than user experience design. But once it is setup, it’s good to go—I haven’t had to do any tinkering with settings since the initial setup and everything has worked brilliantly since then.
In conclusion I would say that this is one awesome speaker with very clear sound that is portable without making big sacrifices in sound quality/capability. It may very well be the best speaker for designers of all shades—I know I really appreciate it’s bold aesthetic and the splash of color the ZIPP adds to my work environment. This is certainly not a run-of-the-mill speaker; I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a stylish AirPlay/WiFi speaker.