Libratone have been making quite an impression lately with their speakers. Having previously looked at the compact Zipp and the mammoth Lounge respectively, my attention was turned this week to the Live, a speaker that again reflects the company’s love for design and audio quality.
It’s clear that Libratone designs its speakers to make a statement. And that statement is “stop what you’re doing and look at me”. Like the Zipp and Lounge, the Live’s design sports clean lines and finishes, and is once again lovingly wrapped in a wool/cashmere cover that comes in a variety of eye-catching colors. I do have to comment that in the two weeks that I was using the Live (placed on the floor), the cover did seem to pick up quite a bit of dust and dog hair as it was placed in an area with fairly high foot traffic. A quick swipe with a lint-roller did pull everything away, so every so often it’s advised to do this in order to keep your cover clean.
What makes the Live different from other speaker systems is certainly its shape. The triangular design may seem an odd shape for a speaker, but it’s this design that helps the Live to properly direct (and reflect) sound off nearby surfaces for a more fuller acoustic experience.
Like the Lounge, the Live features only a power button and 3.5mm audio port at the back, and a small circular button on the front which you use to power on or set up the speaker. I really, really wish that Libratone adds volume and navigation controls to their next model of speakers, because everything is controlled by whatever device you pair or connect the speaker to. There’s a large chrome carry handle at the back which is a bit odd, since the Live wasn’t designed to be a portable speaker – there’s no rechargeable battery pack, so it’s always going to be tethered to a power outlet.
As mentioned before, the Live sports a 3.5mm port at the back so you can connect it to your TV or music player. But Libratone’s mantra has been “…releasing the audio experience from the chains of wires”, and this is ideally how they would like you to use their speakers. Like other Libratone speakers, the Live can operate in two modes. The first mode lets you use the speaker via AirPlay – simply connect it to your wi-fi network using the free iOS or Android app, and you’ll be able to see it on your iOS or DLNA-compatible devices.
The second operating mode is called PlayDirect, which turns your Live into a wi-fi hotspot so you can skip through the hassles of connecting the speaker to a wi-fi network in order to use it. The PlayDirect feature works really well for when you’re moving the Live to another location and need to quickly get it up and running to stream some music.
It’s again worth mentioning that as with its other speakers, the Libratone Live works best when configured via the free app. From within the app you can adjust the speaker’s position as well as the type of music being played back, in order to properly utilize the speaker’s FullRoom technology. Despite it’s triangular shape being perfect for placement in the corner of a room, Libratone in fact don’t recommend setting up the speaker this way, and instead suggest setting it up a short distance from a wall or on a shelf. It may take a bit of time for you to find the speaker’s ‘sweet spot’ in terms of placement, but it’s well worth the effort.
The Libratone Live is certainly a looker, but how does it sound? Given its suspiciously average size, the Live can actually get quite loud (especially when placed near a wall). I cycled through a number of tracks from my iTunes, covering everything from classical music, opera, rock, dance, and a fair bit of pop. For most of the songs, the audio quality was crisp and pristine, with orchestral pieces probably sounding the best. Piano solos were given new life – I could almost hear the hammers in the piano lifting and descending to strike each note, it was that crisp. Similarly, tracks with a heavy bass line did not disappoint, and neither did songs with a lot of vocals. I do have to note that for each song that I played, I selected a corresponding audio present in the Libratone app, and it seemed that this had a rather profound effect on what was being played. One thing that I did notice as tracks got louder is that the Live’s DSP kicks in to automatically adjust the volume so that you don’t damage the drivers. It’s a precautionary measure of course, but if you’re looking to shake the room (literally) at max volume, then you’ll find that the Live falls a few paces behind. Yes, it does push out enough audio to fill a room, but at max volume you’ll notice a slight distortion as the DSP takes over.
The Libratone Live continues the company’s efforts to deliver an impressive audio experience in a stylish manner, sitting squarely in between the portable Zipp and cinema-style Lounge. It’s still a great speaker that on its own can impressive even the most cynical listener. When paired with the free app, the hunt for the best speaker placement and position becomes a critical task that should be carried out to enjoy the best the Live has to offer. While minor distortion can occur at very high volumes, the Live is a pricey yet sleek addition to any room in your house.