Review: Libratone Zipp Bluetooth wireless speaker
Something to get your mind off tomorrow’s election and not take things too seriously for a few minutes, before you can return to panicking
The next two days will be hard to get and maintain the attention of TNM readers here in the States, so I have suspended guest columns and other features until Wednesday. No reason to fight it, there is another news story that will be dominating the news for the next 48 hours or so. (Let’s hope not longer than that.)
So, let’s talk product review. TNM isn’t on the list for tech gadgets, so here are some thoughts on some recent purchases:
Bluetooth speakers continue to evolve and become more popular. Amazon’s Echo is probably one of the leaders in this category, though the product is being marketed as much more than just a speaker for streamed music.
But the problem is that when buyers consider a purchase they should want the product to do one thing really well. For the Echo, that function is to act as a Bluetooth speaker first, unless they already have smart home devices already installed. I don’t.
I’ve had a number of speakers to work with my iPhone. The first was a Bose that had a cradle for my iPhone. It was purchased just before it became common for these speakers to use Bluetooth. It was nice, but then Apple went from its original sync port to the Lightning port and so another adapter was needed.
The next purchase was a Harmon Kardon One Portable speaker. It was not an upgrade in sound, but the little speaker did maintain a good Bluetooth connect, and for $99 it was a perfectly acceptable speaker for the bedroom or taking outside in a fairly quiet environment.
It did have two negatives, though. The first was that the sound volume was not flexible. Oddly, it was not high volume that was the problem, but low volume. Late at night, I would have to place it at its lowest setting. The second was that the sound, while OK, was not the best. But what would I expect from such a small speaker.
Before I get to the Libratone, I should mention that I have also purchase one of those levitating Bluetooth speakers. Maybe you’ve seen them, they always get quite a reaction. In reality, they are a gimmick, but a fun one. The speaker itself is a little ball that levitates over the magnetic base. That means to work it must be plugged, quite a disadvantage for a Bluetooth speaker. I gave mine away and I wonder if it is being used.
Before purchasing it I read a number of reviews, but it was a somewhat negative review that sold me. The reviewer said it was heavy compared to other portable speakers. Yes! Good sign.
As anyone who appreciates good audio knows, the woofer needs some weight to it, and the fact that the Zipp (there is a smaller Zipp mini) is a bit heavier is not a negative.
Libratone, like Apple, is good at packaging, and so when it comes you are impressed by the design of the box and its simple quick start manual.
The buyer needs to start with downloading the app for iPhone or Android. I have heard that the Android has bugs. The iOS app, too, has had some negative reviews, but the app was updated again on November 4 and so some of the bugs have been worked out. More on the app in a second.
After installing the app one simply plugs in the speaker, turns it on, and use the app to set things up. First one wants to get the WiFi settings right, then one can pair the speaker for Bluetooth. You can just depend on WiFi, but then again when you use the speaker outside your WiFi network you would need to reset the speaker. Better to depend on Bluetooth.
The speaker can play Spotify from the Cloud, as well as play Internet radio and other services. The app comes with 5 pre-set radio stations, but setting your own is easy, assuming you proceed slowly. One finds the new station in your app, then either sends it to the speaker for playing, or save it in Favorites. I got a little confused about this, but the online help is clear and eventually I added my favorite jazz station from Long Beach, the local Chicago news station, as well as others including a classical station I like from Strasbourg, France. This might get me to listen to radio again.
Now, nothing the Libratone Zipp does here is revolutionary. So, the important thing ends up being whether it improves on the two things I found weak in my previous speaker: sound and volume control, and the speaker passed with flying colors.
Many cite the Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth Speaker as the best sound, but the speaker is the size of a bread box, and costs around $350. The Libratone Zipp is $100 less, provides excellent sound, and comes it different colors. If sound is your only concern then you probably need to test out a number of speakers at your local audio store. But for me, the Libratone Zipp was a step up in quality, and puts out 100 watts of acoustic power.
As for that low-volume issue, that is solved. The app allows for a wide range, made even wider when you use the volume controls on your iPhone.
Battery life is said to be excellent, up to 10 hours, but I cannot confirm this yet. The speaker can also up used with up to five additional speakers (six total) for multi-room listening.
I recommend reading the review on Amazon, which are overwhelmingly positive, with one negative review likely due to a defective product which should have been returned.
Libratone is a Danish company which has a regional office in Santa Clara and a nice support site here.
Note: If any company wants to send me a product to review I’ll be happy to do so, especially automobiles. No product returns guaranteed, though.