The first Libratone speaker I remember testing was the company’s debut product from 2011, an AirPlay sound bar called the Lounge that mounted on the wall. After that there were other speakers, all covered in cloth, all rather large, and offering premium sound. There was the Loop, the Live, and the smaller, portable Zipp. Now, Libratone has redesigned the Zipp from the inside out, and the speaker is currently the company’s only product. Libratone doesn’t sell any of those old, big speakers anymore—just portables. Consider this a rebirth, I guess.
The new Zipp is small, cylindrical, and battery-powered, all things that are very much in vogue. The speaker actually comes in two sizes, the 10-inch tall Zipp ($ 299) and the 8.8-inch tall Zipp Mini ($ 249). Both have little leather straps for handles, and both are covered in cloth. In fact, you can buy additional mesh cloth covers for $ 29 each, and you just (yep) zip them on.
This portable boombox has a couple of cool tricks that set it apart from other wireless speakers. First, you can link up to six speakers together via Wi-Fi and place them around the house to spread out the sound. You can make them all play the same music, or play different tracks in each room and control it all from a single phone app, sort of like Sonos. Second, it supports multiple wireless options: you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker, or (once you connect it to your Wi-Fi network using Libratone’s app) you can stream music via AirPlay, DLNA, or Spotify Direct.
Great sound for a small speaker. Inside the larger Zipp, there’s a 100-watt Class D amp, a 4-inch woofer, two 1-inch tweeters, and two 4-inch passive radiators. These are all placed around the face of the cylinder so the sound spreads out in a circle. It gets very loud, and while some small speakers sound like a car horn when you crank them, the Zipp sounds pretty natural at higher volumes. I played a lot of bass-heavy jams (Erykah, Nicola Cruz, Peter Tosh) and the little thing really thumps. The Zipp Mini (60 watts, 3-inch woofer, and one tweeter) doesn’t sound nearly as good, and I can’t recommend it—spend the extra $ 50 and get the bigger one. App makes connecting to your Wi-Fi network easy. Battery lasts longer than the quoted 10 hours; more like 12 in my testing at moderate volume. Also the speaker can charge your phone via a USB port in the base.
The on-board controls are a mess. All interactions—changing volume, skipping tracks, linking multiple speakers together, favoriting songs—are accomplished via a big button on the top. There’s a capacitive metal ring on the outside of this button that you run your finger around to change the volume, but it’s garbage. Swipes and taps simply would not register half the time. One thing that does work is the “Hush” feature: hold your hand over the button for a second and the sound mutes. But that’s not enough to make me feel better. I wound up using my phone for skipping songs and changing volume, which is actually just fine because that’s how most people interact with a wireless speaker anyway. Charging is accomplished with a proprietary, wall-wart-style charger. This means you have another chunk of plastic to pack with you on vacation, and it means you can’t charge it with a USB cable like every other gadget in your home.
6/10 Nice sound, nice features, but tough to really love.