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Monday, April 16, 2012
Review - Libratone Live - Airplay Speaker
Review - Libratone Live - Airplay Speaker

The Libratone Live speaker is maybe not so well known due to its high price tag. The Airplay Wireless Speaker is geared towards an audience which cares about both quality in design and sound. The speaker has a minimalistic Scandinavian look which stands out great in any modern living-room.

After unpacking the speaker we were a bit surprised about its size, it was actually a bit smaller than perceived on the photos on the Libratone site but big enough to impress. The Libratone site says that the speaker is build with wood, chrome and cashmere but we see that it has a white plastic top that could have been of some better material. Also there is no wood to be discovered by us.

libratone Live airplay speaker ios iPhone 4S

Booking.com

The Libratone speaker is advised to be placed near a wall so the sound can reflect off the walls to give it a 360 degree audio experience. We have placed it diagonal in a corner with glass behind it and a statue-foot on its side which is not really advices by the manufacturer.

Features

Let us review the features of the Libratone Live and why this might be an interesting speaker.

Airplay
There is no remote control in the box and that is because it is handled by iOS devices. Also any device that runs iTunes 10.1 and above can be connected. The music is streamed over the air from your iPhone towards the speaker. It consumes more bandwidth than you might expect. Our tests shows 1 Mbit/s and above transfers. A good WiFi router with the fast 802.11 g/n WLAN standards is advised especially if you are doing a lot of cloud syncing (iTunes Match to name something) with all your iOS devices besides.

Fullroom™
Inside the cabinets there are five units each driven by dedicated audiophile amplifiers and each dedicated to spreading sound in a specific direction. This setup means that the system both spreads the sound and encapsulates you in it instead of pushing the sound waves in one direction - forward like conventional speakers do.

libratone Live airplay speaker ios iPhone 4S


HiFi
High-end components such as ribbon-based tweeters along with digital signal processing and digital amplification gives you premium sound. Apple Lossless technology ensures a perfect transfer because of the speed it can be decoded by limited-power devices such as iOS. For your information, lossless does not mean uncompressed full quality but the Codec encapsulates the audio data in a MP4 container with an average compression of 40-60 percent.

Portability
The speaker has a handle to carry it around and makes it portable. Do not forget that it still needs a power socket to function and it does not support batteries which qualifies it as limited portable.

Ease of use and setup
Just make sure that the Libratone Live Speaker is turned on all the time and press play on your iOS device to start streaming, that is all there is to do. The configuration is also very easy and nicely implemented. First you must make sure that your router is up and running and that it is broadcasting its name (SID). Plug in the speaker and wait until the button changes from pulsing yellow to fast red. Now open the WiFi network settings on your iPhone and select the Libratone network. Next-up open safari on the iDevice and type 192.168.1.1 and press enter. Now you are in the configuration Web app where you can change the name of the speaker and you will have to choose the network name of your home network with its associated password of course. Press apply and go for a coffee because the setup of the speaker can take 5 to 6 minutes. Once the speaker starts to emit white pulses you have done all correctly and the speaker is within good range of the WiFi Router. The last thing to do is to connect your iOS devices again to your home network and start the iPod app where you select the Airplay button on the bottom right and select the Libratone Live Speaker. That was easy not?

libratone Live airplay speaker ios iPhone 4S


Libratone App
To further optimize the sound quality with the placement of the speaker, Libratone has developed the Libratone App which can be downloaded for free. Just provide the application with the information on the placement of your speaker, how far are the neighboring walls, is it placed on a shelf or floor, and the application automatically adapts the settings on your Libratone Live Speaker to matchup the room. The app also features equalizer settings for the speaker as well as software updates for hardware.

First experience

After going through the setup as described above we started testing the sound quality. We invited some of our audiophile friends to impress. The speaker started to make unacceptable bad sound to our big disappointment which needed further investigation. What we failed to do is configuring the speaker with the Libratone App. Once information was inputted the speaker started to play very good quality music which also impressed audiophiles, so do not make the same mistake like us.

With a big smile on our face we invited some other friends to come over and have a look at this beauty. While everyone was eager to hear the top quality product, the speaker was not reachable suddenly anymore. Restarting did not help and some guys where already leaving while we where impatiently trying all kind of tricks to the system to work again to no avail. We opened a ticket at Libratone and provided them with all the necessary network configurations. They promise to respond in 24 hours / Business Hours which was the case.

Return to Apple Store

The product was bought in the Apple Store and several frustrating calls later we got our RMA number for returning the package and an apologize from the Store Quality Manager who promised that we would get better service and a little discount next time.

What now?

The next day the speaker started working again. How was that possible? Maybe we were overloading the WiFi router at the time of the test because iTunes Match was heavily active also at the time. In some Apple forums we found out that several other users got positive results turning off QoS (Quality of Service which can favor for example VOIP over streaming video) on their router. Also some users report that changing the router from mixed mode to 802.11 g or n only worked for them, but in this case make sure that all your other devices support the selected protocol. We decided to change the default WiFi channel the router was broadcasting on, to not interfere with neighboring networks. The WiFi Scanner tool from the Mac App Store helped us find out the channels which were not used yet.

The second day the Libratone Live Speaker was still working like a charm and now we are hesitating to return our beautiful speaker. Anyway we have around 10 days more to test until the official return policy period is over and with positive results it will definitively stay where it is.

The third day the speaker is pulsing red when we arrive home. How is that possible, nothing has changed? We try to set it up again but whatever we try the speaker is not reachable anymore, we can only connect to the web interface. Very frustrating to not find the cause of the issue. If it was a WiFi / Router issue then why we never have these problems with our AppleTV, Macbook Air, iPad 2, iPhone…

We contacted Libratone again and have emailed the screenshot below in which we prove that the speaker is in good WiFi range with the WiFi scanner tool, the sample is taken with the laptop next to the speaker. The courier is coming this Thursday to collect it for return to Apple.

We have a response in 48 hours stating the following;

If your router-name is Wireless – I read signal-strength RSSI to -45 which is very good!
Please confirm that the RSSI -45 was measured on speaker location.

When LED in logo button is pulsing white - the speaker is connected to your network but not receiving data.

Possible causes:
·      iDevice not within stabile reach of router
·      when streaming from the internet – failing internet connection
·      load on router

Have you performed a router restart? Have you tried with another router?

We replied that we have restarted many times and that the router is brand new (Cisco, former linksys) and is working fine with all of our devices except the Libratone. The problems remaining with the speaker are;

- disconnecting during use (either between songs as in the middle of a playing song)
- disconnecting when the speaker and/or the iPad/iPhone is in standby, after starting the ‘music app’ the Libratone has been disappeared

The courier has collected the Speaker and is on its way back to Apple.

wifi scanner result mailed to Libratone ios iPhone 4S

Summary

Libratone has kept its promise partly on the high quality finish except for the plastic white top which looks chrome on the site and the absence of wood, at least from the outside. The customer service seems to be okay, however because of the unpredictable behavior and the crash of the speaker makes this a negative recommendation of course. If any of our readers has better experience than us with the Libratone Live, please let us know in the comment section.

The Libratone Live speaker is competing directly with the B&O PLAY Beolit 12 (€ 699), Philips Fidelio SoundSphere (€ 799), Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (€ 599) and CeraAIR Two (€ 599).

Our rating: rating


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