A Review of Libratone Zipp and Zipp Mini AirPlay

Evaluating Libratone Zipp and Zipp Mini Bluetooth Speakers

Libratone Zipp
Libratone Zipp AirPlay and Bluetooth wireless speakers. Libratone

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Forget the USA vs. Russia. When it comes to constant one-upmanship, the feverish competition in the high-end wireless speaker space is the new arms race. It’s a race made even more heated with the preponderance of smartphones and tablets such as the iPhone and iPad. Thanks to the advent of AirPlay, Bluetooth and cloud streaming, many consumers are opting for wireless speakers with smaller footprints for the sake of convenience and portability.

It’s a space usually dominated by older brands such as Bose and newcomers like Beats, though it isn’t without its share of aspiring usurpers. Back in 2012, Libratone released the Zipp, a speaker sporting a cylindrical design and unique, colorful wool covers to set it apart from the competition. Fast forward to today and we have the latest iteration of the speaker, which comes in two flavors, the regular Zipp ($299) and smaller Zipp Mini ($249).

If there’s one thing Libratone’s Zipp speakers excel at, it’s overall design. Both sport a premium feel, thanks to their nice look and well thought out interface. Physically, the Zipp design is clean, featuring nice lines and curves along with Libratone’s trademark fabric cover, which comes in a variety of colors. They also continue with their predecessor’s vertical tower profile, a design choice that comes with two advantages. 

One is a smaller footprint at its base compared to the horizontal boxes of such competitors as the Wren V5AP and Sonos S5.

Another is its conduciveness to implement the 360-degree coverage that is built into the Zipp design. This gives it more flexibility than the limited direction of, say, a traditional front-facing speaker, and is a great way to strategically fill up a space with sound.

I have a large house that spans multiple spaces with open walls, for example, and plopping Zipp speakers in between these openings allows me to get great coverage from my formal living room to the family room and all the way to the kitchen.

The ability to link multiple Zipp speakers is certainly a welcome feature, allowing you to stream the same audio across multiple rooms. I was able to do this by linking the Zipp and Zipp Mini I tested together via the Libratone app, which allows them to mirror each other wirelessly.

This works whether you’re using AirPlay, Bluetooth or even physically connecting an MP3 player like the Sansa Clip+ to one of the speakers, which then streams the sound to the other speaker. You can also directly stream up to five stations from the speaker without a device. Syncing the speakers to your smartphone via Bluetooth lets you take calls with them like a speakerphone as well.

Interface is also quite good, with Libratone managing to squeeze in all inputs into a touch-enabled circle on top of the speakers. It almost acts like an advanced version of Apple’s old click wheel for its iPod. Swiping clockwise, for example, increases the speaker’s volume while going counterclockwise lowers it.

One nice feature is the ability to mute sound via the “Hush” feature by touching the wheel and keeping your hand there in case you have to answer a call or talk to someone in the house, for example. Once you’re done, just let go and the sound comes back again.

The volume lights also double as power indicators. Quickly press the power button while the speaker is on and the indicators will light up to reveal how much of a charge you have left. Battery life is quite good, lasting up to 10 hours under ideal conditions.

Of course, the true measure of a speaker is its sound, and audio for the Zipp speakers are solid overall, at least for wireless speakers of their size. Sound is dynamic, featuring nice low end that isn’t overpowering. The speakers also can be pushed in terms of loudness, though audio quality can take a bit of a hit at max volume.

Personally, I think the speaker does best with electronic and hip hop genres, with songs like “White Iverson” by Post Malone, for example, sounding really good.

Performance of rock songs, on the other hand, can be mixed, especially at high volume. On the plus side, the Zipp still sounds good when used with the stock iPhone or iPad music player, which typically can sound a bit too flat with certain speakers.

Naturally, using a music player with an equalizer will be better, though. Audio is also improved when linking multiple speakers, which makes music sound more dynamic. This also allows you to take advantage of the SoundSpaces function of the Libratone app, which allows you to link up to six speakers together and fine tune how music is streamed around your house. Then again, this also can be an expensive proposition given the price for each speaker.

The Libratone Zipp and Zipp speakers excel in overall design, featuring an excellent look and interface that emphasizes convenience and portability. Sound is solid overall, featuring dynamic and immersive audio with 360-degree coverage, especially when pairing multiple speakers.

They might not satisfy some hardcore audiophiles who prefer larger, dedicated speakers but they sound good for wireless speakers their size and more than hold their own against similar entries by competitors such as Bose and Beats. Price admittedly can be an issue for cost-conscious folks. If you’re interested in the speakers but can only afford one, I recommend getting the regular Zipp for just $50 more than the Mini.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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