It’s a cat scratching post, or is it a posh speaker? That’s the question Libratone practically asks of you when the box is opened on the Libratone Lounge, a wireless speaker that’s likely to get the attention of people after premium sound with a unique design.
Easily one of the biggest wireless speakers we’ve had at GadgetGuy, the Libratone Lounge is a one metre long speaker weighing 12 kilograms and housing 150 watts of amplification power, and an eight-inch inverted woofer, two four-inch ceramic mid-range tweeters, and two one-inch ribbon based tweeters.
With a glossy white chassis made of wood housing the speakers and a grill covered in Italian cashmere wool, the Libratone Lounge is certainly one of the more elegant and fashionable speakers we’ve seen, even if it does look a little like something a cat may take advantage of.
Libratone claims its speakers take advantage of a technology the company has engineered called “FullRoom”, designed to send sound waves in multiple directions similar to how instruments work. This concept is designed to yield a completely immersive sound experience, offering a full 360 degrees of sound.
Plugging a source into the Lounge is a little different from your regular speaker, with only three forms of input available: optical, analog, and wireless.
Optical and analog work exactly the way you’ll expect, with a small 3.5mm jack allowing you to plug an audio source directly in and the cables enclosed in the box.
The other way of sending audio to the Lounge is by taking advantage of wireless and setting the speaker up on your wireless network, logging in by connecting to it directly and getting the speaker’s software to connect to the wireless network.
Once it’s connected, you can send music to the speaker using pretty much any Apple iProduct connected to the same wireless network, or with iTunes on a Mac or PC. Simply hit the AirPlay button and select the right speaker, with the volume controlled by the device in question.
Overall, the sound is bright, with strong mids and highs. Testing it with a range of music, we found that jazz tracks such as the Miles Davis “All Blues” and a live recording of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” sounded warm with nice acoustics.
Switching over to more popular music – some Daft Punk, Muse, Bruce Springsteen – you can hear some sharp sounds, but the bass sometimes feels a bit lacking, with a much more hollow sound than we expected.
The good news is that the sound is as directional as Libratone claims, with strong sound in either direction, but an obvious reduction in volume when you’re not immediately in front of the speaker.
Libratone does feature an app for the iPhone (iPad compatible) allowing you to change the “voicing” of the sound, effectively playing with a form of EQ that defines bass and treble different depending on what you’re listening to.
We had the best luck with the “live concert” mode, bringing the bass to life provided we pumped up the sound. Certainly from our testing, this setting provided the most balanced sound, especially in comparison with leaving the speaker on its “neutral” default setting.
With a recommended retail price of $1599, we’re not game enough to say that the Libratone Lounge is worth the asking price, even with its wireless control. It’s certainly a cool concept, but if you ignore the wireless control, you could easily get better sound out of competing sound bars with half the weight.
In fact, we’d hazard a guess that by connecting a decent amplifier package to an Apple TV – a device which supports AirPlay – you’d be able to do the exact same thing, and probably for a lot less money.
Pet owners may find themselves with a few problems too, as the product really does look and feel like a cat-scratch post, thanks to the fuzzy wool covering.
To its credit, Libratone does include a wall mounting plate in the box, making it easier to mount the 12 kilogram speaker and take it off the floor, but it’s worth pointing out that any curious kitten will still probably take a stab and play with this fuzzy-feeling speaker.
Still, with rumours pointing to a change in Apple’s docking connector, the wireless AirPlay functionality does make the Libratone Lounge a more desirable way of sending music directly from your iDevice, especially since you can keep using the phone or tablet while music is playing.
At $1599, however, there are less expensive ways of making this happen, especially if you’re already an Apple aficionado.