What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 9 Jul 2013, 11:49am

Libratone Live

Tested at £450
60100
3

Good with voices, but needs to perform to a much higher standard to be seen as a serious contender

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For

  • Cashmere finish
  • Striking looks
  • Expressive midrange
  • PlayDirect works with some phones and tablets

Against

  • Splashy, unrefined treble
  • Ill-defined, woolly bass
  • Relatively pricey

Jumpers? Yes. Scarves? Of course. Wireless speakers? Hmm. It’s not often we’d put cashmere and consumer electronics together, but the Libratone Live AirPlay speaker has managed it.

The Libratone Live stands over 47cm tall and towers over the opposition. Its triangular body is wrapped in a luxurious layer of cashmere and comes in five different finishes: Lime Green (pictured), Blood Orange, Slate Grey, Vanilla Beige and the seemingly confused Blueberry Black.

Libratone Live: design

Libratone Live

Besides AirPlay, you can also take advantage of PlayDirect: the Live can create its own network for you to stream through from your iOS device. If you want to use iTunes through a Windows or Apple laptop, you’ll need to open a browser window and access the set-up page where you can place the Live on your wireless home network.

Android and Windows-based smartphones and tablets aren’t left out either. Devices can connect using the Live’s built-in DLNA functionality, although you’ll need to check that yours has compatible software (visit www.libratone.com/DLNA for Libratone’s own recommendations).

A free control app sees you dipping in and out of your Apple device’s network settings during set-up, but it’s hardly a chore: the most complex part is making sure the logo button is glowing/pulsing the right colour for pairing and again for streaming.

Libratone Live: sound quality

Libratone Live

Once connected, the app’s main use switches to altering the sound to suit the speaker’s positioning. FullRoom Optimisation lets you tweak according to distance of the speaker from a rear or side-wall. This alters bass levels and the dispersion accordingly, but we never strayed too far from the ‘neutral’ setting.

Similarly with the ‘Voicing,’ option (a selection of different sound presets), we found neutral serves up the best balance. The Libratone Live speaker performed at its best in a little free space, well away from side-walls, in our experience.

In fact, even the manual states: “we don’t recommend you place Libratone Live in a corner”. You’ll see why when you peel off the front panel to be met with a rather interesting driver configuration: a front-firing five-inch bass driver, a three-inch midrange driver and a ribbon tweeter on each of the other two sides of the triangle.

Libratone Live

They fire out sideways and slightly behind the speaker, which gives a wide dispersion but also means the Live is quite sensitive in terms of positioning.

With 150W of power to call on, the Libratone Live goes loud and has no problem filing larger rooms, thanks to the wide dispersion from its drivers. Play Rita Ora’s Radioactive and the speaker showcases a very open and natural-sounding midrange. Her voice floats in a reasonably solid soundstage but you don’t have to sit right in front of the speaker to feel involved.

Problems exist more at the frequency extremes. Spin a bass-heavy track such as the classic Angel by Massive Attack, and there’s a lack of precision and solidity.

There’s decent weight, but definition of notes and differentiation between them are both missing. It leaves the Live sounding woollier than its Italian cashmere shroud.

Highs, on the other hand, have a tendency to stand out at the expense of the rest of the music. Play The Hives 1000 Answers and the hi-hats sound splashy and unrefined, grabbing your attention for all the wrong reasons.

Libratone Live: verdict

The Libratone Live isn’t unlistenable by any stretch, but there’s a lack of detail, finesse and refinement when stacked up against rivals such as the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 and Audio Pro Allroom Air One.

 

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