Braun bowed out of the home audio market in 1991, but the company has decided that now is the right time for a return, with its first audio offering in almost 30 years.
Wireless speakers must have seemed as futuristic as flying cars back in the early 1990s, yet the Braun Audio LE03 and its two other siblings in the company’s range (the LE01 and LE02) are based upon Braun speakers from even longer ago than that – though their forebears in 1959 were presumably much lighter on the technology.
Build and features
This current crop, of which the Braun Audio LE03 is the baby, is fully immersed in the Google ecosystem. That means Google Assistant with the use of the speaker’s onboard mics – far-field voice recognition ensures you’re heard from the other side of the room, while you can also turn the microphones off.
Google Chromecast is also built-in for easy wi-fi streaming, multi-room and stereo pairing possibilities via the Home app, too.
Not that you’re restricted to the Google network to achieve up to 24-bit/96kHz streaming, the LE03 also has Apple AirPlay 2 connectivity, Bluetooth 4.2 and a 3.5mm aux-in for physical tethering.
Bluetooth version 4.2
Inputs 3.5mm aux
Apple Airplay 2 Yes
Google Chromecast Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 17 x 17 x 8.4cm
Inside is a 4cm full-range Balanced Mode Radiator drive unit, which aims to produce non-directional sound and allow for great versatility in terms of positioning and orientation of the speaker. That is combined with a 9cm aluminium cone woofer and a 13cm x 8cm passive radiator to help this mid-size speaker put on a little extra weight.
Braun also provides its own app, where you can adjust controls for bass and treble, as well as opt for whichever environment setting best suits the location of the speaker. These are essentially profile presets, rather than the LE03 creating a bespoke EQ to complement your actual room, but useful nonetheless.
For an extra £169, you can also pair the LE03 with its pole floor stand. That’s quite an outlay, but it has a design nod to its 1950s predecessors, which is a nice touch given that the rounding off and modernisation of these speakers has sadly lost quite a bit of the character of the older ones. In truth, there’s little aesthetically to distinguish the LE03 from many of its competitors in a crowded market.
That lack of distinction carries over into the sonic performance too. The positive thing is that there’s not a huge amount to complain about – this isn’t a speaker that will have you jumping up to turn it off. It’s an easy listen, and that does still count for something when it comes to wireless speakers.
That’s thanks largely to a relatively full and engaging midrange, which is no doubt helped by the effort applied by Braun to beef up the low end. Certainly, if you want to hear this speaker at its best, it is about playing vocal-led recordings without much distraction from the tone or melody of the voice.
The LE03 isn’t bereft entirely of detail either – there is texture to that midrange and a decent amount of insight for a speaker this size. That applies elsewhere in the frequency range, but the problem is things there aren’t quite as sweet. Treble in particular is rather coarse and becomes harsher at higher volumes. There isn’t the richness you find in lower octaves.
The main issue, though, is how boxed-in the LE03 sounds. For a speaker claiming a wide-open, 180-degree soundfield, it’s really quite disappointing. And the more you have going on in the mix, the more cluttered it gets.
A less expansive soundstage can sometimes help in terms of focus or tying instruments together, but here it is just rather muddled. Organisation hasn’t gone completely out the window, but describing the presentation as tidy would be well wide of the mark.
That means rhythmically it is fairly unimpressive, too, and there isn’t much room for dynamic expression when a full orchestra is jostling for position in the mix. The price doesn’t help Braun much here, either, dropping the LE03 right in the mix with the superb Audio Pro Addon wireless multi-room speakers.
It’s a shame, because the return of Braun to the audio sphere could have been an exciting prospect. However, judging by the performance of the LE03 alone, those too young to remember Braun’s previous efforts are likely to assume that this is just another electronics manufacturer trying to muscle in on a congested wireless speaker market.
- Sound 3
- Features 5
- Build 5
Read our guide to the best wireless speakers
Read our Audio Pro Addon C10 review