Braun’s LE01 harks back to a bygone era in hi-fi – 1959, to be precise, when the German company launched its original LE speaker range. At 9kg (and that’s without the stand), the LE01 is the largest in the trio of reimagined LE speakers, which Braun initially teased in 2019 but brought to market a little later than planned, in November 2020 (no shame there, the pandemic was not kind to any of us).
But while its appearance harks back to 1959 – and it should be noted that this is Braun’s first foray back into the realms of home audio for 30 years – where the originals were passive, the new arrivals have been brought seamlessly up to date in the modern world thanks to the inclusion of multiple digital and wireless technologies.
Braun’s new LE speakers can be labelled wireless, multi-room and smart, thanks to Google Assistant voice control and Google Chromecast streaming at the core of their functionality – but you’re also getting AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth. Has Braun aced it for sound as well as flexibility? We’re about to find out.
The LE01 costs £1099 / $1299 / AU$2080. Buy a pair and they can be configured in Braun’s Audio app as a stereo pair if you flip them to portrait orientation, which will also require the purchase of two stands at £259 each (roughly $340/AU$460). Braun’s LE01 is £200 dearer than the Award-winning Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation, but £500 cheaper than the brilliant one-box Sonus Faber Omnia.
If Apple was to collaborate with a prominent brutalist architect to design a wireless speaker, the result might look something like Braun’s LE01. Our sample is white cool aluminium (a black colourway is also available) and its edges are curved in a probably subconscious nod to Apple, but there’s no denying the LE01’s resolutely block-like aesthetic.
The icy white enclosure is offset by a black fixed cloth speaker grille cover and supported by the included stainless steel custom feet – although these do not click in as securely as we had hoped and tend to come loose easily. We listen to it using both the bundled feet and the optional stand (purchased separately) in landscape mode across the course of our listening.
Streaming Wi-Fi, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
Inputs 3.5mm, Ethernet
Dimensions (hwd): Speaker: 27 x 70 x 9.9cm; Speaker with table top stand: 32 x 70 x 16cm
Across the top of the unit, on the right-hand side, eight circular buttons can be used to control playback, volume, mute its microphones, and initiate Bluetooth. Branding is demurely limited to the top left of the unit where you won’t see it most of the time – particularly if you position the LE01 on a cabinet with the supplied feet (which angle it slightly upwards) or using the stand.
Behind the cloth grille, the LE01 features a total of five drive units: two custom designed 13cm aluminium woofers, flanked by a trio of 6cm BMR drivers for mids and highs driven by three class-D power amplifiers. There’s also a pair of 20 x 11.5cm racetrack passive radiators to augment the LE01’s low-frequency output.
In terms of physical connections, there’s a 3.5mm input next to the AC power port (the speaker must be plugged in at all times) plus an ethernet port for hard wiring the LE01 to your home network. There’s no HDMI or optical input, which is a shame at this level.
Set up begins with the Braun Audio app, which is clear, well-designed, and requires you to confirm placement and accessory choices for the LE01. Midway through the process, however, you’re directed to launch the Google Home app, on the provision that you return later to complete registration. Set ups such as this always feel a little clunky and counter-intuitive, but to Braun’s credit, it has made the transition as smooth as possible.
As with the baby of the LE range, the Braun LE03, the flagship LE01 is fully immersed in the Google ecosystem, which means you are heavily encouraged to control it vocally via the Google Assistant, and the speaker’s onboard mics ensure we are heard from the other side of our hi-fi room. Say “Hey Google” and a clean line of four white LEDs shines out from behind the grille in the top right of the LE01 to signify that Google has heard us and is processing our request. Turn the mics off and these LEDs glow orange.
For the bulk of our testing, we use the optional stand to position the LE01 at the optimal height for our listening position. We select the appropriate ‘more than 50cm away from everything’ in the placement profile options, but we also test it using only the supplied feet in various positions in our room. The Braun Audio companion app practically screams flexibility, allowing us to select placement modes and adjust EQ for the treble and bass.
Whether you want to put your LE01 in a corner, an alcove, atop a cabinet or on the floor, Braun says the LE01 can oblige. It is of course worth making sure you have selected the correct placement profile (if you need to move your speaker later, it’s easy to change it) and although the EQ optimisation is subtle, it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
The LE01 does not allow streaming directly from Tidal Connect or Spotify Connect – you’ll need to use Chromecast from your device’s apps. The LE01 also has Apple AirPlay 2 connectivity, Bluetooth 4.2 and a 3.5mm aux-in for physical tethering too –although note that the LE01 does not support aptX or aptX HD and it cannot operate as an access-all-areas UPnP streamer.
We stream Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 and 3, as played by the Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado and Lilya Zilberstein on Apple Music, and almost immediately we detect a harshness through the treble underpinned by a lack of dynamic build through the usually-driving waves of string sections. The keys seem to compete to find their usual space to be impactful in the LE01’s somewhat congested mix.
Switching to Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, we continue to search for clarity and detail (the amplified finger-snaps, Eilish’s almost-whispered vocal, the distinctive bassline) but find the Braun LE01 struggles to faithfully relay even the more obvious dynamic shifts and wilfully distorted elements of the track.
Stream Prince’s When Doves Cry, and you won’t find yourself tapping your feet to the rhythm of the track either. The looped vocal does not seem to diminish in intensity before the verse and even though the song is famously devoid of a bassline, the LE01 struggles to hold the remaining musical strands in check in what is a confusing and more than a little compressed-sounding presentation.
Our Tidal playlist continues to Kiss, but here Prince’s usually clear voice sounds a little muffled, as if there’s a veil over the sonic presentation. As the track progresses, we don’t get enough of a sense of dynamic contrast – the cacophony of Prince’s near-screamed vocal alongside The Revolution just doesn't come across as expected.
Considering its winsome brutalist build, careful Google Assistant integration and useful support for Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast, the LE01 is off to a decent start but it still lacks many of the features we would expect at this price point.
Add the disappointing and ultimately crude-sounding sonic capabilities and it leaves us with a product that’s easily outclassed at this level.
- Build 4
- Features 3
- Sound 2
Read our Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Gen review
Also consider the Sonus Faber Omnia
Best wireless speakers 2022: wonderful wi-fi speakers for the home