libratone live review

i recently posted about libratone's wireless speakers, and was lucky enough to be able to try one out. the 'live' model is the middle one of the three they do, with 150w total amplification courtesy of 1x50W bass, 2x25W tweeters and 2x25W midrange.

they had originally caught my eye thanks to their simple design and italian cashmere wool covers, and when i opened the box it was certainly an impressive sight. the 'live' is an triangular prism shape, and the wrap around wool in bright red really stands out.

the first thing to do was to set up the wireless feature, which i have to admit was not as straightforward as other speakers i've tried. i had issues with the fact that my wireless network name had characters other than numbers and letters, which meant i had to re-configure my router to get it to work. once this was done it was still not completely intuitive in how it was set up, but i got there in the end. you could argue that you only need to set it up once and when it's done it's done, but this set-up is a key factor and should be as well designed as the physical product.

once i had it working, the airplay system worked very smoothly indeed. the speaker works with all apple devices, and is at it's most simple with an iphone playing music. it is just as simple with itunes on a computer, but one frustrating thing is that you can't use it to wirelessly play the sound from videos. i'm sure this is an apple issue though rather than the speaker, and for this they have a solution.

as i've said, it's a very minimal design, and as well as the single button on the front, the rear has only a power input, an on/off switch and a analogue or optical cable input. it is all neatly hidden away at the bottom on the back, and although it it not quite as elegant to have to run a wire from the tv to the back it is a very good thing that it's there. this also means you aren't totally reliant on apple products, and can plug pretty much anything into a stereo jack.

whether playing wireless or with a cable, the sound is great. all the libratone range use patented 'fullroom sound' (explained here), and they recommend that you place the speakers near a wall the fully benefit from the '360 sound'.

the 'live' has a handle at the rear for easy portability, and although it isn't the lightest thing in the world it is still pretty easy to pick up and move. it's a useful feature, meaning you can move it from room to room depending on what you need it for.

the handle is in a polished metal finish that runs all the way down to the bottom, but at the top there is a triangular plate to cap the end in a plain white finish (you can make it out in the top image). neither finish is bad on it's own, but it seems a shame that they aren't the same, given the overall minimalism of the rest of the design.

overall it is a great product. the retail price is around £500 and for this you get a really great sounding speaker. forgetting the trouble with setting it up and my minor issue with the different finishes on the top and back, it does look very nice wherever you place it. the wireless capability gives you complete freedom, and the handle is a really useful feature (it is a portable speaker after all!).