What We Think
A great sounding speaker with good wireless connectivity. Made mainly for use with Apple products, but doesn’t discriminate other devices due to its DLNA connectivity. It does come with a hefty price tag however, but you have to pay for great quality.
An expensive speaker can no longer rely on just having a decent quality of sound, and producers have to make sure that the design and style is worth people paying the extra. The Libratone Loop manages this, as in addition to being able to belt out a great sound, it looks fantastic and can be easily adapted via different covers to fit into the style of any room.
The Libratone Loop has been designed with a modern, elegant simplicity that is becoming very common with the higher priced speakers on the market. The Loop is name for its shape: a large circle, just over a foot in diameter with a wool cover. It comes with both a wall mount and a stand, which can be used to either hang it on a wall or stand it on a flat surface. However, the power cord isn’t very long and isn’t the most attractive to have trailing down a wall, so I’d personally opt to stand it up.
The simple shape and the plain wool covers give the speaker an elegant look which can fit in with pretty much any decor in any room. Available in a wide range of colours, (a black, a grey, two reds, two yellows, two blues, two purples and a green,) the covers can be purchased independently for (the arguably too high price) of £49.06, so that they can be swapped over if you fancy a change. The wool does have distinct carpety scent when it is first opened, but that should (hopefully) fade over time.
The buttons to switch between wireless connectivity or to Apple’s AirPlay are neatly hidden on the back of the speaker, and the only thing breaking the solid colour of the speaker front is a round white on/off logo button surrounded by the volume controls, reminiscent of the classic iPod controls.
There is also a small LED light on the front, which switches between white, yellow and red to indicate status, further identified by whether the lights are pulsing or steady. Flashing red means there is something wrong with the system, a pulsing yellow means it is booting up, and a flashing white means it is ready to play. A solid white glow means that it is playing.
A nice touch is that the brightness of this LED can be changed from the Libratone app.
The Loop is designed to be used with Apple’s Airplay feature, and therefore is very easy to use with an iPhone or iPad. The Loop can either join a router’s network and have music streamed to it through there, or it can be set up as a hotspot itself.
Although the speaker has been made with Apple products in mind, lovers of Android can use it too. The speaker is DLNA enabled, and there are free-to-install apps on Google Play that can stream via DLNA to the speaker. Furthermore, the Loop is now available with Bluetooth installed, meaning that any device with Bluetooth will be able to stream music directly to the speaker. This adds another dimension of versatility to the speaker, making it more accessible on more devices.
The app gives you the option to customise your speaker to the point where it can be told where it is and what it is standing on (or if it is hanging from the wall), and how many centimetres it is from the walls are so that it can fully utilise its room filling technology.
You do need to download the free Libratone app in order to edit any of the speaker settings, and, without an Apple device, you need the app to connect the speaker to the network and input the network password, which is an easy enough process, albeit using an iPhone or iPad makes connecting easier still. Plugging the device into the USB port on the rear of the speaker gives you the option to share the settings on the device with the speaker, instantly connecting it to your home network. But no matter how good looking or easy to use it is, a speaker needs to sound good.
Due to the shape and design, you might presume that sound quality would have had to be sacrificed to make sure it looks pretty, but this simply isn’t the case. The speaker cabinet holds 2 x 1″ ribbon based tweeters and a woofer, which together have a frequency range of 40Hz to 20KHz. This is aided by the inbuilt passive radiator which “corresponds with a 5” subwoofer,” all within the slim design.
What all this equates to is a fantastic, room-filling sound. Whether the special room filling technology has much influence on the sound, it is hard to tell, because you can crank the volume high enough to fill pretty much any indoor space.
One thing to note is that this great sound is only apparent once you have tweaked the in-app settings. I was initially disappointed with the audio quality, before realising that there are a bunch of presets to choose from (ranging from my favourite “Rock the House” setting, through ones that are specifically designed for easy listening, classical pieces, songs with a focus on vocals or even movies) that make aligning the sound and settings incredibly easy and instantaneous, without having to muck about directly with the equaliser.
For a home based speaker, the sound quality can’t be faulted, and it can blast out at a volume which is sufficient for any indoor space and it definitely has the capacity to annoy your neighbours.
This speaker is very expensive, retailing at £399. However, it does everything it sets out to do well. It looks good and sounds good, and the wireless streaming and the app work well to control the speaker and alter the settings with ease.
If this is a bit outside of your price range though, there are other speakers available by Libratone for a slightly cheaper price. The company has recently released the Libratone Zipp with Bluetooth for £299, a smaller speaker than the Loop which is portable and battery powered. Again with interchangeable wool covers, this speaker can be taken on a day out and connected to directly with DirectPlay or Bluetooth, and may offer a cheaper alternative to the larger Loop.