Libratone Live AirPlay speaker
This $899 hi-fi speaker is wrapped in wool, hiding some excellent sound quality
- Excellent sound quality
- Somewhat portable
- No internal battery
- Minor EQ adjustment
- No external volume control
Libratone's Live AirPlay wireless speaker is an exceedingly simple, exceptionally good-looking product. It's well suited to Apple's idiot-proof wireless music streaming system, too, being controlled entirely remotely.
Price$ 899.95 (AUD)
If you’re looking for a simple wireless speaker that can play music from your Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad, you’re spoilt for choice. Ever since the B&W Zeppelin Air came through our offices in early 2011, most of the hi-fi speakers we’ve tested have had AirPlay capability.
Libratone’s Live speaker is incredibly simple, with only a single multipurpose button. All the effort in its creation has gone into engineering excellent sound quality, a very simple design and appreciably solid and premium construction.
Libratone Live: Design, setup and features
Standing tall rather than lying flat, the Libratone Live is worryingly reminiscent of 2001’s Monolith. Ours was a Blueberry Black unit, wrapped in soft dark wool that’s very nice to the touch. It’s not the kind of fabric you’d expect to find on a speaker grille, but it definitely makes the Live stand out from its competitors in the same way that the B&W P3 headphones do.
The speaker chassis is a triangular prism, with smooth rounded corners. There’s a thick, chrome-finished metal handle on the back at the top that makes the Live easy to pick up.
Without an internal battery, the Libratone Live isn’t truly portable, but if you don’t mind bending down, unplugging it from its wall socket, and plugging it in again somewhere else — obviously somewhere not too far from a power point — it’s easily able to be carried around the house. Its 6.5kg weight means it’s hefty, but not to the point of being troublesome.
Its weight actually contributes to the Libratone Live’s feeling as a very high quality piece of technology. The glossy white plastic finish, dark Italian wool, chrome handle, and just-about-right weight really lend the sense that the Live has had some serious thought put into its construction, and some thought put into the technology inside it.
With Libratone’s bird logo — is it a chaffinch? Is it a starling? Is it an African swallow? — glowing in white on the Live’s single visible button, you quickly get the impression that simplicity is a very big part of the company’s design principles. There’s a power switch on the back near the power cable, but beyond that, everything you do with the Libratone Live is done through your iPhone, iPod, iPad or other compatible device.
Setting up the Libratone Live is a very simple task, whatever you’re using — there’s a series of instruction manuals taking pride of place inside the Live’s box, so it’s impossible to miss them. It’s a simple matter of turning the Live on, connecting to its temporary Wi-Fi network with whatever Wi-Fi device you’re using, heading to a particular Web address, putting in your proper Wi-Fi network’s details, then re-connecting your device to its original Wi-Fi and waiting for the Libratone unit to reboot.
It’s a simple process, and we had the Live connected to our test Wi-Fi network within a couple of minutes. This process does make the Live somewhat difficult to transport between different Wi-Fi networks, for what it’s worth. If you want to use the Live directly, it’s got a 3.5mm auxiliary input as well as a mini optical digital audio input — although if you try to connect over AirPlay, the Live will stop playing the wired connection automatically, and volume changes to the Live’s wired connections (if you’ve got a TV connected, for example), have to be done through the iOS app over Wi-Fi.
Libratone has an app free on the Apple App Store, offering basic setup and audio adjustment for any of the company’s speakers that are connected over Wi-Fi. It’s as simple as the speaker itself — you can specify how far you’ve got the speaker away from a wall, and the bass equaliser is adjusted accordingly, but that’s about it. You can also use it to update any Libratone speaker’s firmware.
Libratone Live: Sound quality and performance
The Libratone Live’s $900 price point puts it firmly in the high-end, enthusiast audio market — it shares the space with Sonos’ excellent PLAY:5 speakers, the aforementioned B&W Zeppelin Air, and various Bose products.
The sound that the Libratone Live produces is quite spacious for a single speaker system, with a wide soundstage that fills a medium-sized room until you’re listening closer than a metre away, when stereo sounds become less distinguishable.
The sound itself is quite crisp, with excellent treble detail and good, but controlled, mid-range. It’s the kind of speaker that flatters acoustic music and high female vocals &8212; throw on some Adele or Birdy, or Katy Perry’s MTV Unplugged set (yes, yes, we know) and the system really comes into its own. There’s no hint of distortion at high or maximum volume, belying the high quality components hidden behind the thick woolen coat.
Bass is less evident than we expected for the system’s weight and size. We were expecting some low-end oomph from a downward firing subwoofer, but the Libratone Live isn’t particularly aimed at floor-shaking musicality — it’s got enough low-end fill-in sound to make beat-driven music enjoyable to listen to, but it’s not the most appropriate system for listening to anything particularly Skrillexy.
The Libratone Live has more than enough power to fill a medium-sized room, although it runs out of puff especially when in a larger outdoor space. It’d suit a normal sized living room for almost all occasions, though large parties might exhaust it a little. We could see it happily being paired with an iPad as a small apartment’s primary music system, and connected to a TV as well.
Libratone Live: Conclusion
We don’t like the lack of an external volume control — maybe that little button could be a volume dial in the Live 2? — and the system’s necessary power point tether is a little disappointing, but given those minor limitations we really like the sound quality and wonderful design that the Libratone Live is selling. It’s high up on our list of high-end AirPlay speakers.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Huawei Mate 9
Acer Swift 7
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Google Daydream VR headset
Lexar® Portable SSD
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Surface Pro 4
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- Up next for Apple TV: 4K streaming reportedly in the works
- Apple’s original TV shows are almost ready for prime time
- Apple snags Amazon Fire TV exec to lead Apple TV efforts
- AirTV's slick marriage of Sling TV and OTA channels isn't in the product yet
- Here's what's coming next from Sling TV
PCW Evaluation Team
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
- Horizon Zero Dawn review
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Japan's pop culture, anime-friendly, J-Pop shrine, Kanda Myojin
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- CCNetwork Engineer (cisco)NSW
- TPData AnalystWA
- CCData Engineer (SQL/Big Data/Scala)VIC
- FTNodeJS DeveloperNSW
- TPMicrosoft Dynamics DeveloperNSW
- TPIT Project ManagerNSW
- CCTechnical Consultant - ITSM/HP Service ManagerACT
- TPProduct Owner - Cloud SolutionsQLD
- FTDynamics AX Functional Consultant (Sales & Marketing Modules)ACT
- TPSenior Service Desk AnalystNSW
- TPOrganisational Change Manager | Enterprise Information SharingQLD
- TPSenior Business AnalystQLD
- FTWeb Developer / Applications AnalystQLD
- CCWicked Front-End DeveloperQLD
- FTDynamics AX Functional Consultant (Supply Chain Modules)ACT
- FTMid-Level Software Engineer x 2 - Positive Vetting, NV2 or NV1 required!!SA
- CCPMO ManagerNSW
- CCTest AnalystQLD
- FTSenior Learning Specialist - Global OrganisationQLD
- FTDynamics AX Functional Consultant (Supply Chain Modules)VIC
- TPEnvironment Specialist(DevOps)QLD
- CCSenior Project Manager - ApplicationsNSW
- TPNodeJS DeveloperNSW
- CCPega DeveloperNSW
- CCDevops Consultant - 12 month contractVIC