With the advantage of no cables and the ability to play music from people's ever-expanding digital music libraries, wireless speakers have become increasingly popular in recent times. So it's not surprising to see Copenhagen-based company Libratone enter the U.S. market with a couple of AirPlay-enabled speaker systems that can stream audio from iTunes libraries on a Mac or PC, as well as music stored on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.
The two systems marking Libratone's debut in the U.S. market are the Libratone Lounge and the slightly more portable Libratone Live. As its name suggests, the Libratone Lounge is designed for the living room and can be placed under a TV and connected via a 3.5 mm mini jack/digital mini plug cable or to an Apple TV via AirPlay. Meanwhile, the Libratone Live with its chrome handle located on the rear can be carried between rooms. Like the Lounge, the Live does need to be plugged into mains power, however, which reduces its portability somewhat.
Both units feature the company's "FullRoom sound" technology that pumps out sound waves in multiple directions, reflecting them off walls to eliminate the sweet spot created by traditional speakers and deliver "360-degree sound". The systems accomplish this via five units inside the cabinets that are each driven by dedicated amplifiers with each dedicated to spreading sound in a specific direction. Libratone claims this setup allows the system to both spread out the sound and encapsulate the listener in it.
Libratone says the sound quality of its wireless units matches the quality of cable-connected speakers thanks to its digital signal processing, high-end components and the use of Apple's Lossless codec. Having copped an earful of the Libratone Beat in person at IFA 2010 it's hard to disagree with Libratone's claims as that unit, which is fairly similar to the Live but relied on a dongle for wireless connectivity, produced some of the best sound I've experienced from a wireless speaker system.
The Libratone Live measures 47 x 19.5 x 15 cm (18.5 x 7.7 x 6 in), weighs 6.5 kg (14 lb) and pumps out a total of 150 W (1x50W bass via a 5-inch drive unit, 2 x 25 W via two 1-inch ribbon tweeters and 2 x 25 W 3-inch midrange drivers), with a frequency range of 45-20,000 Hz.
The Libratone Lounge measures 22 x 100 x 12 cm (8.7 x 40 x 4.7 in), weighs 12 kg (27 lb) and produces 150 W (1 x 50W 8-inch inverted woofer, 2 x 25 W 4-inch ceramic midrange drivers and 2 x 25 W 1-inch ribbon tweeters), with a frequency range of 38-20,000 Hz.
Both the Lounge and the Live also sport a 3.5 mm jack for analog or optical digital sound.
Libratone has crafted the speakers from chrome, wood and "selected acoustic materials" and enveloped them in Italian cashmere. As a result neither system is cheap. The standard Libratone Lounge, available in Slate Grey, Blueberry Black and Vanilla Beige, retails for US$1,299, while the premium red and green cashmere models are priced at $1,399. The standard Libratone Live in grey, black or beige retails for $699, while the premium red and green cashmere versions go for $799. They are available through various retailers worldwide as well as the Apple Online Store in the U.S.
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