For AirPlay speakers, there’s a lot of choice out there. Often that can result in the feeling that there are essentially a lot of people sticking to an easy formula and churning out virtually interchangeable devices, but Libratone is a speaker-maker that makes AirPlay sound ware that stands out, and the new Loop is no exception.
- Wi-Fi enabled for AirPlay and DLNA streaming
- 3.5mm and USB audio inputs
- PlayDirect for AirPlay without network
- Interchangeable felt speaker covers
- MSRP: $499.95
- Product info page
- Room-filling sound
- Easy wall mounting with included hardware
- Portable design but no battery
Libratone’s strength is design: They make speakers that don’t necessarily look like you’d expect from something fitting that description, using heathered felt and odd shapes to surprise and also better mesh with modern interior design. A signature Libratone move is to offer interchangeable felt covers for its speakers so that owners can color coordinate with their existing setup, and the Loop offers this (spare covers will cost you extra, however).
The disc design is a bold one, and might not mesh with everyone’s tastes, but it makes the speaker an object of art itself, rather than something you’re trying to hide away. Resting atop a TV bench or even just propped on its included stand by itself in the corner of a room, it looks at home and like a design decision rather than an afterthought.
There’s another great aspect to the Libratone Loop’s design: its mounting hole and peg make it very easy to hang on the wall (where its disc-shaped design is especially attractive), and yet also keeps it portable should you want to take it with you to another room.
The Loop not only looks good, it also renews my faith in Libratone’s ability to put out speakers that sound great. The Zipp impressed me with its sound quality, but the Loop carries that further, with a richer sound that’s better for a full-on living room home audio setup replacement.
It’s a speaker that can get very loud without offering up any kind of distortion, and while it might be a little heavy on the bass side for many users, it’s probably right in the sweet spot for most people looking for an AirPlay speaker that’s pricey without being ridiculous. It’s also easy to set up, and you don’t need anything beyond an iPhone or iPad to do it. PlayDirect, the AirPlay that doesn’t require a shared network (the Loop can provide its own) is also a huge selling point that isn’t necessarily shared by Libratone competitors.
Speaking of the competition, Libratone has a healthy crop. At this price range, there’s the new and very capable line of Cambridge Audio speakers, including the Minx Air 200 that I’d consider its closest rival. For an extra $100, the Minx Air 200 offers preset Internet radio stations that don’t require a computer or other audio source to listen to, and there’s Bluetooth built in. The Loop is cheaper, however, and better looking, plus it has deeper bass (though executes with less clarity in the mid-range) if that’s your bag.
The Loop is a great AirPlay speaker, and with DLNA support, it’s relatively platform agnostic. I’m a sucker for the design aesthetic Libratone has chosen, too, so that’s a big selling point as well, but it’s the sound that brings it home. Libratone is essentially a boutique shop specializing in AirPlay sound, and it shows, so you can’t go wrong with their lineup, and the Loop fits nicely price wise in a gap between its Zipp and Live range of devices.