Libratone is a small Danish audio company with three products: the mini Zipp, the midi Live and the maxi Lounge. Each speaker is exceedingly simple — no volume controls or superfluous buttons, minimalist designs with exacting construction. They’re marketed at buyers who love their iPhones, iPads and iPods, and want to share their music. See all Audio reviews.
As the biggest member of the Libratone family, the Lounge isn’t designed to be outside-the-house portable like the Zipp or inside-the-house portable like the Live. It’s designed to be set up in one spot — your living room, your bedroom, wherever — and to stay there for good. Libratone includes a wall mount in the Lounge’s box, so it can even hang under your television if you’ve got that wall-mounted as well. See also Libratone Live AirPlay speaker review.
The majority of the Lounge’s body is constructed from wood, with a deeply glossy white lacquer finish on the top panel. Our test speaker was wrapped in the company’s Slate Grey wool, although there are five colours in Italian or cashmere fabric to choose from. We absolutely love the texture, quality and finish of the woollen speaker grille cover — it definitely makes the Lounge feel like it’s worth its £1099 price tag. See Group test: what's the best iPod and iPhone speaker dock?
Like the Live, the Libratone Lounge has a single button on its front right top corner — a white circle with the company’s passerine logo, which glows with a soft white light when connected to a wireless network and streaming audio through Apple’s AirPlay standard. There’s also a power switch on the Lounge’s rear next to the AC power socket, along with a 3.5mm input and mini-TOSLINK optical digital audio for connecting a TV — in this way you can use the Lounge as a soundbar speaker, as long as you’re happy controlling the volume over Wi-Fi (digital output doesn’t include volume adjustment, so your TV’s remote won’t do the job) or by using the 3.5mm jack. Take a look at Klipsch G-17 Air AirPlay speakers review.
The setup procedure for the Lounge is quite simple, and instruction booklets are included for whether you’re using the initial setup through an iPhone, Mac, PC, or other device. We set up the Lounge using an iPod touch — waiting for the Lounge to start up and create its own temporary Wi-Fi network to which we connected, went to a pre-defined IP address to enter our infrastructure Wi-Fi network’s SSID and password, then restarted the Lounge for it to connect automatically. It’s a simple process and the instructions are well-written and easy to follow.
Libratone Lounge: Sound quality and performance
The Lounge is a step up from the compact-but-spacious sound of the Libratone Lounge, with the kind of performance you’d expect from a high-end soundbar or bookshelf stereo speaker system. It’s somewhat short on bass, but that (and the frankly frustrating lack of a physical volume control) is its only real flaw.
It’s got excellent detail in mid-range and treble sounds, with all our test audio and music sounding clear and natural without any undue emphasis on any frequencies. The Lounge is a very measured, even speaker system that makes movie dialogue sound just as impressive as an acoustic music track.
Bass is the one area that we were expecting a little more than the Lounge was able to deliver. It’s a compact system, so we weren’t expecting anything window-shattering, but the 8-inch downward firing woofer serves the purpose of reinforcing the lower mid-range rather than producing deep lower bass kicks. It contributes to the overall warmth and high quality sound of the system, but it doesn’t have the outright power we were expecting.
The wide design of the Lounge — it’s around the width of a 50-inch TV screen, making it a good accompaniment for a mid-sized television of any size between around the 42- to 55-inch size. It also means the Lounge has great stereo separation for its size, keeping each channel distinct from each other until you get within half a metre of the speaker itself. If you’re listening to music that’s got a wide stereo mix — we noticed it on Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me &38212; you’ll appreciate the depth of sound that the Libratone Lounge is able to produce.
In terms of its performance, the Libratone Lounge is entirely adequate. It takes around 30 seconds to turn on and establish a Wi-Fi network connection, but it’s also able to hibernate in a low-power mode that makes startup instantaneous once you start streaming music to it over AirPlay.
If you’re using the Libratone Lounge through either the digital or analog direct audio inputs, and you start streaming a song over AirPlay, the AirPlay stream will take precedence. This is convenient — it means you’re able to switch over to AirPlay without any hassle — but if you’re sharing the Lounge with other friends or family members it could prove to be an inconvenience.
Just like in our review of the Libratone Live, we have to mention that the Lounge’s simplicity can potentially be a burden. The lack of a physical volume control on the speaker does impede its usability if you’re using it for anything but AirPlay — connect the 3.5mm or digital audio connector, and you’ll need to use the volume control on the device you’ve connected. The only alternative is to always have your iPhone (or other iOS device) on hand to change the volume over Wi-Fi, which just isn’t feasible if you want to relax and watch TV with remote control in hand.
Libratone Lounge: Conclusion
The Libratone Lounge is big, very well built, very simple — sometimes to its detriment — and has sound quality that flatters most of the music or audio that’s played through it. It doesn’t handle heavy bass or beat-driven music with the same panache as a Sonos SUB paired to a PLAY:5, for example, but for most music listeners it’s got more than enough power and a wide enough frequency range.