Last week we had a look at a very impressive Bluetooth speaker set from Edifier, the e25 Luna Eclipse. Those speakers provided both excellent sound quality and futuristic design, and ended up with a top rating from TUAW. This week I'm looking at Libratone's Loop Wireless Speaker, a high-end entry into the speaker market that marries Scandinavian good looks to AirPlay compatibility.
Colors: Salty Gray, Pepper Black, Raspberry Red, Icy Blue (extra wool covers are sold in a variety of colors)
Connectivity: AirPlay and DLNA support, also supports PlayDirect for streaming directly from a device without need for a Wi-Fi router. Also includes 3.5 mm audio minijack and USB audio jack
Power: 100-240 V AC, 50/60 Hz, 40 W power consumption
Speakers: 2 x 1" ribbon-based tweeters, 5" subwoofer with resonating passive radiator
Comes with wall mount and duo-stand
Rather than a set of speakers, the Loop is just one disc-shaped speaker. I was reminded of the seat of a stool, or a target for Velcro darts. The speaker is covered in Italian wool, and there are a number of accessory wool covers you can purchase should your cat rip one to shreds or you decide to change the paint color in your home.
The Loop can be wall-mounted or sit on a shelf or table. A pair of legs known as a duo-standn provide a stable platform for the latter, while the wall mount features a small truncated cone that fits into a receptacle on the back of the speaker.
As you'd expect with Scandinavian design, the Loop is very stark and simple. Controls are on the back and consist of a combination power switch/status indicator/volume toggle and another set of buttons for linking the Loop to your device.
I also have to hand it to Libratone for not using the typical ugly black brick as an AC adapter. Instead, the power supply is built into the Loop, and there's a single power cord -- with a soft, tangle-proof covering on it -- that connects the speaker to your outlet.
Most of the Bluetooth and AirPlay speakers I test are usually quite easy to set up. Bluetooth speakers are incredibly simple, while AirPlay speakers usually require that the speaker be added to your WiFi network. That's usually done by linking to the device's own WiFi or Bluetooth transceiver, passing over some information about the network and password, and then you're done.
Not so with the LIbratone Loop. First, I decided that I'd use their quick start instructions, which told me to get a USB cable and connect it. At that point, I was supposed to press two buttons on the back simultaneously to get the device to ping my iPhone to allow it to share network information. The process worked, but I could never get the speaker to connect to the network. After about a half hour of frustration, I finally did a reset (press the power button and two buttons on the back simultaneously) to get it to factory defaults.
At that point, I was able to get everything set up perfectly, although it took a while for the Loop to show up in the list of AirPlay devices. Once it did, I started blasting music to it. This is a very loud speaker, with a pronounced bass end thanks to the 5-inch subwoofer.
Libratone has a free app that is supposed to let you you do the setup from the iPhone or iPad, although I wasn't able to get that to work. However, the app also lets you tune the sound of the speaker for the type of surface it's sitting on and the type of music that is playing. This is a very useful app from the sound adjustment standpoint -- I was able to move from house music to jazz to classic rock, adjusting the equalization for each with preset voicing that made the sound perfect for each type of music.
All in all, I found it the Loop to be a very enjoyable speaker to listen to, although the setup left something to be desired. My guess is that this speaker had been previously set up for another reviewer and that I should have done the factory reset first.
The Libratone Loop is definitely an audiophile speaker, with a price tag to match. The setup process could be better, but the design and sound of the speaker as well as the ability to match the sound profile of the speaker to the type of music you're listening to and the surface upon which it's sitting make this one of the most adjustable AirPlay speakers I've tested.
Rating: 3-1/2 stars out of 4 stars possible