Review: Libratone Zipp (2016) and Zipp Mini Speaker
We first saw Libratone's Zipp as an AirPlay speaker in 2012 — we appreciated the design, but the speaker was overpriced for the sound quality it offered. Libratone thought enough of the design to tweak it and reintroduce it for 2016. The new Zipp ($299) is significantly less expensive, and while it keeps AirPlay and Wi-Fi compatibility, it unsurprisingly also adds Bluetooth. Libratone has also introduced a new Zipp Mini ($249) alongside the redesigned Zipp. Zipp Mini keeps the same basic design with the same touch control system, but only features one 1" tweeter and one 3" woofer, compared to the big Zipp's two 1" tweeters and one 4" woofer. Each speakers has two passive radiators — 4" for Zipp, 3.5" for Zipp Mini. Zipp is a 100W speaker, while Zipp Mini checks in at 60W. Both versions of the speaker promise 8 to 10 hours of battery life, and Libratone sells separate mesh fabric covers for both speakers, for $29 each.
Libratone’s speakers are very design-forward, and while we liked the customization and feel of the original Zipp, these new versions are even nicer. The removable bright mesh fabric covers juxtapose nicely with the hard white plastic top and bottom, and the leather carrying strap remains on the back, above the power button, AC adapter port, audio port, and USB port — you can play directly from an iPhone, while also charging the device. The power adapter included with each speaker has a nice, long cord, but the plug is situated in such a way that makes it impossible to use the other outlet in a standard double outlet, which is sort of annoying. While both speakers are portable, Zipp Mini is moreso — it’s roughly 8.75” high and 4” in diameter, and weighs in at 2.4 pounds. Zipp is much harder to throw in a bag, measuring about 10.25” x 5” and weighing 3.38 pounds. That being said, Libratone makes no mention of weatherproofing, so these speakers would best be used indoors, or in a safe outdoor area on a sunny day.
Zipp and Zipp Mini feature touch controls at the top of the speaker, and unlike those on some other speakers and headphones we’ve seen, these touch controls happen to work very well. You can change the volume, skip tracks, favorite tracks, check the battery level, play or pause, and even link two speakers together. “Hush” is another useful feature, which lets you place your hand over the touch controls to temporarily lower the volume.
Bluetooth setup for both Zipp speakers is easy, and welcome. Most listeners will likely use Bluetooth to listen to Zipp or Zipp Mini. But there are other options, and if you’re interested in Zipp as a Sonos-style system, you can link up to six of Libratone’s SoundSpace Link-capable speakers. After setting up the speakers for AirPlay, Libratone’s free app can be used to link the speakers, as we did with Zipp and Zipp Mini. It’s done quite easily by dragging and dropping within the app. From there, you can control volume, or even setup stereo separation with two speakers. Everything worked quite well for us, and we experienced no AirPlay issues either, which is rare. You can even play and control Spotify or selected Internet radio stations directly from the speaker itself.
Zipp and Zipp Mini offer true 360 degree sound, which will be a selling point for some. Overall, the sound is very good, but we’d stop short of calling it great. Songs which are more focused on the low-end sound quite good, as Zipp has a solid amount of bass. The Zipp speakers don’t quite excel on the high-end, with certain songs sounding somewhat subdued in spots where you’d expect more punch. We think Zipp is a step behind the similarly-priced UE Megaboom, for instance. The differences between the two Zipp speakers are noticeable — Zipp Mini performs well enough, but lacks the overall power of Zipp. And the big Zipp may not get quite as loud as you’d expect for its size, if you’re looking for a true high volume speaker. Zipp speakerphone performance was quite good.
Libratone Zipp is a solid choice for a home speaker. The sound isn’t quite upper-echelon for the price, but it’s still good, and you’re getting a great, eye-catching design, with innovative touch controls. Zipp and Zipp Mini also give users a number of ways to listen to their music, and they all work well. If you’re interested in a portable, multi-room Sonos-style setup, Zipp should certainly be under heavy consideration. Zipp Mini lags a bit behind to us in comparison — for only $50 more, the larger Zipp has better, more powerful sound, and is worth the extra money. Mini should be considered by those users who are chiefly concerned with portability.