The Good The portable Libratone Zipp AirPlay speaker has a modern, eye-catching design and excellent sound for its size, and you can connect directly to it from an iOS mobile device, PC, or Mac. It has a built-in rechargeable battery or can be powered by an included AC adapter. It also has a USB port for charging smartphones.
The Bad Many source devices can't access Wi-Fi services while connected to the Libratone, or need to use pricey data plans; the Zipp only has 4 hours of battery life with wireless on; it's not compatible with Android smartphones and tablets (no Bluetooth); and it's expensive.
The Bottom Line The Libratone Zipp is one of the best-sounding and best-looking portable wireless speakers out there, but its high price and Wi-Fi limitations give us pause.
Portable AirPlay speaker has trade-offs
One of the problems with Apple's AirPlay wireless-streaming technology is that it's not as easy as it should be for the average consumer to set up initially. But Libratone, a Danish company that's now expanding to the U.S., has resolved this problem with its new, strikingly designed high-end portable AirPlay speaker, the Zipp.
What's the trick? Well, instead of having to connect to your Wi-Fi network and then the speaker, you can connect directly to this AirPlay speaker from your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) or desktop/laptop PC (Windows or Mac) running iTunes using Libratone's PlayDirect feature. All you have to do is fire up the Zipp's Wi-Fi connection and it will appear as a Wi-Fi network when you scan for available networks in your settings. You then connect to it and hit the AirPlay icon from within Apple's Music app (it appears at the bottom right of the screen when you call up a song) and you're good to go.
It works remarkably well, and in our tests the AirPlay connection offered higher fidelity than a Bluetooth connection. One thing worth noting is that to make the PlayDirect AirPlay connection, you do have to start from whatever music app you're listening to and hit the AirPlay icon from within the app. You can then switch over to other local music services and maintain the AirPlay connection.