Can't afford a Bang and Olufsen wireless speaker? You might try the new Zipp or Zipp Mini from another Danish company, Libratone.
You may have never heard of Libratone, but its original Zipp -- now called the Classic Zipp -- was one of the best first-generation portable Wi-Fi speakers on the market.
Last year the Danish start-up was acquired by a Hong Kong-based consortium and got a big cash infusion to develop new products and aggressively expand with a new brand strategy that includes more affordable pricing. It's pumped that money into not one but two new Zipp speakers: the Zipp (2015) and smaller Zipp Mini. Both include Wi-Fi streaming through Apple AirPlay, as well as Bluetooth streaming.
The speaker also offers DLNA support for Windows and Android users. A DLNA-certified device uses standard computer networking protocols to allow you to share media on a network.
The new speakers come in a variety of color options. The Zipp will sell for $300 in the US and £219 in the UK. And the Zipp mini will cost $250, or £179 in the UK. They go on sale on October 20 and will ship in early November. No Australian pricing was available at launch, but the US prices roughly convert to AU$410 and AU$345 respectively.
I got an early listen to the speakers in a hotel room in New York and was generally impressed with what I saw and heard. With its more rounded edges and compact shape, the Mini's a bit more eye-catching. But the standard Zipp delivers more bass and sounds slightly fuller. Both offer 360-degree sound, similar to other cylindrical speakers such as the UE Boom 2 . They also both offer 8-10 hours of battery life depending on volume levels.
The speakers come with SoundSpace Link, a new companion app for iOS and Android that lets you connect up to six speakers over Wi-Fi.
AirPlay for audio streaming has been hampered by hiccups, but Libratone says that's changed and promises that AirPlay is now much easier to set up. We'll let you know how we found the setup and app when we get our review samples.
It's worth noting that since the Zipp and Zipp Mini are fairly substantial speakers with 100-watt and 60-watt power ratings respectively (we take those ratings with a grain of salt), they require their own AC adapter and can't be charged with a standard Micro-USB cable. However, they do offer a USB charging port to juice up your mobile devices, as well as an audio input. Last but not least there's a microphone you can use to make calls over speakerphone.
Both speakers have a white base (think of it as the speaker's skeleton) and a removable mesh fabric cover that comes in four colors: cloudy grey, deep lagoon, graphite grey and victory red. Extra covers are available in atlantic deep, signal and sangria for $30 in the US and £19 in the UK. That roughly converts to AU$41.
It will be interesting to see how the new Libratone Zipp and Zipp Mini do in the marketplace. They are larger than the UE Boom2 and JBL Charge 2+ , but at first listen, they appear to play louder and sound better than those speakers, which cost less.
The only downside to the Zipp and Zipp Mini's larger size is that they're less portable and won't fit in a bag or backpack as easily as the Boom 2. They also aren't water-resistant or rugged.
We'll have more in-depth impressions in our full review so check back in a few weeks to see how Libratone's new wireless speakers stack up.