THESE CHUNKY SPEAKERS WORK WITH ALEXA, BUT WON’T LISTEN TO YOUR COMMANDS
Libratone’s Zipp and Zipp Mini speakers take their names from the chunky fastener that secures their boldly coloured fabric covers. They also sport distinctive leather straps that encourage you to pick them up and go: with a claimed tenhour battery life, these speakers don’t need to be chained to a mains socket. Unlike JBL and Ultimate Ears’ battery-powered speakers, however, they’re not waterproof.
That’s not the only way in which Libratone’s characterful speakers differ from other contenders. Rather than being designed as smart speakers from the beginning, they’re regular Bluetooth speakers that have been retro tted with updated rmware to work with Alexa – and, sad to say, it’s not a good
For a start, while both Zipp units have built-in microphones, they’re not designed for always-on operation. When Libratone announced the Alexa upgrade last year, the idea was that you’d tap the panel on the top to activate the microphone, before issuing your command to Alexa. That’s clearly far less t. convenient than simply being able to call out to her from across the room.
In the event, even that capability hasn’t materialised. It might at some future point, but for now all you get is a skill that lets Alexa stream music to the Libratone speakers on your home network. In other words, the Zipp does technically work with Alexa – but you’ll need a separate Echo device to actually control it.
If you don’t mind jumping through that hoop, the sound isn’t bad at all. The Mini sounds admirably solid and well balanced; a hint of distortion creeps in at maximum volume, but it’s unlikely you would ever want to push it up that high indoors. The fullsized Zipp goes even louder, and while the bass response can get a little over-enthusiastic at times it’s undoubtedly one of this month’s better speakers.
Indeed, taken on their own terms, the Libratone Zipp and Zipp Mini are clever bits of kit. They’re nowhere near as smart as their rivals, though – and next to the Amazon Echo or Google Home, the price isn’t remotely competitive.