“If ‘sonic genetics’ wasn’t something we just made up, there’d be no doubt these are family”
FOR Full-bodied sound; innovative multi-room options AGAINST Lacking punch; slightly closed-in soundstage
Libratone Zipp Mini £180
What’s like a Libratone Zipp, but smaller? The Libratone Zipp Mini, of course! Okay, so that possibly isn’t our most inspired punchline ever, but in case you weren’t tipped off by the rather literal title, that is essentially what the Zipp Mini is.
It’s a couple of centimetres shorter and slighter than its sibling, which means the drivers it can house are marginally less substantial and less abundant: a 75mm woofer, 25mm soft-dome tweeter and two 90mm low-frequency radiators. That’s 25mm off the woofer, 12mm from each radiator and one fewer tweeter. There are two, not three, channels through which the integrated Class D amplifier pushes a total of 60W of power.
Sweeping our test room
There’s no compromise on inputs, though: wi-fi, Airplay, DLNA, Bluetooth aptx, 3.5mm jack, USB, Spotify Connect and Apple Music are all present. You get the same eight-to-ten hours’ battery life and USB out for charging, and, of course, you can zip and unzip the different coloured overcoats.
Then there’s the multi-room aspect, of which Libratone is most proud: an innovative, versatile concept offering up to six speakers freedom of movement via a simple drag-and-drop on the app.
The first thing we notice is how well the Zipp Mini spreads the sound. That’s courtesy of a 360-degree reflector, which acts as smartly with the Zipp Mini as it does in its larger sibling.
We play the title track to Shye Ben Tzur and Jonny Greenwood’s collaboration with the Rajasthan Express, Junun, and for a speaker of its stature, the polyrhythm, bass guitar and meandering horn intro sweep impressively around our test room.
Good insight for the money
When the group vocal enters, we recognise the same full-bodied warmth in the midrange of the Zipp Mini as with the larger Zipp. As voices become more animated, the Mini is more-than capable of matching their vigour. That is as true of buoyant tracks such as Junun as it is of the more sombre Ahuvi. Overall, it’s a decent level of insight from a £180 wireless speaker.
The Zipp Mini’s soundstage is not the most immense you’ll find in a wireless speaker of this size, but it organises everything well, with plenty of detail hiding behind that bold and expressive midrange. It doesn’t struggle with the complex and numerous polyrhythms combining Greenwood’s electronics and Rajasthan Express’s more traditional Indian instrumentation, either in terms of separation or timing, and is quite content with those rhythms changing with only a moment’s notice.
However, there are a couple of caveats. We feel the Zipp Mini is lacking just a little of the kick and drive to match the the expressive, rhythmic and smooth performance. There’s also a marginal lack of space, and while canny organisation stops thicker textures becoming overcrowded, it misses out on detail further back in the mix that some competitors are able to unearth.
We are family
If sonic genetics were not something we’d just made up, you could be left in no doubt by those of the Zipp and Zipp Mini that they are family. Our opening gag may not have been particularly inspired, but it is the most explanatory line of this entire review. The Zipp Mini’s sound – smooth, full-bodied, rhythmic and expressive – is just like that of its larger sibling, and one without doubt we can fully get behind. It works equally well as a stand-alone wireless speaker or, thanks to Libratone’s Soundspaces feature, as a facet of a larger multi-room system.
Libratone Zipp £220
Even for us, we thought, it would be a tad uncouth anthropomorphising a wireless speaker you can unzip. Besides, what impressed us so much about the original Libratone Zipp, to which we awarded five stars three years ago, was not its colourful anorak but its performance. That’s how it became the company’s best-selling product to date and the one upon which it built its now rather heady reputation.
Sound in all directions
The new Zipp works upon the same principle: an upright, cylindrical design, devised to output 360-degree sound. That’s serviced by an integrated digital
Class D amplifier, feeding a claimed 100W into a 10cm woofer. The low end performance is tuned by a pair of similarly sized passive radiators. Two 25mm tweeters take care of the highs and are aided by a 360-degree reflector to ensure wide dispersion.
Input is more or less as you’d like – wi-fi, Airplay, DLNA, Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack or USB – and the Zipp is willing to take on board hi-res audio up to 24-bit/96khz. If you don’t have your own digital music library, Libratone has added Spotify Connect and is Apple Musicready. You can store up to five of your favourite internet radio stations – all controlled via the Libratone app.
Keep it on the hush
As you may have noticed, the Zipp is no longer furry. The new mesh fabric makes the speaker look more sophisticated, and Libratone claims it helps the sound emerge more cleanly. The rest is still plastic but, from 1.8kg down to 1.5kg, it is even lighter and more portable than last time. And the touch-screen dial is nice to use, with a handy ‘hush’ feature.
Playing Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha album, we notice that the Zipp isn’t the loudest wireless speaker, but few spread the sound so well – the result of the 360-degree reflector working a treat. You’d still need more than one to stoke a party, but you really could position them almost anywhere.
The mid-heavy guitars and organ of opening number Fiery Crash are creamily smooth, while the pizzicato strings of Imitosis are solid and steer well clear of sharpness. Vocals too are nudged slightly forward, Bird’s voice is strong and purposeful without sacrificing its laid-back charm.
There’s a good amount of detail here. The beginning of Plasticities, with its plucked violins, organ, electric guitar and glockenspiel, is coherent and still feels as if there is space to breathe.
Changing tack with At The Drive-in’s Relationship Of Command album, the Zipp keeps up with the more energetic rhythms, but it does reveal some weaknesses. It’s not that it lacks feeling – it is satisfyingly expressive – but there’s a slight loss of impetus and punch.
That isn’t helped by a lack of spaciousness in the presentation. Textures tend to become a little congested, although the Zipp’s rhythmical sense and ability to bring melody to the front manage to keep its head above water.
The talent to succeed
The Zipp is a worthy sequel which proves this concept has the legs to keep up with a market that has flourished as much as Libratone’s reputation over the past few years.
Given the ubiquity of wireless speakers at this price point, it doesn’t stand out as much as its predecessor. However, its talents give this Zipp every chance of being as successful.
The rudimentary force behind Libratone’s multi-room concept is versatility. Once you’ve connected your speakers with the app, you are invited to create rooms – that is all that is fixed. You are able to move speakers, by dragging them from one room to another. It’s a neat twist on conventional multi-room, which, considering the Zipps are portable wireless speakers, makes sense.
Set-up is straightforward, but not the quickest; you match each speaker to the network individually, though you only need do it once. It runs smoothly, with the Zipp and Zipp Mini working in tandem, mono or stereo, or playing different songs in different rooms without experiencing any dropping out.
Not only do the Zipp and Zipp Mini look similar, there’s no mistaking their musical genetics The premise of the Zipp family is clear: upright, cylindrical design that outputs 360-degree sound