Libratone One Style
FOR Features; second-speaker option; controlled sound AGAINST Plays it too safe – we’d like more emotion
Libratone pulled the rug from under its shiny, plastic rivals’ feet when it launched its cashmere-clad Beat portable speaker. Six years on, the company is practically a veteran of the portable speaker-maker family and models encased in natural fibres have become the rule rather than the exception.
The new design rule
The One Style is very much part of the new rule. A minimalist – harsh critics might say bland – design, its standout feature is the thick rubber bumper that surrounds the chassis. This frame also provides a thick handle with which you can carry the Libratone or hang it up on a suitable chunky hook – kitchen pot rack, we’re looking at you here.
You can also remove the rubber frame – Libratone says that this enables you to personalise the unit – but, at the time of writing, we couldn’t find the frames for sale separately on its online store.
Removable frame aside, the Libratone feels well finished. That bumper lends a sense of bump-based security, and the grille’s mesh is neat. And, like any good Scandinavian, it doesn’t mind a bit of challenging weather, rating at IPX4 for its splash-proof abilities.
The One Style produces a pretty fancy feature list from its rubberised pocket. The built-in battery, Libratone claims, is good for up to 12 hours of fun, and it will play nicely with Bluetooth devices – plus there’s a 3.5mm aux-in.
It’s an inclusive sort, too – if you buy another unit you can use the ‘Bluetooth +1’ feature to enable a two-speaker set-up. To do this, download the free app, which is available for IOS and Android. It’s a smartly designed interface, which also lets you adjust sound settings, plus access internet radio stations. Nice touches.
This model is also one of the portable speaker breeds that allow the pairing of two phones. The thinking here is that, say, you and a buddy can take turns in playing tracks. Very democratic. The claimed acoustic performance is also extremely free and easy, offering ‘360° sound’. The speaker system, from which this all-encompassing music is to emanate, comprises a tweeter, a woofer and a passive radiator. Business sorts, as well as cooks with sticky fingers, may appreciate the speakerphone. All we need now is great sound.
The One Style has a good go at this last demand, but it doesn’t quite scale the heights of its best rivals. It’s close, but there is no need for the cigar cutter. This is frustrating as, to rival the best, this speaker just needs to let itself go.
As with its looks, when it comes to sound the One Style plays safe. Bass is fine. Midrange is fine. Treble is fine. Overall presentation is good. Lower frequencies don’t swamp, mids don’t recede, and treble doesn’t bite. Everything sounds very pleasant. Detail is fair, too, so play Bowie’s Candidate and the speaker lays out the track in an orderly fashion.
A need to break free
But while Candidate merits military-like order to its marching beat, as the track progresses it also needs to be let off the sergeant-major’s leash. The Libratone, though, remains in step, refusing to cast off its inhibitions and really go for it. The result is you’re left wanting that extra snap from percussion, a more powerful bass punch, and increased levels of emotion and realism from vocals.
Some perspective here: this is a good speaker, and a fine package. And we recognise the thought put into extras such as the app, which is a successful addition. But audio is the issue. The Libratone is up against more excitingsounding rivals, and it’s in the emotion stakes that it doesn’t quite reach out and touch you. But for those after a controlled performance it’s well worth a listen.
“The app has a smart interface, which lets you adjust sound and access internet radio”
Neat and minimal to some, safe and bland to others – the styling will split opinion
The rubber frame is removeable and can be swapped for one of a different colour