Li­bra­tone One Style

FOR Fea­tures; sec­ond-speaker op­tion; con­trolled sound AGAINST Plays it too safe – we’d like more emo­tion

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

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.

Good­ies ga­lore

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

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