When we think of Libratone, we think woolly-covered wireless speakers. At least that was the case before the Scandinavian company adopted new fabric for its Zipp line.
So does the new Libratone ONE Click – the flagship of the brand’s new portable Bluetooth GO series – see the return of the huggable speaker? Sadly not.
But interestingly it is, as Libratone puts it, ‘a customisable Bluetooth speaker’. That doesn’t mean you can have it in your favourite shade of blue with your name stitched on it, but the concept – less bling, more businesslike – centres on a modular design instead.
The ONE Click’s book-shaped metal mesh chassis – a departure from Libratone’s water bottle form – features a removable rubber frame that caters for two interchangeable handles: a hook for hanging on a tree, and a carry strap for, well, carrying.
The frame is relatively easy to ‘click’ in and out, and a snug, tight fit around the chassis.
Keeping it housebound? Take a look at the ONE Style model in the range; it’s essentially the same speaker, but with a fixed finger-loop handle frame instead.
The ONE Click is available in dark grey, light grey or green. It feels sturdy enough to survive a tumble, but Libratone’s maternal instincts appear to have kicked in anyway.
The company has given it rubber ‘bumpers’ (think knee and elbow pads) along the frame to protect it from bumps and scrapes. And it has also been given a raincoat of sorts too, the ONE Click is ‘splashproof’ (meeting the IPX4 standard).
Hiding behind the same soft mesh material that wraps the Zipp and Zipp Mini is an 8cm woofer, a 30mm tweeter and two passive drivers underneath.
Decoration is limited to the intuitive, bird-emblazoned touch panel also found on the Zipp speakers. Ultimately, design is very much the Scandinavian way – smart and minimalist, not tall and blonde.
Typically for a speaker of this size and price, portability heads the ONE Click’s list of highlights.
As for battery life, you should get a maximum of 12 hours playback, depending on listening volume, with the micro USB charging port sitting alongside a 3.5mm input.
While the ONE Click isn’t multi-room in the strictest sense, Bluetooth + 1 technology and Libratone’s app mean that two speakers can be linked together, or one can be paired with a Zipp speaker, to play either in unison or stereo.
The ONE Click doesn’t need to be cylindrical to feature the brand’s signature 360-degree sound. When upright, drivers fire sound out from both sides to justify the speaker’s central spot in a room or on a picnic blanket.
They produce a soundfield that’s equal parts tall and wide, and certainly more balanced and open compared to the sound when the Click is laid flat down.
So, presentation gets a tick. But does the ONE Click accurately reproduce Libratone’s typically clear, smooth and rhythmic sound? Largely, though we have some doubts about the latter.
Although the Click has the shrewdness to pick out details and textures – and the space to separate them – punctuality is not its greatest asset.
The UE Boom 2 has a steadier pulse, stripping down the overlapping rhythmic patterns in 65daysofstatic’s Radio Protector with more precise timing and a stronger sense of togetherness.
A slight hollowness that taints the Libratone’s upper bass frequencies is a barrier to outright tonal balance too.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual. That familiar smooth weightiness hugs instrumentals, getting behind the song’s drums as much as its trebly xylophones.
There’s solidarity and substance here, and while it would be generous of us to say its presentation bathes in insight or texture, it hardly lacks either. Detail is evenly spread, and dynamic variances are easily heard.
With a penchant for clarity and refinement, the Libratone is at home with a man-and-his-guitar track like Iron & Wine’s Resurrection Fern, where it puts in a solid midrange performance and delivers engaging acoustic plucking and husky vocals.
Libratone has gone back to basics with a range that’s both more affordable and Bluetooth-focused.
But it hasn’t reined in the charm, beauty and more importantly quality that has made its more ambitious wireless speakers such a success.
While there are better sounding portable speakers out there for this money, including the UE Boom 2 and Audio Pro Addon T3, there are plenty of poorer sounding ones too.
The industry is hardly short of a portable Bluetooth speaker or two, but if you do find yourself without, this one’s a good shout.