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LIBRATONE LIVE REVIEW
 
 
Let’s get the announcement out of the way first. Libratone just let loose a pair of high-end wireless AirPlay speakers for the home: the $699 / €699 / £599 Libratone Live tower or the $1,299 / €1,199 / £1,099 Libratone Lounge soundbar. That’s a lot of coin for the average consumer. Question is, will they be worth the price when they ship in September?

Before attempting to answer that, let me say this: I love music, be it delta blues, beat jazz, Detroit electronic, or hard driving rock-n-roll. It’s a mood thing. And I’ve been streaming wireless music around my house for more than a decade. My adventures in wireless audio began with some interference-prone 900MHz speakers weakly riding an FM signal. Those were replaced with a set of amplified speakers attached to a Bluetooth 1.1 adapter kit which I later replaced with an AirPort Express in 2004. Four years ago I was treated to wireless music nirvana with a multi-zone Sonos system that I recently enabled for AirPlay. The Sonos is nearly always on, sometimes for critical listening, sometimes for the after dinner family dance party, but more often than not it’s just music in the background. I’m no audiophile. Hell, I can’t even play an instrument (though I’ve purchased a few to assuage my shame). And you know what? That’s ok, I’ve come to accept my position in the fat chewy center of the consumer audio market. So, how does Libratone stack up? Read on to find out.

Background
BACKGROUND
APPLE HAD JUST ANNOUNCED AIRPLAY THREE DAYS EARLIER MAKING LIBRATONE’S DONGLE-BASED BEAT SPEAKER OBSOLETE BEFORE IT EVEN SHIPPED
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You’ve likely never heard of Libratone. Fair enough. But maybe you’re familiar with Steinway Lyngdorf Audio, the Danish company that specializes in high-performance professional audio? Jes Mosgaard, the former CEO of Lyngdorf Audio and former CTO of Steinway Lyngdorf, is now with the 10-person Libratone organization in its quest to deliver professional-grade audio to the slightly-soiled masses. Remember the name because Cupertino’s taken a liking to Libratone with plans to showcase the Danish company’s AirPlay speakers in Apple’s physical and online stores.

My first encounter with Libratone was in Berlin for IFA 2010. I was immediately impressed with the quality of its wireless tower but troubled by the need for a 30-pin dongle to wirelessly stream audio from iOS devices. Remember, Apple had just announced its wireless streaming technology dubbed, AirPlay, three days earlier making Libratone’s dongle-based Beat speaker obsolete before it even shipped (though I’ve been assured that sales are good).

Here we are, almost a year later, and we still only have a few AirPlay speakers on the market. Oh sure, several were announced from Klipsh, Philips, and iHome, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything other than B&W’s Zeppelin Air to purchase. As to JBL’s overpriced $350 On Air dock, puhlease — B&W and Libratone’s offerings are in a whole different class.