The minute I saw Libratone's products, I knew they were Scandinavian. I don't know if it's as obvious to most people, but growing up with a Swedish grandmother, I learned that if it looks modern, minimalist and has bright red felted wood, it's probably Scandinavian. Loop is beautiful. It looks like a piece of modern art. It could be at MoMa.
Loop is perfectly round. The speaker grill is completely covered in a slip cover made of felted wool from Italy. Libratone offers many different rich, jewel-tone colors and the covers are interchangeable. There is a tiny, white circle on the front at the bottom of the speaker, which features Libratone's adorable singing bird, the status LED and volume buttons. Loop measures 13-inches across and weighs 6.1 pounds. It takes up very little space and looks more like an art piece than a speaker.
The back is made of white, sturdy plastic. It has two different areas where you can either attach the wishbone-shaped stand with rubber feet or the cone-shaped wall mount. Near the bottom, there is the hookup for the power cord, a USB slot 3.5-millimeter auxiliary input and a pair of buttons, which you use to help you connect the speaker to your smartphone.
Loop is deceptively simple and achingly beautiful.
On the tech side, Loop's driver and tweeters are powered by 120 watts, which is more than enough for a medium-sized room, or in my case, medium-sized New York apartment. In the center is a four-inch, mid-range driver. On either side are ribbon tweeters. There is also a passive radiator, which is responsible for the bass. Loop isn't for bass-lovers who want the whole room to vibrate with club sounds, but it's perfect for those who enjoy vocals, classical, indie rock and jazz.
At full volume, the speaker doesn't get distorted and once you've found what settings you like best in the Full Room optimization part of the app, Loop really starts to shine. It gives off a very clear and strong sound for a speaker of its size, even though its bass and mid-range may be a bit lacking in comparison with other $500 speakers. Overall, the sound quality was more than satisfying for my tastes.
There are many ways to connect to the Loop and surprisingly, none of them are via Bluetooth. Libratone's set up process is even more simple and reliable. If you have an iPhone, like I do, it's easy to connect to Loop using AirPlay. It's so easy, in fact, that Libratone recommends it as the quickest setup. I found that it's easier to connect to Loop using the Libratone app, which is available in the iOS App and Android Google Play stores.
You can also connect your device via USB, audio connection or DLNA if you have an Android device. There is also a way to connect Loop to your Mac or PC, but since post people reading this will be using their smartphones, I won't go into that setup here.
Once you've downloaded the app, you have to press the AirPlay and PlayDirect buttons on the back of the speaker at the same time until the notification light pulses to prepare Loop for the setup process. You then go to the Wi-Fi settings section on your iPhone and select your speaker's Libratone network. After that's done, you open the app, go to the setup section and your speaker should come up. Select your speaker, then click setup and guided setup. There you'll choose your home Wi-Fi network. After you've confirmed your network, a window will pop up telling you to wait while Loop reboots. This should only take a few seconds.
As soon as it's ready, you'll see that your iPhone is linked to Loop. Now you can start playing your music. Select a song, hit AirPlay and lean back to listen. If you have iOS 7, the AirPlay option is located in the Control Center, so don't look for it next to the play button in the music app. That's only in iOS 6 and lower. AirPlay sounds great and never skips, even when you're in the room next door. Granted, my apartment isn't huge, but I could hear the music in every room and carry my iPhone 5 with me as I went, without disrupting the signal. Anyone who's had a Bluetooth speaker knows that this isn't always the case.
The app also has several settings under the sound tab, which allow you to determine what kind of sound you want. You can put Loop in Quiet Mode, which mutes the sound to a personal and low level. You can also choose Sound Field Expansion, which extends the sound further (good for big rooms).
Additionally, when you tap the FullRoom Optimization section, you can tell your speaker that it's located on a table, shelf, wall or the floor. Once your speaker knows where it is, it changes the sound quality to ensure that you get the fullest sound possible from your Loop.
I set my Loop up on a table and the app even asked for the table's dimensions to get it right. Once I was done estimating my table's size, I tapped on Voicing to see what other options I had with Loop. This is where things got awesome. Voicing is where you choose what kind of sound you like. Easy listening is soft and relaxing, not too much bass. My personal favorite, rock the house, has a harder drum kick and buttery smooth midrange. Loop gives you nine different settings, so you can personalize the speaker's sound. You can even change it up if you switch from, say, rock to classical.
Overall, I found my experience with Libratone's Loop much more enjoyable than other wireless speakers I've tried.