Image: Hugh Threlfall
March 19 2011
I have long wanted to find a piece of technology that wears clothes and this, from Copenhagen audio company, Libratone, appears to be it. The Libratone Beat comes clad in an odd, but far from unsightly, cashmere wrap thing in “vanilla beige” (pictured), plus “blood orange” and “blueberry black”. There’s also a grey Italian wool version.
What is the Beat, then, apart from a way of providing my first ever woollen gadget? Well, oddly enough, it’s a really nice bit of hi-fi. The Beat is a one-piece 50-watt high-end wireless speaker that stands on its own and radiates out 360° of audio goodness in such a way that it sounds the same wherever you stand in a room.
The device gets its music wirelessly, thanks to a USB dongle for your computer, which can feed it from up to 30m. There’s also a minuscule transmitter for the usual iPhone/Pod/Pad triumvirate, which works over 10m. It’s all exceptionally easy to set up.
The Scandinavian oddness does not end with the wool business. The other slightly perverse thing about the Beat is that its 47cm-high, 6.5kg piano-finished wooden form looks, thanks to its satin-chrome handle, rather like a large jug kettle. I have to confess, indeed, that when I first saw it, I thought I had found stumbled across something really rather silly – a kettle wearing a tight cashmere jumper. But once it’s placed in a room, with the kettle handle more or less out of sight, the Beat becomes a thing of real beauty, filling a room with sound while looking just… cool.
I love it. The sound is quite light and crisp, so it doesn’t have the majesty of bigger hi-fis with a traditional two-speaker set-up. I also don’t think it’s even pseudo stereo – more like a very nice form of mono – but it’s very acceptable (too much is sometimes made of stereo anyway), and the portability is a huge bonus.
The Beat does need plugging into the mains, however, and to make it even more stylish, you might want to replace the thick black mains cable supplied with something lighter and daintier.