Libratone, the company that brought you the cylindrical Zipp, has given birth to another wireless speaker.
This one's circular and appropriately called the Loop (I would have preferred Ring, but Loop is OK). While it has some heft to it -- as you'd expect from a $499.95 speaker -- it's pretty compact and looks like a speaker that Bang & Olufsen would sell, which perhaps isn't so surprising when you consider that Libratone was started in Denmark but now has offices in North America nearly across the street from Bose in Framingham, Mass.
The Loop can be wall-mounted (a mount is included) or it can rest on a flat surface with the help of its built-in kickstand. Like the Zipp, the speaker has a removable Italian wool cover and can be swapped out for a different-color cover should you be willing to drop an extra $50. Initial cover color choices are Pepper Black, Salty Grey, and Raspberry Red.
This is an AirPlay speaker but it also connects via DNLA, so you can stream to it wirelessly from Android- and Windows-based devices, as well as Apple devices.
From an AirPlay standpoint, the key thing about it is that you have the option of connecting directly to the speaker without using a Wi-Fi access point (this feature is called PlayDirect). In that sense, it works more like a Bluetooth speaker, but you get the benefit of the higher bandwith that AirPlay offers (your music is not compressed over an Airplay connection).
Libratone is touting the speaker's ribbon-based tweeters and room-filling sound. I did get a quick demo and was impressed with what I heard (as we were with the Zipp), though it's obviously difficult to get true stereo sound out of speaker where the drivers are so close together; the magic of digital processing can only do so much.
Libratone says the Loop is now available for preorder through its new US Web store and will be available at select flagship Apple Stores and Apple Online as well as selected retailers in mid-October for the aforementioned $499.95.
We'll post a full review of the Loop in the coming weeks.