Braun Sounds’ new flagship one-box hi-fi, which has been revived, provides surprisingly bassy but detailed audio, as well as great build quality to match its smart speaker status.
Some may be annoyed by the requirement to utilise Google Home for setup and Google Assistant-only compatibility, however, Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast streaming can easily compete with Sonos in terms of sound quality.
Review in one minute
The Braun LE01 isn’t one of the better soundbars out there. This lump of machined metal may look like the Sonos Arc or the Sennheiser Ambeo 3D on the outside, but it’s all about high-end hi-fi. In reality, it’s a one-box answer to the challenge of putting together your fantasy Hi-Fi system. Is that the case?
Sure, it’s intelligent. Google Assistant may be used to operate this wireless speaker (although not Alexa or Siri). It also works with Apple’s AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, allowing users of either smartphone platform to stream music to it without compressing it. That’s fortunate, because the LE01 smart speaker only has Bluetooth 4.2, with no mention of aptX high-resolution music streaming. This dual-band Wi-Fi speaker also doesn’t support direct streaming via Tidal Connect or Spotify Connect, nor does it function as an access-all-areas UPnP speaker.
Thankfully, it’s quite adaptable, despite its size. The LE01 can be placed on a table or shelf, or it can be paired with a speaker stand and used as a freestanding speaker in either landscape or portrait orientation. If you’re feeling very flush, you may purchase two units and use them as the right and left channels in a stereo configuration, or daisy-chain them for a multiform array. Whatever choice you select, one thing stays constant: you must use Google Home to set it up.
The LE01, however, isn’t a soundbar; it lacks both HDMI and optical audio connectivity, which is a shame because it’s a great-sounding speaker that would be excellent for occasional home cinema duty.
In any case, the LE01 is a sleek, practical, and great-sounding smart speaker that delivers a pleasurable entrée into the world of digital hi-fi, with an immersive stereo soundstage with heaps of clarity and bags of bass.
Also Read: MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) review
Braun LE01 wireless speaker price and release date
- Out now
- Costs $1,299 / £1,099 / AU$2,080
The Braun LE01 costs $1,299 / £1,099 / AU$2,080 and was first released in November 2020 by the proprietors of the Braun Audio brand, the UK’s Pure Audio. The Braun Audio website sells it in the UK, and the Museum Of Modern Art store in New York City sells it in the US.
The LE01 is the main product in a three-strong portfolio that also includes the LE02 (basically a smaller version of the LE01) and the square LE03 – a Sonos One and Sonos One SL competition. It is based on the brand’s legendary LE speakers from the late 1950s.
- Weighs 10.6kg
- Switches from landscape to portrait using a stand
- Comes in white or black
The LE01 features a distinctive design that seems basic yet is uncommon in hi-fi. It’s really a reimagining of Braun Audio’s renowned minimalist LE1 speaker, which was released in 1959. The LE01 is no longer German, and it now has digital innards and a streaming focus – but the aesthetics (only) have been kept. The speaker grilles are made of machined aluminium and fabric, and there are eight low-profile playback controls on the top. On the back of the speaker, there is a 3.5mm auxiliary input as well as an Ethernet LAN connector. It has a sleek design and high-end construction.
Measuring 700 x 271 x 99mm, it arrives with a couple of large, wraparound stainless steel supports that can be used to prop up the LE01 and keep it from touching any surface. That extends its footprint to 700 x 323 x 159mm.
- Requires the Google Home app for setup
- Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Bluetooth support
- Braun Audio app has EQ optimisation settings
Although the LE01 is most often used on its own on a bookshelf or on a table with the included feet, you can also purchase a stainless steel floor stand that allows you to position the speaker in landscape or portrait mode (it also hides all of the cables). If you buy two speakers and utilise them as a stereo pair, the latter is most likely to be useful.
You can also set up a multi-room system by pairing the LE01 not just with its stablemates, but also with any of the top smart speakers that support AirPlay 2 and/or Chromecast via the Google Home app.
There are configuration steps to complete using the Braun Audio app, regardless of the location and orientation you pick for the LE01. The first step is to connect the LE01 to your home Wi-Fi network using the Google Home app — this is required. You can adjust the bass and treble settings via the Braun app, but that’s it; there are no basic playing or volume adjustments. After that, while playing Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, or Deezer on your phone, simply pick the LE01 – or whatever name you gave it in the Google Home app – as the output device.
It’s then easy to control the speaker using the Google Assistant. It has four far-field microphones, which means you won’t have to scream any instructions at it.
- 3 x front-firing drivers, 2 x passive radiators and 3 x class D amplifiers
- Plays MP3, HE-AAC, LC-AAC, WAV (LPCM), FLAC, Vorbis, Opus
- Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music and Deezer
The LE01’s iconic look is matched by its warm and detailed sound. It just about manages to push its soundstage forward into a room, although you’ll always know where the music is coming from – there are no virtual surround sound modes or excessive stereo effects here.
The LE01, which is equipped with a 32-bit ARM audio processor, has a lot of basses. The passive radiators pay out in spades here, with lots of strong bass effects on display. We even discovered that bass was best toned down a touch in the Braun app during a run-through of Björk’s Utopia. It’s a shame the EQ controls are so rudimentary – there are only simple treble and bass sliders, and no pre-tuned options for different types of music – but the LE01 isn’t in desperate need of tweaking.
Different genres are given a lot of clarity: we heard basslines, riffs, and instruments that we hadn’t noticed previously in familiar pop, acoustic, jazz, and classical tunes. The LE01 can happily hit high volumes without distortion, and there’s a luscious depth in a warm soundstage that has plenty of brightness in the mids and highs.