Don’t mistake the Braun LE01 for one of the best soundbars. It may outwardly resemble the Sonos Arc or the Sennheiser Ambeo 3D, but this hunk of machined aluminum is all and only about high-end hi-fi. In fact, it is a one-box solution to the problem of how to build the Hi-Fi system of your dreams. Or is it?
Sure, it’s smart enough. This wireless speaker can be controlled using Google Assistant (although not Alexa or Siri). It’s also compatible with both Apple’s AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, so users of either smartphone platform can stream to it without having to compress music. That’s a good thing, because the LE01 smart speaker comes with only Bluetooth 4.2; there’s no sign of aptX hi-res audio streaming. Nor does this dual-band Wi-Fi speaker allow streaming directly from Tidal Connect or Spotify Connect, and it doesn’t operate as an access-all-areas UPnP speaker either.
Thankfully, it’s pretty versatile, if a little large. You can put the LE01 on a table or shelf, or partner it with a speaker stand at added cost and position it as a freestanding speaker, either in the landscape or portrait orientation. If you’re feeling really flush then you can buy two units and use them as the right and left channels in a stereo setup, or even daisy-chain them together for a multiform array. No matter which option you choose, one thing remains: you have to use Google Home to set it up.
However, as mentioned, the LE01 isn’t a soundbar; it lacks both HDMI and optical audio connectivity, which is a bit of a shame given that it’s a great-sounding speaker and would be ideal for occasional home cinema duties.
Either way, with an involving stereo soundstage boasting lots of detail and bags of bass, the LE01 is a sleek, convenient and great-sounding smart speaker that proves an enjoyable entry into the world of digital hi-fi.
Braun LE01 wireless speaker price and release date
- Out now
- Costs $1,299 / £1,099 / AU$2,080
Originally launched in November 2020 by the owners of the Braun Audio brand – the UK’s Pure Audio – the Braun LE01 costs $1,299 / £1,099 / AU$2,080. In the UK, it’s sold on the Braun Audio website and in the US by New York City’s Museum Of Modern Art store.
A take on the brand’s classic LE speakers of the late 1950s, the LE01 is the flagship product in a three-strong lineup that also includes the LE02 (essentially a smaller version of the LE01) and the square LE03 – a Sonos One and Sonos One SL challenger.
- Weighs 10.6kg
- Switches from landscape to portrait using a stand
- Comes in white or black
The LE01 has the kind of iconic look that appears so simple yet remains rare in hi-fi. It’s actually a re-imagining of the iconic minimalist LE1 speaker from 1959, which was sold by German brand Braun Audio. It’s no longer German, and the LE01 now comes with digital innards and a focus on streaming – but the looks (only) have been preserved. You get machined aluminium and cloth-covered speaker grilles, with eight low-profile playback buttons on the top. Both a 3.5mm auxiliary input and an Ethernet LAN port can be found on the speaker’s rear. It’s a sleek look and a high-end build indeed.
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 likely to be placed either on its own on a bookshelf or on a table using the feet in the box, you can also purchase a stainless steel floor stand that puts the speaker into either landscape or portrait positions (it also hides all of the cables). The latter is most likely to be of use if you buy two speakers and use them as a stereo pair.
You can also create a multi-room system, using the LE01 not only with its stablemates, but – via the Google Home app – with any of the best smart speakers that support AirPlay 2 and/or Chromecast.
Whatever position and orientation you choose for the LE01, there are configuration procedures to complete using the Braun Audio app. The first is to set up the LE01 on your home Wi-Fi network using the Google Home app – this isn’t optional. Through the Braun app you can tweak bass and treble levels, but that’s it; there aren’t even any basic playback or volume controls. Once that’s done you can simply select the LE01 – or, rather, whatever you have chosen to name it in the Google Home app – on your phone as the output device when playing Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music and Deezer.
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.
Other ways of playing music through the LE01 include via a direct Bluetooth connection or the 3.5mm jack on the rear, which is ideal if you want to connect a record player. There’s an Ethernet LAN port there, too, if your Wi-Fi is a bit iffy.
- 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.
What the 32-bit ARM audio processor-equipped LE01 does have in droves is bass. The passive radiators pay dividends here, with plenty of bass effects on show that are always punchy. During a run-through of Björk’s Utopia, we even found that bass was best toned down a little in the Braun app. It’s a shame that the EQ settings are so basic – you only get simple treble and bass sliders; there aren’t any pre-tuned settings for different kinds of music – but the LE01 is hardly in dire need of tuning.
Different genres are given lots of clarity: we heard basslines, riffs and instruments in familiar pop, acoustic, jazz and classical songs that we just hadn’t noticed before. 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.