Lirpa Labs MZ1-949r Soundbar Review
AT A GLANCE
Line array is audio perfection
Incredible smart-home features
Design is a little common
Adds red tint to images
The Lirpa Labs MZ1-949r soundbar offers a new level of features and sound that everyone will love.
A few years ago, we reviewed the Lirpa Labs 1776, a speaker unlike any other, and a true statement in the audio world. Sadly, despite critical acclaim—it was widely considered to be the best speaker of all time—the 1776 was a commercial failure. Lirpa Labs held on briefly, with some, shall we say, “eccentric” headphones, but the company was nearly bankrupt. An ill-advised and poorly implemented app was a step too far.
Always one to see rising trends, Dr. Loof Lirpa knew his next speaker had to be a soundbar. But not just any soundbar, he told us in an exclusive interview. The ultimate soundbar. First, though, he needed capital.
A Soundbar for the People
“I am a speaker designer first, a businessman second,” Dr. Lirpa explained. “I welcome the opportunity to work with the Chinese government on this project.” Given how patriotic his 1776 AF-Y speaker was, it came as a surprise to us that the good doctor would be so enthusiastically partnering with the Chinese. “Everyone makes everything in China these days,” he replied. “From Chiang Mai to Choibalsan, there are factories all over the country.”
To resurrect his brand, he said, Dr. Lirpa was able to secure funding from the Chinese government (the details of which he refused to share), and he set out to create his magnum opus.
“The Lirpa MZ1-949r soundbar features a clean-slate design,” he proclaimed, “sharing no parts or materials with the old 1776 tower speaker. It’s completely different. I’m told it’s an improvement in every way.”
The two rows of six horn-loaded, piezoelectric tweeters function as a dual-stage line array, the pieces working together to create a uniform soundstage, regardless of where you’re sitting in the room.
The tweeters share a mono 1,000-watt Class D amp. The phased-array layout tops out at 121,893 hertz and utilizes a digital multiplexing scheme that monitors the incoming signal and ensures each tweeter gets exactly the power it needs, and only the power it needs, when it needs it.
The woofer is powered by its own 1,000-watt Class A tube amp. Via elaborate internal ducts, the heat is carefully vented using the same side ports that vent the woofer. This configuration, Lirpa claims, reduces chuff and port noise, and the lower air density adds measurable and noticeable bass output. (See our Test Bench lab results for the full story.)
Perhaps what’s most interesting about the Lirpa soundbar is its extensive complement of advanced smart-home features. Although smart TV streaming features have appeared recently in other bars, the appearance of home automation, smart control features, and more is a first in any soundbar we’re aware of, and perhaps a sign of things to come. To integrate with your current system, the MZ1-949r has not only Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless, but also a 100GbE enterprise-grade router/hub (five-port), and even an optional cable modem. For inputs, there are six HDMIs, four opticals, and four analog ins that include a stereo pair of audiophile-ready XLRs. There’s one each of the same for outputs.
Perfect Sound for All
Most soundbars make compro- mises in sound quality in favor of an attractive and convenient form factor. Not so with the Lirpa. It’s more lifelike than any speaker I’ve ever heard. The line array creates a soundstage with better width, height, and depth than even the best Dolby Atmos systems I’ve heard demo’d to date.
There’s no need for a subwoofer, either. The main 12-inch woofer, with its insanely powerful amp, easily produces output down below that of most subs, including a good many 15-inch models I’ve heard. Its output was below the range of my in-room measurement gear, but by ear (and chest), I could easily feel power down in the subsonics. It’s epic.
The Lirpa is capable of some incredible SPL as well, enough that your neighbors will hear every note of music, every line of dialogue. Dr. Lirpa informs us that this was a required design feature.
As earth-shattering as the Lirpa sounds, it’s the home automation and control (HAC) that really sets it apart.
It goes without saying that the Lirpa will control the other gear in your system. Using either Ethernet or IR (blasters front and back), it draws on a database of more than 500,000 products, so even your most obscure gear is probably good to go.
In a feature I’ve never seen before, setup is entirely by voice. Synthesized speech leads you through the steps, and you just say the names of the products you have. The voice is so realistic, I’d have sworn a real person was inside.
There’s no traditional remote. Want to turn up the volume? Just say, “Lirpa, volume up.” Sure, the Xbox One with Kinect has functionality like this, but the Lirpa goes one step further, letting you control all your other gear (and all their commands) with voice, too. It’s a staggering achievement.
Built-in cameras let you Skype, but they also have facial-recognition functionality. Lirpa stores the visages of you and your family on the company’s new Complete Community Cloud Program. This allows the soundbar to monitor the room. Then, after detecting who’s in it, the bar adjusts sound profiles, volume, and even content accordingly.
For example: Want to finish the movie you fell asleep watching last night? The Lirpa remembers, and it will restart at the part where you fell asleep (presuming it was streaming, Blu-ray, or DVR’d content, of course).
The Lirpa also remembers your favorite channels and shows, storing them all in the cloud, so you can quickly scan only among the channels you like. This Favored Content Status is also stored on the Lirpa cloud, and it includes not just channels but also streaming content, as well as Websites browsed on the built-in browser. As the Lirpa gets to know you and your family, it will even automatically block content from you or your kids that it thinks you’d find objectionable.
In order to save all of this, you’re of course required to register. Frustratingly, the Lirpa voice prompt system won’t let you proceed without registering. It gets (and perhaps I’m anthropomorphizing here) rather insistent. Name and e-mail address are reasonable requests, but other data like phone number and physical address seemed superfluous and intrusive to me.
The Lirpa not only remembers your Wi-Fi settings and password but also stores settings for your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks as well. Lirpa claims this is for better accuracy for locational services, such as Google Maps.
Although I wasn’t able to test its home automation function, the Lirpa can act as the central control hub for lighting and HVAC systems. Security systems, too, whether they take the form of additional cameras (to augment the soundbar’s built-in ones) or a full traditional system. All can be integrated into the Lirpa with its voice and cloud features.
Though there’s no control app, it’s recommended you connect the soundbar to your phone. This gives you access to the beta for the LirpaTime app, which is like FaceTime or Skype, but automatically stores your conversations on the cloud for later access.
From its superlative sound to its innovative smart-home features, the Lirpa Labs MZ1-949r has set the, ahem, bar for the competition. There is nothing else like it, and it marks a truly magnificent return to form for Dr. Loof Lirpa. I’m proud to say this is one review sample that came into my home and never left. It has truly become the fully integrated centerpiece of my system, and I can’t imagine a time without it.