Does Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Top Other Tabletop Speakers?
Since 1966 Bowers & Wilkins speakers have been the choice of music professionals, music lovers, and audiophiles around the world. Today they are best known for their range of hi-fi speakers, headphones, and wireless music systems. One thing audiophiles and hi-fi enthusiasts will tell you, B&W is all about legendary speaker designs.
As a testament to the company, since the 60s all the big name recording studios such as Abbey Road, Decca, EMI, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon use B&W’s for monitoring recording sessions. Committed to recording their own music, B&W even ran their own audiophile record and CD label from 1988 to 1996.
We can’t think of a better recommendation for trusting the “sound quality” than to use the same speakers in your home that the pros use to judge the sound quality of their work.
Most recently B&W have been acquired by a billionaire and his Silicon Valley firms. We think relationships with tech companies like this makes the future bright indeed for the type of tech goodies we like here at RYS.
History of the Zeppelin is Important
The founders of B&W always wanted to build the perfect speaker system for home or studio use. The company has roots in the golden age of hi-fi systems designing some of the finest and most expensive stereo speakers available.
As both a technology company and a speaker manufacturers they also began the modern wireless systems era of speakers. In 2011 the company made a technology breakthrough and launched the original Zeppelin Air. It was in fact the very first speaker system to include Apple AirPlay. In the process they converted many a diehard audiophile to the the convenience of over the air aka, wireless music.
This history making of great audio systems continue with the same iconic football shape of the original Zeppelin Air and is now simply called Zeppelin. The product has evolved losing the iPod dock and is now a mostly wireless device with a mini-jack should you need to wire up.
What’s Inside the Zeppelin Air?
The new Zeppelin is a 2.1 (with internal subwoofer) design and has all the goodies we crave here at RYS. Inside the simple and iconic shape you’ll find, patented (and great sounding) kevlar drivers, a 6.5” long-throw sub-woofer, 2 midrange drivers, and 2 double dome tweeters.
We particularly like the “trickle down” tech in the new Zeppelin. The tweeters can be found in the superb B&W CM series, and midrange driver can be found inside the top of the line Diamond 800 Series of speakers. Also, four individual Class D 25 watt amplifiers drive the pair of midrange and tweeters, and a 50 watt D amplifier drive the internal subwoofer. Along with a DAC and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is improved is improved in the newer Zeppelin.
The new enclosure is also twice as thick as its predecessor ( Zeppelin Air) and is a unique fabrication of fiberglass and tough ABS. All this diligence and willingness to redesign the new Zeppelin helps minimize vibrations and unwanted resonance of the subwoofer and four drivers. The result is that new Zeppelin produces absolutely expansive bass, pristine mids and highs all at impressive volume levels in your home and the neighbors.
Is The Zeppelin Air for Streaming Music?
Zeppelin Wireless connects effortlessly with, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth aptX, or Spotify. This means beautiful music is always seconds away using all your favorite devices. The free Control App for iOS, OS X or Windows devices (FYI, NO ANDROID APP available) is part of the package.
The Apple dock is gone.. but, you’ll have a stereo mini-jack to handle that. It keeps the lines of the Zeppelin cleaner than its predecessor with a very contemporary look. We wish it had an Android App.. If that’s not a deal breaker, the Zeppelin is most useful when using AirPlay, Spotify Connect or Bluetooth.
Hands On With Zeppelin Wireless
This is a very easy system to live with when your friends come over. With built in Bluetooth pairing, a friends phone loaded with music can be instantly streaming over the Zep.
All that sits on the Zeppelin for control is a small Zeppelin badge that is the discrete touch panel used for pairing. When you touch one side of the panel it switches inputs from Bluetooth or the opposite side switches the mini-jack input. Above the touch panel are your volume and pause controls. Also, the Bowers & wilkins Control app for iOS makes setup and remote use a simple task.
Is The Sound Quality Of An All-in-One Up To Snuff?
Let me divert for a second.. If you’re thinking about an all-in-one unit for music don’t bother thinking about buying the dreaded TV sound bar.. Some people do think it’s a audio solution for listening to music, but we don’t.
It’s one of those crappy audio video products that seems to be the afterthought after purchasing your luxury flat screen TV. With the TV’s crappy built-in speakers sound bars were propagated by TV manufacturers as a very poor multipurpose solution to upgrade sound for TV and music.
Although the soundbar is a self contained speaker, like a Zeppelin, we still find very little to like with any of the soundbars we’ve tested. No matter the brand, they all sound just plain old average to us. We think these sound bars for the most part lack musical coherency and use too much Digital Signal Processing (DSP). We don’t think it even works very well for TV sound and it gives music an aggressive sound with exaggerated highs and a pushy bass effect.
On the other hand, the Zeppelin sounds warm and delicious. Maybe it’s Bowers & Wilkins desire to get as much performance as they can out of the Zeppelin. Or, it’s all because of that classic British speaker sound.
The Zep’s sound has musical dynamics, a warm wonderful reserve, good midrange, with rich bass filling it all out. There is nothing sharp or exaggerated, and DSP stereo helps distinguish the recordings left and right sound spectrum. Also, the Zeppelin can trick you into thinking you listening to a pair of speakers and is not a sweet-spot speaker providing a spacious sound even when off axis.
We tested the Zeppelin in a variety of rooms using the same playlist of albums to garner some additional listening impressions. We tried it for a party in a large city loft and found it had the room filling sound needed for the job.
When we tested it in smaller rooms such as the average size living, bedroom, office or kitchen at average listening levels this is when we knew Zeppelin is a truly amazing sounding system. When you are listening all day long, many here at Rateyoursound said, this is the all-in-one music system they would chose.
Does Zeppelin Air Have Multi-room Capability?
Yes it can deliver Multiroom sound. Combined with other B&W wireless speakers you can have music anywhere in your home using the iOS Control App.
Bottom Line on Buying
The Zeppelin Air is posh looking and sounds luscious with a spatial shine that was surprisingly realistic for a tabletop speaker system. In addition, it has this prodigious bass and that helped insure its place in the Rateyoursound Top 20 List of Luxury Wireless Audio Systems. For an all-in-one music system, the sound is balanced to a degree most other system of similar ilk can’t come close to delivering on musically.
B&W’s versatility and functionality are the hallmark of this all-in-one music system. It has all the connectivity goodies (minus an Android App) you could want and worked flawlessly with Bluetooth or Apple iOS.
B&W’s long experience in high-end speaker design, along withs its many years of developing wireless music systems brings us to the conclusion, that this is among the best tabletop systems available.
In a color choice of Black or White the new Zeppelin is a true luxury wireless speaker. For a largish living room or a more intimate space like a bedroom or home office this all-in-one audio system will deliver the sound and usability you crave.
One big plus with Zeppelin is it beats out many of our all-in-ones speaker recommendations in the price department by a substantial margin. We like the sound of B&W’s other speakers very much and are drawn to the sonics of the Zeppelin. We unanimously felt this was an impressive sounding music system, wireless bluetooth and network player all-in-one.
Finally, currently the older Zeppelin Air is still available from 3rd parties and at great prices.. The iPod dock and beefier looks may have you wondering if it’s also worth considering? Our answer would be yes.. One of our contributors has an older Zeppelin Air and we tested it side by side with the newer version. We found the sound quality is similar and loved the iPod dock.