Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker Review: As Iconic As Ever


The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Desktop Stereo System, first introduced in 2007, has evolved from the world’s best iPod dock to a wireless audio system for streaming music over the air. Its outward appearance, aside from losing that base, hasn’t changed much in that time, but it has gained at least one major new feature: Alexa is now on board, making the latest Zeppelin a true smart speaker. The best news is that it sounds just as great as the original and the two redesigns that preceded it.

For four generations, B&W has also expanded its mainstream audio efforts beyond the Apple ecosystem to support Android users as well. The new Zeppelin inherits some of the proprietary wireless technology from B & W’s high-end Formation suite, but is still compatible with Apple’s AirPlay 2. However, multi-room audio support outside of AirPlay 2 will not be implemented until 2022. Once it happens, you will be able to operate multiple Zeppelins and Formation series speakers together, streaming 24-bit / 48 kHz audio from the ground up, with a planned 24-bit / 96 kHz upgrade. However, even after the firmware update, you will not be able to operate two Zeppelins as a stereo pair; there is no radio in the room on board to support such a scenario.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart speakers, where you will find reviews of competing offerings, as well as a buyer’s guide on the features to consider when purchasing this type of product.

As with the previous Zeppelin Air, this new model also has a Bluetooth radio (Bluetooth 5.0 in this case), but it supports the newer aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec, as well as AAC and SBC. Qualcomm’s latest Bluetooth low latency codec supports high-resolution compressed audio (up to 24-bit resolution with sample rates up to 48kHz), with latency low enough to be unnoticeable according to Qualcomm. The Zeppelin has a built-in DAC that handles audio resolutions up to 24 / 192kHz, and there’s also a 24-bit / 96kHz DSP on board.

Tall midnight gray zeppelin drive units white background. Bowers and Wilkins

The Zeppelin’s ample driver space allows it to deliver fabulous stereo performances.

The new Zeppelin still looks like a blimp

The Zeppelin looks as strange as it does for good reason. The left and right tapered sides of the three-way system house the speaker’s 1-inch double-dome tweeters (these are the same high-frequency drivers used in B & W’s 600 Anniversary series speakers), where the tweeters are isolated from vibration from the largest drivers in the enclosure. A pair of 3.5-inch midrange drivers with B & W’s Fixed Suspension Transducer Technology (FST) have been incorporated into the company’s flagship 800-series Diamond speakers. A large (6-inch) subwoofer rests in the center. The Zeppelin brings 240 watts of Class D amplification to the party, driving 40 watts to each tweeter, 40 watts to each midrange, and 80 watts to the subwoofer. The indicated frequency response is 35 Hz to 24 kHz (no tolerance given).

The front of the speaker is wrapped in cloth (the new Zeppelin is available in dark “midnight gray” or “light pearl gray” colors), while the rear half is a composite material in the same color with raised physical buttons to increase the volume. / down, track forward / backward, play / pause, and to mute the set of built-in microphones that summons Alexa. The buttons are easy to find by touch, which is good because being the same color as the case makes them very difficult to see. However, in addition to the mute mic, I suspect most people will use the B & W app to control the speaker anyway. You can also use the app to boost or cut the bass and treble response by up to 6 dB in either direction, although I didn’t play around with this during my evaluation.

The speaker rests on a metal stand that tilts the drivers up at a slight angle. An LED strip projects a dimmable cluster of ambient white light below the speaker, while a multi-colored LED above that turns blue when you invoke Alexa and red when Alexa is muted. The back of the speaker only has a plug for its power cord, a USB-C port for firmware updates, and a factory reset button (both of these latter tasks can also be performed with the app).

Detail of the tall zeppelin propulsion units Bowers and Wilkins

The Zeppelin’s 1-inch double-dome tweeters are sourced from B & W’s 600 Anniversary series speakers, and its 3.5-inch midrange drivers were brought in from the company’s flagship, the 800 Diamond Series.

Using the Bowers & Wilkins Music App

training app 2 Michael Brown / IDG

Bowers & Wilkins could learn a thing or two from Sonos about music apps; on the other hand, so could almost all manufacturers.

The best way to control the speaker is via Wi-Fi with B & W’s own app, with connections to music streaming services Deezer, Last.fm, NTS, Qobuz, Soundcloud, and Tidal, as well as streaming services. Internet radio TuneIn and Dash. . Spotify users may prefer the Spotify app as the speaker supports Spotify Connect, and B&W says it intends to support Spotify HiFi as soon as it becomes available. Currently, the Zeppelin does not support MQA at Tidal, leaving Qobuz as the only source for streaming audio with superior quality than CD.

Two major features missing: DLNA support that would allow you to stream music from network attached storage, and support for Roon (B&W Formation series speakers). is it so compatible). Android users may also miss the compatibility with the Google Assistant and Chromecast. B&W says it plans to support DLNA in the future, but apparently has no plans to support Google’s multi-room or smart home audio technologies.


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