Published on December 17th, 2015 | by Greg0
Smooth And Silky: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
Design matters: it’s what elevates a product from simply fulfilling basic needs to becoming truly desirable. Style, after all, is what turns a blank canvas into a masterpiece. And that same aesthetic appeal is what separates great music from your average track. When you’ve got music that you love, you should give it the respect it deserves, and find a speaker that is worthy. Of course, it should probably offer wireless capabilities, since so much of the music we listen to these days is courtesy of our digital devices. And thankfully, you don’t have to choose between protocols- you can get both the multi-room Apple-ecosystem AirPlay and the multi-platform Bluetooth all in a single speaker.
The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is the latest upgrade from this long-running series of iconic home speakers. When the first version was released, it was little short of an instant classic- an impressive-sounding, immediately eye-catching audio source. In 2007, it was based around one distinct feature that made sense at the time- a dock- which evolved over the years even as wireless connectivity was added and the 30-pin connector became the newer Lightning port. We’ve actually tested out every major edition, with one model or another has had pride of place in our office conference room for years. And while Bowers & Wilkins offers a pretty wide range of lovely headphones and even recent portable Bluetooth speakers, the Zeppelin has always been in a class of it’s own.
Thankfully, the company has taken their experience with Bluetooth and added it to the Zeppelin, meaning you don’t have to choose between the two most popular wireless protocols. The higher-quality apt-X protocol is built-in as well, so you also aren’t forced between opting for wired quality or wireless convenience. The dock has been removed as well, leaving the surface smooth and uncluttered and meaning we won’t have to worry about knocking into the mostly-empty protruding bay anymore. It keeps most of the same specs of the predecessors- dual 25W tweeters, dual 25W mid drivers, and a slightly larger 50W 6.5-inch subwoofer, and each of those has a dedicated amp.
A couple of other notes: Spotify Connect is supported as well, and we tested using Android and iOS devices, and didn’t notice a major difference between AirPlay and Bluetooth quality (though the former was more network-dependent and could experience some delays during playback). One unusual absence was the remote, a sometimes-helpful addition that came with all previous editions. The onboard controls are also a bit limited, so you’ll need to do most of your navigation from your mobile device itself. But any niggles pale beside the power and depth of the ZW’s reproduction, and we enjoyed everything from classical prodigy Igor Levit’s take on the Goldberg Variations to the Hamilton soundtrack. Solid, punchy mids are backed up with some serious low-end, and the highs are noticeably a little sharper, more piercing than the Zeppelins of the past.
The new B&W Zeppelin Wireless is definitely heavy and takes up quite a bit of space, but the biggest issue will likely be sticker shock for some folks- it’s a luxury item priced at the high end of the market. Available now online and in stores for around $699, it’s the best Zeppelin yet, and should make the holidays a bit brighter for anyone who finds one flying into their home this season. Just in time for Christmas, it’s probably the best wireless speaker we’ve heard this year.