Bowers & Wilkins has introduced the newest edition of its ongoing Zeppelin speaker series with the Zeppelin Wireless ($700). We’ve seen past iterations of the Zeppelin with Zeppelin Air and Zeppelin iPod Speakers — this time around, Bowers & Wilkins has decided to drop the iOS dock from the front of the speaker. And that’s not all. Though the Zeppelin remains AirPlay-compatible, it’s also added Bluetooth 4.1 (and Spotify Connect) support, which should make it more appealing to a wider range of customers. What might hold it back is its lofty price tag: with plenty of great Bluetooth speakers now being sold for much less — many of them portable — it’s unclear if a big, expensive AirPlay/Bluetooth speaker designed for the home is still worth it.
Zeppelin Wireless no longer has an iPhone/iPod dock on its front, but since the speaker is both AirPlay and Bluetooth-capable, we doubt many users will really miss docking a device. In fact, the sophisticated design of the Zeppelin looks even better now, without a dock, or a chrome strip running down the center of the speaker. As if our pictures didn’t give it away, Zeppelin Wireless is a big speaker — it’s about 26” wide, 7.4” tall, and 7.2” deep. It also weighs more than 14 pounds, but it’s made to be a plugged-in home speaker, so you won’t be moving it around much anyway.
For a big speaker, the available buttons and ports won’t overwhelm a user. The upper back of the speaker has buttons for volume and play/pause, while the bottom rear has a power button and reset button, and ports for Ethernet and the power adapter, an aux port, and a USB service port, too. Nearly hidden are the aux and Bluetooth buttons, which can be found on the sides of the Bowers & Wilkins badge up front.
Internally, Zeppelin Wireless contains five drivers — two 3.5” midrange drivers, two 1” double-dome tweeters, and one 6” subwoofer right in the center. There are Class D amplifiers for each drivers — each midrange driver and tweeter gets 25W of output power, and the subwoofer gets a 50-watt amp — and the speaker also packs “supercharged” digital signal processing.
Zeppelin Wireless isn’t quite a plug-and-play speaker — the speaker wants to get a Wi-Fi network connection at first. That can be done using B&W’s Control app, which is easy enough. After that, Zeppelin Wireless can be used for AirPlay or Bluetooth. One thing we don’t love is the location of the aux and Bluetooth buttons — they’re easily accessible, but a bit tiny.
The sound on Zeppelin Wireless is fantastic. Detail, clarity, and stereo separation are all superb — you can be confident this speaker will be able to handle your song of choice, no matter the genre, and make it shine. Bass is strong and thumping, and as you might expect from the size of the thing, Zeppelin Wireless gets plenty loud. The sound should fill a large room with ease, and no distortion is present. That being said, the speaker also performs well at lower volumes. Closer, quieter listening doesn’t lack for detail.
We used both AirPlay and Bluetooth for extended periods of time and encountered no issues with either. But it’s nice to know that if you’re an AirPlay fan who starts having issues — as AirPlay is wont to do — you can move over to Bluetooth and find no noticeable difference in sound performance.
Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Wireless is a true pleasure to listen to — and for the price, it ought to be. If you have the money to spend, you can be confident this speaker will deliver upper-echelon performance, and the design is such that you’ll likely have no issues with giving the elegant new Zep a prominent place in any room of your choice. While larger portable Bluetooth speakers have improved, those we’ve reviewed in the $300+ price range still don’t measure up to this beast. Is that powerful, accurate sound worth an extra $400? Well, if you’ve been looking for an high-end speaker, and you do most of your listening in one area, Zeppelin Wireless is an obvious choice.
Company and Price
Company: Bowers & Wilkins
Model: Zeppelin Wireless
Compatible: AirPlay/Bluetooth iPads, iPhones + iPods