Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (2021) review: An icon reborn

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(Pocket-lint) - Bowers & Wilkins introduced its archetypal Zeppelin talker successful 2007. Originally an iPod dock acceptable into a massive, oval talker system, it became an iconic merchandise for Apple instrumentality fans.

Subsequent follow-ups appeared successful 2011 and 2015 - successful the signifier of the Zeppelin Air and Zeppelin Wireless, respectively - each adopting a diagnostic acceptable depending connected the euphony listening trends astatine the time. But things person been quiescent ever since, some figuratively and literally.

Now it's backmost for 2021, rebooted and refreshed arsenic the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin anew. It ditches the past remnants of wired oregon dock-like connectivity, though, going much wireless than adjacent the Wireless exemplary ever was, and erstwhile again brings to a modernising diagnostic acceptable to the table.

Like its forebears, it is simply a premium one-box stereo talker solution and has a terms to match, but considering the audio scenery is present truthful saturated with cheaper, mass-market alternatives, does it connection capable to marque a important splash?

Design and easiness of use

  • Dimensions: 210mm (H) x 650mm (W) x 194mm (D) / Weight: 6.5kg
  • Connections: No ports, USB-C for work only
  • Setup done Music by Bowers & Wilkins app
  • Finishes: Midnight Grey, Pearl Grey

Certainly it looks the part. That genuinely iconic signifier is backmost - elliptical and eponymously zeppelin-shaped - but this clip acceptable connected a basal that makes it look similar it's floating.

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It is made of premium materials, with LED lighting built into the basal truthful you get a halo lighting effect erstwhile successful operation. This is dimmable too, including the quality to crook it disconnected completely, but we similar the aesthetic.

There are controls connected the apical rear of the speaker, though they are purposely simple. Volume, play/pause and an Alexa dependable power fastener are ranged alongside a multi-function fastener that tin beryllium utilized for pairing and power.

Connectivity is besides sparse, with a USB-C larboard for work purposes, powerfulness (a figure-of-eight cable) and a reset button.

Everything astir the caller Zeppelin is designed astir easiness of use. The thought is that, aft archetypal setup, you hardly person to interaction it again. Everything is controlled done the dedicated Music by Bowers & Wilkins app oregon via a nonstop Bluetooth connection. You cannot link a wired source, which has its downsides, but that's somewhat the point.

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Sometime successful 2022, this Zeppelin volition besides summation compatibility with Bowers & Wilkins Formation speakers for multiroom playback, but it's a standalone merchandise astatine the clip of writing.

Hardware and talker units

  • Speakers: 2x 25mm dome tweeters, 2x 90mm mid-range drivers, 1x 150mm woofer
  • Frequency response: 35 to 24,000Hz, Total powerfulness output: 240W
  • Bluetooth 5.0 (aptX Adaptive, AAC, SBC codecs), Wi-Fi
  • Far-field microphones for Alexa dependable assistant

Underneath the talker grille are immoderate existent treats.

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While stereo, the strategy efficaciously boasts a 2.1 setup. There are 2 1-inch decoupled double-dome tweeters - arsenic recovered successful B&W's fantabulous 600 bookshelf and floorstanding range. They are isolated astatine each of the furthest edges of the Zeppelin to trim distortion created by the different talker units.

They power the precocious frequencies, portion a brace of 3.5-inch drivers with the company's proprietary fixed suspension transducer (FST) tech grip the midrange. Again, these person bled down from different B&W speakers, including the 800 Series Diamond line.

Last, but surely not least, determination is simply a 6-inch dedicated subwoofer beforehand and centre of the array. It people handles the low-end of the frequence spectrum and, successful our tests, precise ably to boot. While galore speakers and soundbars assertion 'sub', the Zeppelin isn't kidding: its 35Hz minimum frequence output is firmly successful that arena.

In presumption of wireless technologies, the Zeppelin supports Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi. It is besides certified for aptX Adaptive truthful tin grip hi-resolution euphony streamed via a compatible Android phone. We were told this is chiefly connected the aptX HD side, truthful tin person and playback tracks streamed successful up to 24-bit/48kHz (albeit a small "lossy" arsenic that procreation of the codec isn't perfect). Qualcomm's latest format, aptX Lossless, is not supported - but compatible products for that are not expected to commencement to deed the marketplace until aboriginal successful 2022.

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Amazon Alexa dependable enactment is built into the talker strategy itself. There's nary request for a abstracted Echo device, for example, arsenic determination are aggregate acold tract microphones acceptable into the Zeppelin. However, it was unavailable astatine clip of testing. We volition update this reappraisal erstwhile the bundle brings it online, but don't consciousness our acquisition was diminished overmuch regardless. This is simply a high-end audiophile merchandise and, arsenic such, dependable adjunct power is simply a bully other but hardly the beryllium each and extremity all.

App and services

  • Bowers & Wilkins Music app (iOS and Android)
    • Services: Tidal, Qoboz, Deezer, TuneIn, Last.fm, Soundcloud
  • Apple Airplay 2, Spotify Connect

The main method of power is done the Music by Bowers & Wilkins app for Apple iOS and Google Android.

You request to usage it to link to the instrumentality successful the archetypal place, past setup its web capabilities (which is does comparatively autonomously). You tin besides link it to your Amazon relationship for Alexa power (when that's functional) and nexus aggregate euphony services to watercourse from.

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Qoboz, Tidal, Deezer and TuneIn are among those disposable and, erstwhile linked, they populate the app with each the playlists, albums and searchable tracks you could anticipation for. You don't request to exit the app to play immoderate euphony from a linked work and you get recommendations and precocious played contented bars to marque things easier.

Handily, determination are besides immoderate B&W curated playlists that volition springiness your caller talker a bully test.

The app works arsenic a hub, truthful you prime the tunes connected it but the talker streams straight from the work alternatively than your phone. At present, Hi-Res Audio is lone disposable via Qoboz this mode (it doesn't presently enactment Tidal's MQA tracks, for example), but you tin ever usage different nonstop streaming methods too.

Apple AirPlay 2 streaming is disposable for iPhone, iPad and Mac users, arsenic is Spotify Connect. And, arsenic we've said above, Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive (which covers aptX HD) is supported for those with compatible Android devices.

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That fundamentally means you tin provender lossless oregon near-to-lossless audio from different streaming services, conscionable implicit alternate means. A wired transportation would person been bully for a genuinely lossless hook-up, but the ultimate prime of the audio output connected adjacent the astir lossy tracks means you are improbable to perceive fractional improvements - or, astatine least, care.

Importantly, Bowers & Wilkins makes it arsenic casual arsenic imaginable to provender the Zeppelin with your music, vigor stations, podcasts and immoderate different (wireless) audio you privation to perceive to.

Performance

  • Dynamic EQ successful app
  • Hi-Res Audio playback

Bar a mates of niggles, specified arsenic the hold to Alexa enactment and a small much legwork during setup than we'd hoped, this reborn large is everything we'd hoped.

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Bowers & Wilkins is simply a dyed successful the wool audiophile company. It makes large headphones, but speakers are its breadstuff and butter; its heritage. This Zeppelin, similar erstwhile models, continues the bequest of providing maximum oomph without the request for separates. It is truthful perfect for those who privation sleek plan and aesthetic simplicity, but without a trade-off successful sonics.

The strategy boasts a combined full amplified powerfulness output of 240W and, successful reality, you'll ne'er adjacent scope it. We played each our trial tracks astatine a tiny fraction of the maximum measurement - betwixt 10 and 20 per cent - and were adjacent past worrying what the neighbours volition think.

Sitting atop an AV stand, we experienced throaty bass that resonated done our chests - a due whoomp of debased frequencies that enactment important nutrient connected the bones of The Beatles' Come Together. And Roni Size's Brown Paper Bag filled the aerial with tangible jungle beats you could astir touch. All without muddying the accompanying electronica.

The spacing is large too. Don't expect soundbar-like question beaming - this unashamedly provides a front-facing experience, arsenic is expected of a stereo output - but you bash get a wide soundstage that delivers each note, each propulsion of a guitar string, each without compromise.

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This is greatly evidenced successful Started Out With Nothin, by Seasick Steve, with the quality to prime retired each signaling foible and the unsocial sounds of his strumming benignant and homespun percussion. The ASMR-style warblings of Billie Eilish connected No Time To Die person besides seldom sounded better.

In short, this is simply a powerhouse of a talker strategy but with good control. It sounds superb astatine immoderate measurement too.

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Verdict

Bowers & Wilkins volition person undoubtedly been tense successful reintroducing 1 of its astir iconic products, particularly arsenic determination are truthful galore alternatives retired determination present astatine each terms points. There are adjacent nonstop competitors, specified arsenic the Sonos Five, that volition acceptable you backmost less.

However, you tin number connected 1 digit the magnitude of speakers that harvester streaming simplicity with specified audiophilic prowess. The 2021 Zeppelin is simply a rather magnificent wireless euphony solution, with the looks to spell with it.

Yes, determination are a mates of insignificant quibbles for present - including the deficiency of Alexa enactment astatine the clip of reviewing - but it's casual to place them erstwhile namesake Led Zeppelin's Kashmir is thoroughly enveloping you.

This is simply a triumphant instrumentality of a much-loved favourite and good worthy considering if you privation to support beingness simple.

Also consider

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Alternative photograph  1

Naim Mu-so 2

The dependable prime from this concern container is 2nd to none, though its styling is arguably little alluring than the Bowers & Wilkins. It's a chunk of currency pricier too.

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Writing by Rik Henderson. Originally published connected 23 October 2021.

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