Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini
Review Bowers & Wilkins' Zeppelin is undoubtedly the world's most iconic iPod speaker. Every one of its rivals, from the high end of the market downward, looks pretty much how you'd expect an iPod speaker to look. Not so the elongated ovoid that is the Zeppelin.
B&W's Zeppelin Mini: not quite as iconic a look as its sibling's
Conversation piece and darn fine example of audio engineering it may be, but the Zeppelin is also rather large for small rooms. While it may perch pleasingly on the sideboards of the well-heeled, those of us in more modest abodes will prefer something more compact.
So, welcome then, the Zeppelin Mini, a unit that has far less of a footprint than its bigger sibling but which, B&W promises, delivers no less an audio performance. That means it's not a scaled down version of its predecessor - only the mirrored oval behind the dock connector mount and the matte black finish are reminiscent of the full-size Zeppelin - but a more form-fits-function offering that doesn't look out of place alongside Bose SoundDocks, Altec Lansings and the like.
The secret to the Zeppelin's sound is to treat the iPod or iPhone simply as a file store. Unlike almost every other iPod speaker, the Mini grabs tracks from the player's storage and through the dock connector entirely bypassing Apple's digital-to-analogue converter chippery.
The iPod mound swivels through 90°
With the pristine digital data in the Mini's own buffers, B&W's engineers have full total control over the conversion process and can optimise the whole path from music file to audio output.
Nul points, certainly...
Would it be too big a leap of imagination to consider that, if someone is the sort of person willing to drop that much money on an iPod accessory (*), they might also be the sort of person who loads up their iPod with high-bitrate files they've ripped themselves because they value quality over quantity?
* not that the Zeppelin Mini is just a somewhat beautifully engineered but wallet-bashingly expensive iPod dock - it's really more of a high quality external speaker/amp combo which just happens to provide iPod support in addition to the variety of other audio sources it can be driven from.
Bose 302s & 802s
I used to use a pair of Bose 302s plus 2 to 4 pairs of 802s. You need to run the active EQ with them. I thought that they were not too bad, especially for the size / weight to carry around.
The 802s also did a reasonable job by themselves in the bay window of my student house, hidding behind the curtains :)
I've not been impressed with some of their most recent stuff, but then I've also heard great and bad things from many other middle range brands (wharfedale, mission, KEF, Junk But Loud...)
yeah i know....
but you cant deny the improvement. plus on the denon you have 3 'restore' settings that you can pick and choose from. i know its fake, but its a bloody good fake lol.
Bose all the way...
Whenever I have friends round they comment on the quality of sound my original Bose SoundDock puts out. I always take it on holiday, it moves from room to room and the garden in the Summer. Never had any issues with it, only when i jumped into a pool with the remote, however that only cost me £8 to renew.
If you want a portable speaker for your ipod, I would recommend Bose.
The article said "the Mini grabs tracks from the player's storage and through the dock connector entirely bypassing Apple's digital-to-analogue converter chippery."
Well if my (very unscientific) tests are anything to go by then the B&W engineers are right on the money. Tried the same "high quality" (no flaming please) MP3 album on my old 5th Gen iPod v's a 1st and 2nd Gen iPod Touch and it was quite a surprise - basically the newer the device the worse the sound! The old iPod made the Touch's sound tinny and overly processed/compressed - and that's to my old ears.
A quick search of t'net shows that other folks have come across the same problem. In which case, what's up with the iPod design teams these days - are they so focussed on trying to shoehorn "gee-whiz" features into the devices that they've forgotten that they're supposed to be _music players_ so sound quality is - to be polite - quite important?
Looks like a good device - trouble is that the Zep is just sooo desirable (makes a helluva talking point at parties I would guess). Definitely steals a march from B&O.