Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air speakers
iPod dock with AirPlay for high flyers
Review From a company whose flagship speakers will set you back £18k, but at least you get two of them, B&W’s first iPod dock was met with high expectations when it was released back in 2008. Indeed, the Zeppelin quickly established itself as the model to beat in terms of distinctive styling and sound quality. The latest model is called the Zeppelin Air, as it includes Apple’s AirPlay streaming technology, but it’s also had a ground-up refit, with new electronics and speakers throughout.
Ballooning sales? Bowers and Wilkins' Zeppelin Air
At first glance the Zeppelin Air looks much the same as its predecessor – a squashed rugby ball with a metal iPod dock cradle protruding from the front. It’s exactly the same size – 198 x 640 x 208mm, but a little lighter at 6.2kg, the original was 7.5kg. The difference in weight is largely due to the slightly smaller midrange drivers which are now 75mm instead of 90mm, and apparently deliver better dispersion.
Around the back however, it’s lost that silvery metal rear plate, replaced with an altogether more discreet black plastic panel. There’s a pair of speaker ports and connections for Ethernet, USB (for upgrades, replacing the S-video output), 3.5mm aux for non-Apple players and composite out for video playback on a TV.
B&W claims this is no simple redesign, but a complete overhaul, with improved amplification and digital signal processing. The five-speaker layout is the same, but as well as the 125mm, 50W subwoofer, the new 75mm, 25W midrange drivers are also joined by a brace of brand new 25mm, 25W Nautilus tube aluminium tweeters – the same as those on Bowers & Wilkins’ (as they prefer to be known these days) more recent MM-1 computer speakers.
Works wirelessly with Airplay or as a conventional dock
Each of the drivers now has its own dedicated class D amplifier – the old version had three amps to drive all five speakers – and the internal DACs have been upgraded to 24bit-96kHz capability.
Next page: Join the docks
Proving that for some people, form and style is more important than performance
What, precisely, is the point of buying an audiophile speaker system to listen to heavily compressed MP3s.
It looks impressive, but jesus-on-a-pogo-stick, £500 for an ipod dock? You can't even connect it up to any other sources, so no CD/SACD/Vinyl support, unless you run it over a 3.5mm jack.
World. Gone. Mad.
I have just purchased a pair of CM9's for my living room (and a couple of Cyrus amps to drive them) and the sound is stunning!
But... I've also had to re-rip my whole CD collection as the new speakers / amps show up all of the faults in the MP3 compression (even at the max bit rate) when comparing it to CD's.
So much so that the iPod has been relegated to the study with our small speakers for background music whilst working. The living room now has FLAC and CD only...
When I saw zeppelin in the title I thought it would essentially be a speaker mounted on one of those toy flying saucers that you can buy. Never mind :-)
With all these means for playing music without docking an iPod/iPhone into the unit then surely it would make sense to be able to detach the dock so its not sat there empty and ugly looking? These things are certainly style as well as substance so it seems a shame that the style is ruined when people use any but one of the possible means of music source. I personally think it and many other dock speakers would look immeasurably improved with the dock as hidden as possible despite the obvious possible retort of access to the controls of the player.
Compresed Audio? In 2011?
Talking rather the opposite tack to Tom 38 above. Why on earth did the review not also listen to some lossless encoded music. Indeed while would anyone bother to listen to lossy encoding on high quality device. You can use an iPod classic, or stream from iTunes on a Mac or PC, and rip everything lossless. I get 500 CDs on my Classic lossless. It is essentially impossible to buy a disk small enough to justify lossy compression. The only justification is a device with flash memory, and these are either toy music players (i.e. a Nano) or multipurpose device intended to be used upon one's person (i.e. iPhone.) Spending £500 on speakers one would hope might involve thinking about the source enough to use a lossless format. The review could have been better, and more useful for addressing this.