Soundcheck: Bowers & Wilkins’ New Zeppelin Wireless Speaker is a High-End Triumph
After four years, British sound pioneers Bowers & Wilkins have returned with a new high-end Zeppelin speaker system, an oval audio monster retooled from their popular line, adapted to the connected home of 2015. With staggeringly spectacular sound, it’s B&W’s most functional wireless speaker system yet.
Chances are, you’ve got a decent speaker in your living space, be it a standard stereo or Bluetooth contraption. But if you’re serious about sound, and listening to music as the artist intended is a priority, you’re likely looking for an upgrade in your current rig. And while the $700 price tag is no casual buy, the Zeppelin Wireless offers a huge improvement in sound quality, audio performance and design style over the majority of speakers on the market.
B&W’s latest iteration of the Zeppelin takes a ground-up approach to re-engineering, allowing for features two 25mm double dome tweeters, fixed suspension transducer drivers, and a 6-inch subwoofer. There are five drive units in total (4x 25 Watts and one at 50 Watts) – each driven by a dedicated class D amplifier. Boasting a new audiophile standard 192kHz/24bit DAC and an all-new digital signal processor that processes at twice the speed of the last-gen model, you’re dealing with some serious power right out of the gate.
With a very easy setup, the Zeppelin is linked by a new control app, available on iOS, Android, Mac and PC. Additionally, the Zeppelin has full functionality in Airplay, Bluetooth aptX, Spotify Connect and more, while Apple device users get a dedicated Bowers & Wilkins Control app to confirm the AirPlay performance, ensuring lossless transmission.
Presentation matters, and while some of us wouldn’t care if the speaker were shaped like Hello Kitty and covered in puke green polka dots as long as it sounded great, style is essential to those with a sense of aesthetic. The Zeppelin’s wide oval shape and textured netting cover gives it a stylistic edge, an understated design that blends well into the home decor. A new reinforced cabinet has been redesigned with a front fascia 50% thicker than the previous version, while specially designed glass fiber ribs strengthen the cabinet for a pure sound free from vibration.
We tested the speaker system with a wide quality range of tracks, and found jaw-dropping results on FLAC’s high-end file playback – as clean and clear a listening experience as one could hope for in a consumer-market speaker. In the celebratory spirit of Guns N’ Roses announcing their reunion, we gave the Zeppelin a GNR trial through “Welcome to The Jungle,” and the results were spectacularly strong. The ominous guitar-echo opening, that classic punch of the kick drum, the wailing screams – it’s a perfect speaker-test track, and the Zeppelin rose to the challenge, with very clean mids and impressive depth of sound. When the room started vibrating in the scream before the final chorus, the animals were scurrying – but the sound was crushingly good, and so damned clear.
The Zeppelin also delivered pristine sound through a low-quality recording of the percussive flurries of Kronos Quartet’s “Pieces of Africa,” as well as Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” – as clear and clean a recording as you can find (which is why you always hear it before concerts, as sound engineers test their gear).
The Zeppelin Wireless from Bowers & Wilkins is the listening experience you’re looking for, in the sexiest frame we’ve seen in quite a while.