Bowers & Wilkins has this autumn the successor to the popular Zeppelin speaker released, a successor who is released from the Apple dock and can now deal with various wireless standards. The new Zeppelin Wireless is, as the name suggests, targeted wireless streaming and has a lot of improvements under the hood.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless – specifications
The Zeppelin Wireless has the same design as its predecessor, but almost everything has been improved under the bonnet. The speaker has five completely new driver units; two Double Dome tweeters from the CM series, two midrange drivers with FST technology and a 6.5-inch large subwoofer with long speaker coil.
The new reinforced housing has been redesigned according to the manufacturer to reduce resonances. Together with specially designed fiberglass arches this should ensure 50 percent more strength in the most important areas in the housing. The Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is twice as powerful as its predecessor and more connection options have been added, including AirPlay, Bluetooth aptX and Spotify Connect.
The Bowers & Wilkins Control App has also received an update and is available for free for iOS, Android, Mac and PC. This app makes it possible to control the volume and playback options of the loudspeaker. The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless has been on sale in the Netherlands since October 2015 for a suggested retail price of 699.00 euros.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless – design and installation
In terms of design, in the first instance not much changed compared to the previous generation, but the large iPod dock has completely disappeared. Maybe a disadvantage for some – although everything can be wireless except charging – but it leaves the speaker a lot nicer and more upscale. The loudspeaker dust is also a bit more subtle and neutral this time so that the speaker, which still has a large format, gets a classic look and actually fits everywhere. Yet it must be said that the form will not please everyone, it remains a matter of taste. It is also worth mentioning that the speaker weighs quite a bit, so moving quickly is not always convenient.
In terms of connections, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is equipped with only a 3.5 mm connection and an ethernet port. You probably will not use both and Bowers & Wilkins is clearly committed to wireless streaming via Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. The USB port and the composite video output have been omitted this time.
The installation of the Zeppelin Wireless is a piece of cake. Turn the device on, press the reset button (if necessary) and use your iPhone (or iPad) to locate the speaker between the wireless networks. Then you select the speaker and automatically connect to the WiFi network that your smartphone connects to. It is not much easier than this. You can also use the (desktop) Control app from Bowers & Wilkins and if you have an Android device this is the way you have to walk or choose a set-up via the browser. The connection is fast and you can place the speaker at a nice distance from the router without losing the range.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless – use
With the Zeppelin Wireless, Bowers & Wilkins is fully engaged in wireless streaming and you have access to Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. You get the best quality with AirPlay, as lossless CD quality is shown here. We have been able to stream Spotify with up to 320kbps and Bluetooth is really only a handy option if you do not have a wireless network (or AirPlay or Spotify), or if someone who was visiting you wants to use the speaker. However, it must be said that aptX is supported for better audio quality. The link via Bluetooth is also very simple, thanks to a small button on the right side of the logo picture, and the range is just over 15 meters.
We have tried it in many ways, but the playback of high-res audio files, for example by DLNA, is not supported by the Zeppelin Wireless. Looking at the brand, the price and the target group, this is a small loss. Perhaps we can expect this from the next generation.
Then there is the Bowers & Wilkins Control app, but there is not that much interesting to report on. You can add speakers here and choose directly from Bluetooth, AirPlay or Spotify Connect, you can assign the speaker to a room and view the network settings. But, apart from perhaps the set-up you will not have to use this app much. You will see the speaker automatically within the Spotify app, your AirPlay devices and your Bluetooth devices.
On the back of the Zeppelin Wireless you can also find three touch buttons. With this you can play or pause the music and change the volume. There is also nothing special about this and the functions speak for themselves.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless – audio quality
As said, a lot has changed under the bonnet and that should improve the audio reproduction, but that is what it is all about. Inside almost everything has been redesigned and Bowers & Wilkins has even used elements from the CM-series loudspeakers to improve the audio quality. The housing comes with two 25mm double dome tweeters, two 90mm mid-range drivers and a 150mm woofer. Each driver is controlled by a Class D amplifier, which supplies the tweeters and mid-range drivers 25 watts and the woofer provides 50 watts of power. The DAC (digital to analog converter) with 24bit / 192kHz upsampling and DPS (digital signal processor) have also been improved considerably and should ensure that you get the most optimal audio reproduction regardless of space and placement. It is also interesting that the housing is considerably strengthened, with 50 percent thicker sides and 30 percent glass fiber ABS. This should ensure a more rigid speaker that vibrates less.
If we look at the audio output, you can immediately hear that we are dealing with a Bowers & Wilkins loudspeaker. Especially in the field of a clear and dynamic display, with subtle details, and especially impressively low. You would not expect it from such a speaker, but bass tones are convincingly displayed and sufficiently ‘kick’. The sound image is lively and full but at the same time perfectly placed in the room; for example, you can clearly distinguish between the vocals in the foreground and a piano playing in the background.
The room is also immediately filled with a remarkably clear but warm sound. The stereo image is fine on a small distance but we keep hearing the format of the speaker, which means that the stereo image is of course only quite limited. It is all about filling a room with music as the artist intended and that makes the Zeppelin Wireless absolutely true. Even at high volume, the speaker stays fine. This way subtle details remain audible, there is no question of shrieking highs and the bass never dominates.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless – conclusion
Yes, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless comes with a hefty price tag, but this speaker does almost perfectly what it is meant for. With this loudspeaker you have a ‘compact’ and stylish device with which a room can be provided with high quality music in a simple way. The set-up is simple, the design is – although a matter of taste – stylish and there are plenty of possibilities to send your music wirelessly towards the speaker. For some, the lack of support for high-res audio or the lack of ‘old’ ports may be a lack, but all in all this speaker is all about high quality audio quality. If that is what you are looking for, and you also use AirPlay and/or Spotify at home, then the Zeppelin Wireless is absolutely worth its price tag.