2021 marks fifteen years for the reason that debut of the unique Zeppelin speaker, which was basically a large iPod dock, however boy did it sound good. Bowers & Wilkins has launched various new Zeppelins since then, retaining the enduring design whereas dropping the dock and including assist for wi-fi audio. At $799, the 2021 version of the Zeppelin is the priciest but, however it’s additionally essentially the most versatile, with assist for 24-bit streaming through Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, and Spotify Join, in addition to from extra streaming providers than earlier than. Sound high quality stays exemplary, and we just like the addition of a companion app that allows you to make EQ tweaks to bass and treble ranges. It even has built-in Alexa voice management, making it essentially the most aurally spectacular good speaker we have heard thus far. It actually requires a giant finances, however the 2021 Zeppelin stays the best-looking and best-sounding all-in-one wi-fi speaker we’ve examined, incomes it our Editors’ Selection award.
Impressed by Airships
Measuring 8.3 by 25.6 by 7.6 inches (HWD) and weighing in at a considerable 14.3 kilos, the Zeppelin is aptly named—each its rounded contour and general dimension evoke the cylindrical airships of yesteryear. The speaker is on the market in a darkish, almost black grey or a lighter, extra metallic grey.
As with earlier fashions, a fabric grille covers the entrance of the speaker. Behind the grille, the brand new Zeppelin homes twin 1-inch, double-dome 40-watt tweeters; twin 3.5-inch, FST 40-watt midrange drivers; and a single 6-inch, 80-watt subwoofer. A 240-watt amplifier powers these parts, which collectively ship a frequency vary of 35Hz to 24kHz.
A easy plastic materials covers the again, and a management strip sits just under the highest ridge of the speaker (and out of sight when viewing it from the entrance). The again panel homes buttons for adjusting the amount, accessing Alexa, controlling playback, and for multi-room audio management as soon as that operate is enabled subsequent yr (you can press the button to tug music that’s taking part in out of your B&W Formation Bar, for instance, to the Zeppelin). Alexa works similar to it does on any Echo speaker—you may press the Alexa button to summon the voice assitant, or simply give voice instructions starting with the “Alexa” phrase. When you’re involved about privateness, you may flip the always-on Alexa mic off—simply press the Alexa button for 5 seconds.
The speaker enclosure rests on a large metallic stand that’s arduous to see from all angles and might make the Zeppelin seem to hover. When powered up, a pale, blueish-white gentle illuminates the stand—it’s a good-looking element you may dim or flip off within the app. A rubber pad covers the underside of the stand—that materials and the Zeppelin’s substantial weight maintain it firmly planted on flat surfaces.
Recessed into the again of the built-in stand, there’s a panel with a USB-C port for service, the connection for the included energy provide cable, and a reset button.
The Zeppelin is suitable with Bluetooth 5.0 and helps the AAC, AptX Adaptive, and SBC codecs. The speaker helps as much as 24-bit/96kHz audio from varied streaming providers together with Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, and others, assuming you pay for a subscription that allows you to stream at that high quality. The Zeppelin additionally works with Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Join.
Zeppelin App Controls and Sensible Options
The Bowers & Wilkins Music App for Android and iOS is well-designed and helps you correctly arrange the Zeppelin. After that, it’s not important to the speaker’s operation, however it does have some helpful adjustable options. One factor to notice is that you must create an account together with your e mail to make use of the app, which looks as if an pointless hoop to leap by means of for a product that prices $800.
When you create an account, you may pair the Zeppelin, obtain any essential software program updates, and hyperlink any music streaming providers you need to use inside the app. In fact, you can even simply stream audio on to the speaker out of your app or connection technique of alternative.
The app has a number of helpful controls, together with a bass and treble fader, a dimmer for the LED that lights the speaker’s base, and Alexa-specific settings. The app also can operate as a multi-room controller in case you join a number of Bower & Wilkins audio system.
After you hyperlink your Amazon account to the app, you should utilize Alexa to play music—the mic is all the time on by default, however as talked about, you may mute it through the Alexa button on the speaker. While you press the Alexa button on the Zeppelin’s management panel, the LED on the speaker’s base turns blue whereas Alexa listens. The Alexa setup course of is comparatively seamless, and the speaker’s mic had no bother choosing up voice instructions, even from a distance
For the value, we want to see extra connectivity choices—there’s no aux enter or some other option to bodily join a sound supply as a result of the USB-C port does not assist audio playback. And though the app enables you to modify bass and treble, we would favor a 5-band EQ. That mentioned, for a speaker that already sounds wonderful, bass and treble faders are principally ample.
A Loud and Dynamic Sound Signature
The Zeppelin will get loud and is able to driving a formidable quantity of firepower, regardless of its all-in-one design. At prime quantity ranges, anticipate the digital sign processing (DSP) to kick in and dial again the low frequencies and peaks to a level. And we hoped for a greater sense of stereo separation given the speaker’s lengthy construct—though you continue to get the entire left and proper channel content material, it appears like a mono speaker from a traditional listening distance.
See How We Take a look at Audio system
On tracks with intense sub-bass content material, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Zeppelin delivers thunderous low-frequency response. At prime volumes, it does not distort, and at barely decrease (however nonetheless fairly loud) ranges, the bass sounds significantly sturdy and the DSP does a superb job of not letting issues sound too dynamically squashed. At low volumes, the speaker conveys a stable sense of bass depth and the stability with the highs in any respect volumes is good.
Invoice Callahan’s “Drover,” a observe with far much less deep bass within the combine, provides us a greater sense of the Zeppelin’s sound signature. The drums on this observe sound wonderful by means of the Zeppelin’s drivers—the subwoofer provides some thump, however the drums by no means appear overly boosted or unnatural. The speaker dutifully presents the midrange and highs, so Callahan’s baritone vocals get each supreme low-mid richness and high-mid crispness. The acoustic strums and higher-frequency percussive hits are vibrant, ethereal, and clear—it is a balanced, stunning sound signature.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church within the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives sufficient high-mid presence for its assault to retain its punchiness. We hear a bit extra of the DSP on this observe at larger volumes, nevertheless. The kick drum hits can typically sound as in the event that they decrease the general quantity for a brief second, an impact that causes the background vinyl crackle and hiss to sound as if it is coming in waves. On this case, the DSP could be a tad heavy-handed, however it’s sometimes extra clear. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat arrive with stable energy, although we hear much less of their really deep lows than we’d with a bigger, extra highly effective subwoofer. In different phrases, whereas the Zeppelin has no bother reproducing highly effective lows, it does undergo from a little bit of drop-off earlier than delivering the deepest subwoofer rumble. The Zeppelin presents vocals on this observe cleanly and clearly, with out a lot added sibilance. At excessive volumes when the DSP is closely engaged, the lows can typically sound as in the event that they intrude with the vocals, however you may fight that impact by dialing again the lows within the app or reducing the amount.
Orchestral tracks, just like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel In line with the Different Mary, sound great by means of the Zeppelin. The lower-register instrumentation has physique, depth, and life—it does not sound overly boosted and leaves loads of room for the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals to shine brightly on the forefront of the combo. Classical and jazz music, like Miles Davis’s “Pharaoh’s Dance,” sound full and lifelike by means of the Zeppelin.
Elegant Design Meets Spectacular Sound
Very similar to its predecessors, the 2021 version of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin stands out for its daring visible design and top-notch audio efficiency. The addition of Amazon Alexa makes this essentially the most spectacular good speaker we have examined, and a number of connectivity choices permit for high-fidelity streaming it doesn’t matter what service or playback technique you utilize. When you’re on the lookout for a purer sound, think about a 2.1 soundbar system or some bookshelf audio system with much less noticeable DSP, just like the equally priced Sonos Arc or The Fives from Klipsch. However for the final word all-in-one sound system, the Zeppelin is as soon as once more the speaker to beat, and our Editors’ Selection.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (2021)
The Backside Line
The 2021 mannequin of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin speaker delivers great, high-fidelity wi-fi audio from a strikingly designed enclosure, with built-in assist for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.