“This amazing speaker combines iconic design with superb sound quality”
Soaring sound or burning blimp?
Back when iPod docks were often a cheap charging station with the same acoustic power as dropping your phone into a plastic cup, the original Zeppelin arrived. The airship-shaped speaker has evolved over the last eight years, and this new model is more focussed than ever on wireless streaming and audio quality.
It’s built from the same studioquality DNA as B&W’s flagship 800 Series speakers, even using the same Fixed Suspension Transducer (FST) tech in its mid-range drivers. The idea is to make the unit invisible from an acoustic standpoint by holding the speaker cones in suspension for more controlled sound, ensuring the chassis doesn’t colour the sound of the driver units.
At the edges of the shell, either side of the twin 90mm mid-range drivers, is a pair of 25mm tweeters. The iconic elliptical shape comes into play here, giving the doubledome tweeters limited airspace and allowing them to create beautifully clear treble. B&W thought its earlier models a little bass-heavy, thanks partly to twin flow ports on the rear, so these have been removed. This means the speaker operates as an almost completely sealed unit, with only a few, smaller micro ports beneath the grille at the front.
This doesn’t mean weak bass response, though. There’s a huge amount of punch and power, and the bass is finely controlled, terminating concisely without being left to wobble out. It doesn’t impact on aural clarity of the mid-range. Vocals are crisp and clear, yet natural. You can really hear a singer’s breaths or the shifting fingers of a guitarist’s hands across the strings and fretboard. It also creates an impressively wide sound stage.
That great audio is open to loads of devices, thanks to Bluetooth (including the high-quality aptX codec, which Macs support) and Spotify Connect, as well as AirPlay. There’s a 3.5mm analogue input, but digital optical input is omitted. B&W has made an effort to ensure sound is good at low volumes by using a new digital signal processor, and the dynamic EQ monitors the signal to ensure that powerful bass stays controlled at all volumes.
The Zeppelin Wireless is a great piece of design too – solid and reassuringly weighty. Admittedly it’s very expensive, but give it just a few seconds with your favourite songs and you’ll immediately know why. Dave James
The Zeppelin Wireless retains the iconic shape of older models, but there are big changes on the inside – and to what comes out of it.