B&W Zep­pelin Wire­less

FOR Spread of sound; pre­cise sound­stage; ex­pres­sive mids; seam­less con­trol and de­sign AGAINST No An­droid app; midrange could use more au­thor­ity; ri­vals are bet­ter equipped

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

B&W has ce­mented its com­mit­ment to the wire­less speaker mar­ket in the past few years with the five-star pre­mium A5 and A7 Airplay mod­els and por­ta­ble T7, but the brand’s Zep­pelin line is per­haps its big­gest suc­cess story in the field.

In a round-up filled with speak­ers of dif­fer­ing shapes and sizes, the unique, air­ship look doesn’t seem quite so off­beat now, but this wire­less ver­sion does enough to stand out while still look­ing el­e­gant and stylish.

Be­hind the el­lip­ti­cal front panel are five driv­ers: two 25mm Dou­ble Dome tweet­ers, as found in the com­pany’s CM Se­ries speak­ers, and a pair of midrange driv­ers which use a foam sur­round in­stead of rub­ber to im­prove damp­ing. Tak­ing cen­tre stage on the baf­fle is a single 15cm woofer. Each driver is pow­ered by a Class-d am­pli­fier.

Although the front-fac­ing Ap­ple dock is a thing of the past, di­rect con­nec­tion to a smart­phone or tablet can still be made via the 3.5mm in­put but, liv­ing up to its name, the Zep­pelin’s fo­cus is very much on wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity. Airplay, aptx Blue­tooth or Spo­tify Con­nect are the modes on of­fer. Set-up is fa­cil­i­tated by the up­dated Bow­ers & Wilkins con­trol app, which works a treat. You can down­load it on a Mac, PC or IOS de­vice, but there’s no An­droid ver­sion, which feels like an over­sight.

The only other things to get ac­quainted with are three but­tons on the top for vol­ume and play­back, and the eth­er­net, power and aux­il­iary sock­ets around the rear (the type-b USB is for ser­vice only).

The Zep­pelin plays and up­scales to 24bit/192khz so a 96khz file of Muse’s

Supremacy seems like a good place to start.

The B&W’S phys­i­cal width helps to cre­ate an ex­pan­sive spread of sound that doesn’t strug­gle fill­ing our large test room nor over­power our small one; close your eyes and it’s easy to imag­ine that the song’s epic or­ches­tra­tion is blar­ing from two speak­ers.

It doesn’t throw out just a big sound but also a pre­cise, well im­aged one that stays com­posed no mat­ter the vol­ume.

The com­plete low-down

We love the tight, well de­fined bass; the Muse track’s wal­lop­ing drums are lath­ered with punch and power, and as the on­slaught of dis­torted gui­tars comes in, there’s heft be­hind each string strum.

But there's de­tail too, the dra­matic rap­tures of vi­o­lins pulling through with clar­ity and tex­ture in spades.

Con­vinc­ingly or­gan­ised and with a pre­cise ear for rhythms, the B&W stays co­her­ent and co­or­di­nated even in the dense or­ches­tral cli­max. Its pricier com­pe­ti­tion shows it up in ab­so­lute tim­ing but it’s very agile for its level.

Take the in­ten­sity down to a sim­ple vo­cal and gui­tar ac­com­pa­ni­ment – this time Eva Cas­sidy’s Fields Of Gold – and you can re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate her soar­ing vo­cals and sub­tle trail offs.

More in the mid­dle

A touch more so­lid­ity through the midrange would give the Zep­pelin a lit­tle more au­thor­ity; the £650 Naim Qb, for ex­am­ple, un­cov­ers a hint of fragility and lean­ness to the Zep­pelin. There’s also a slight dip in clar­ity when play­ing songs over Airplay, yet even a lo-res Spo­tify stream of Pink Floyd’s

An­other Brick In The Wall Pt 1 sounds sur­pris­ingly in­for­ma­tive.

The time­less Zep­pelin Wire­less keeps the range’s legacy alive, com­bin­ing a fine sound with func­tion­al­ity and a seam­less de­sign.

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