The original Zeppelin speaker, which was just a huge iPod dock but sounded fantastic, debuted fifteen years ago in 2021. Since then, Bowers & Wilkins has introduced a variety of new Zeppelins, preserving the original design while removing the dock and adding wireless audio capability. The 2021 Zeppelin is the most expensive yet, at $799, but it’s also the most versatile, featuring 24-bit streaming via Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, and Spotify Connect, as well as more streaming services than before. The sound quality is still excellent, and we like that there’s now a companion app that allows you adjust the bass and treble levels. It even has Alexa voice control integrated in, making it the most audibly amazing smart speaker we’ve yet heard. The 2021 Zeppelin is certainly pricey, but it’s still the best-looking and sounding all-in-one wireless speaker we’ve tested, earning it our Editors’ Choice award.
BOWERS & WILKINS ZEPPELIN (2021) SPECS
|Voice Assistant||Amazon Alexa|
Airships have inspired me.
The Zeppelin is properly called, measuring 8.3 by 25.6 by 7.6 inches (HWD) and weighing a hefty 14.3 pounds. Its rounded form and overall size resemble the cylindrical airships of the past. The speaker comes in two colors: a dark, almost black gray and a lighter, metallic gray.
A textile grille covers the front of the speaker, just like prior models. The new Zeppelin has dual 1-inch double-dome 40-watt tweeters, dual 3.5-inch FST 40-watt midrange drivers, and a single 6-inch, 80-watt subwoofer hidden below the grille. Those components, which offer a frequency range of 35Hz to 24kHz, are powered by a 240-watt amplifier.
The back is covered in a smooth plastic substance, and a control strip rests just below the top ridge of the speaker (and out of sight when viewing it from the front). The back panel has controls for volume control, Alexa access, playback control, and multi-room audio control, which will be available next year (you’ll be able to push the button to pull music from your B&W Formation Bar, for example, to the Zeppelin). Alexa works the same way it does on any Echo speaker: push the Alexa button to summon the voice assistant, or just say “Alexa” in voice commands. If you’re concerned about privacy, simply press the Alexa button for five seconds to turn off the always-on Alexa microphone.
The speaker enclosure is mounted on a large metallic pedestal that is difficult to see from all sides and gives the Zeppelin the appearance of hovering. When the stand is turned on, a gentle blueish-white light lights it, which you can decrease or turn off in the app. The underside of the platform is covered in a rubber pad, which, combined with the Zeppelin’s significant weight, keeps it firmly grounded on flat surfaces.
A panel containing a USB-C connector for servicing, a connection for the accompanying power supply cable, and a reset button is recessed into the back of the built-in stand.
The Zeppelin supports the AAC, AptX Adaptive, and SBC codecs and is Bluetooth 5.0 compliant. The speaker can play 24-bit/96kHz audio from Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, and other streaming services if you pay for a subscription that allows you to stream at that quality. Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect are also supported by the Zeppelin.
Controls & Smart Features in the Zeppelin App
The Bowers & Wilkins Music App for Android and iOS is well-designed and assists with appropriate Zeppelin setup. It’s not necessary for the speaker to function after that, although it does offer some handy configurable options. One thing to keep in mind is that in order to use the app, you must first register an account using your email address, which seems like a superfluous step for a $800 product.
You can pair the Zeppelin, download any necessary software updates, and link any music streaming services you want to use within the app once you’ve created an account. Of course, you can also use your app or connection method of choice to stream audio directly to the speaker.
A bass and treble fader, a dimmer for the LED that lights up the speaker’s base, and Alexa-specific settings are all available in the app. If you connect numerous Bower & Wilkins speakers, the app can also act as a multi-room controller.
After linking your Amazon account to the app, you can use Alexa to play music—the mic is always on by default, but you may mute it using the Alexa button on the speaker, as previously noted. The LED at the speaker’s base turns blue as Alexa listens when you hit the Alexa button on the Zeppelin’s control panel. The Alexa setup is very painless, and the speaker’s mic picked up voice instructions with ease, even from a distance.
We’d like to see more connectivity options for the price—the USB-C connector doesn’t support audio playback, so there’s no aux input or any other method to physically attach a sound source. Although the app allows you to alter bass and treble, a 5-band EQ would be preferable. However, for a speaker that already sounds great, the bass and treble faders are usually enough.
A Dynamic and Loud Sound Signature
Despite its all-in-one construction, the Zeppelin is noisy and capable of driving a significant amount of firepower. Expect the digital signal processing (DSP) to kick in at high volume levels and reduce the low frequencies and peaks to some extent. Given the speaker’s lengthy construction, we hoped for a better sense of stereo separation—although you get all of the left and right channel material, it sounds like a mono speaker from a regular listening distance.
The Zeppelin produces tremendous low-frequency response on tunes with significant sub-bass content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout.” It doesn’t distort at high volumes, and at slightly lower (but still quite loud) volumes, the bass sounds seriously powerful, and the DSP keeps things from being too dynamically squished. The speaker delivers a solid sense of bass depth at low volumes, and the balance with the highs is great at all volumes.
The single “Drover” by Bill Callahan, which has significantly less deep bass in the mix, provides us a clearer sense of the Zeppelin’s sonic characteristic. The drums on this tune sound fantastic via the Zeppelin’s speakers—the subwoofer adds a little thud, but the drums never sound unduly boosted or unnatural. The speaker faithfully reproduces the midrange and highs, resulting in optimum low-mid richness and high-mid crispness for Callahan’s baritone vocals. Bright, airy, and clear acoustic strums and higher-frequency percussive impacts make for a balanced, lovely sound character.
The kick drum loop on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” gets enough high-mid presence to keep its attack punchy. However, at higher volumes, we hear a little more DSP on this track. The kick drum impacts can occasionally appear to drop the total volume for a brief duration, giving the background vinyl crackle and hiss the appearance of coming in waves. The DSP can be a little heavy-handed in this scenario, but it’s usually more transparent. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat have good force, but we don’t hear as much of the truly deep lows as we would with a larger, more powerful subwoofer. In other words, while the Zeppelin has no issue recreating deep bass rumbles, it does have a slight drop-off before delivering them. The voices of Led Zeppelin are pure and clear on this tune, with little sibilance. The lows can sometimes seem like they’re interfering with the voices at high volumes when the DSP is actively engaged, but you can avoid this by adjusting the lows in the app or lowering the volume.
Orchestral tracks sound fantastic via the Zeppelin, such as the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary. The lower-register instrumentation has body, depth, and vitality; it isn’t unduly boosted, which allows the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals to shine brilliantly at the mix’s forefront. Classical and jazz music, like as Miles Davis’ “Pharaoh’s Dance,” sound rich and lifelike when played on the Zeppelin.
Compare with similar items
|Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin||Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level||Bang & Olufsen Beolit 20||Bang & Olufsen Beosound Balance|
|Customer Rating||4.3 out of 5||3.7 out of 5||4.5 out of 5||3.5 out of 5|
|Item Dimensions||7.5 x 25.6 x 8.27 inches||13.5 x 9.1 x 2.2 inches||9.1 x 5.3 x 7.4 inches||7.9 x 7.9 x 11.4 inches|
|Item Weight||16.10 lbs||7.40 lbs||5.95 lbs||9.04 lbs|
|Power Source||Corded Electric||Battery Powered||Battery Powered||—|
Impressive Sound Meets Elegant Design
The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin 2021 edition, like its predecessors, is distinguished by its strong aesthetic style and excellent acoustic performance. The integration of Amazon Alexa elevates this smart speaker to new heights, and several connecting options ensure high-fidelity streaming regardless of service or playback mode. Consider a 2.1 soundbar system or bookshelf speakers with less visible DSP, such as the similarly priced Sonos Arc or Klipsch’s The Fives, for a more clean sound. The Zeppelin, however, is the speaker to beat for the ultimate all-in-one sound system, and our Editors’ Choice.
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