The Zeppelin is one of the best-looking and best-sounding iPod docks around. However, its remote control isn't great and it's expensive.
B&W is synonymous with top-quality speakers, so it’s no surprise that its Zeppelin iPod dock costs a heady £390. It’s obvious where the name comes from as soon as you clap eyes on the Zeppelin’s elliptical outline and it’s truly gorgeous from any angle. We love the curved metal band which sits just proud of the main body and holds your iPod firmly thanks to a spring-loaded connector. This means you don’t need any fiddly adaptors for different iPod models, although you might have to remove any case that would prevent the dock connector fully engaging in the iPod’s slot.
Around the back is more polished stainless steel, and several connectors. You get S-Video and composite video outputs, a minijack audio input (which will also accept optical S/PDIF cables) and a USB port. The latter is for firmware updates, which is reassuring. We’re not convinced by the usefulness of video outputs, partly because you may not have the Zeppelin near your TV, but also because the quality of video stored on your iPod is likely to be too poor to be acceptable on a large-screen TV.
If you’re spending this much money, you’d expect fantastic sound quality, and the Zeppelin doesn’t disappoint. It has three separate amps, one to power the central 125mm subwoofer and two to handle the left and right pairs of 90mm woofers and 25mm tweeters. These are derived from B&W’s compact M-1 speakers. This arrangement produces a surprisingly well-rounded sound – one that you might expect to hear from a much larger component hi-fi system.
It deftly handled a variety of music styles, from jazz and classical to rock, dance and pop, reproducing fine detail in vocals and percussion. Stereo separation was also impressive, given how close the speakers are. Volume is enough to fill the largest lounge without distorting.
There are a couple of disappointments, though. One is the lack of controls: you get power and volume buttons on the polished steel strip, but no bass or treble dials. This isn’t a huge problem as the sound is already optimised, but it would still be nice to have the option. The other is the poorly designed remote control. This pebble-like device doesn’t allow you to browse your music library, and only has controls for play/pause, volume and next/previous track. Making matters worse, we found it was unresponsive and often failed to adjust the volume at all.
If you’re considering spending this much on an iPod dock, the Zeppelin’s looks and sound quality will make you happy. You could buy an amplifier and separate speakers for the same money and get even better quality, but this wouldn’t be as convenient. Philips’ DS9000 is the Zeppelin’s biggest rival, but has its own flaws and isn’t necessarily a better choice.
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