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Bowers & Wilkins launches Zeppelin Wireless, adds Bluetooth and Spotify Connect

Richard Easton
8 Oct 2015
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless front
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Bowers & Wilkins has updated its Zeppelin speaker with Bluetooth and Spotify Connect and removed the dock

Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin speakers are iconic. Even if you might not be overly familiar with the longstanding British audio brand, you’ve likely seen the Zeppelin while perusing your local electronics or hi-fi store over the past few years.

In fact, the original Zeppelin launched eight years ago, which in technology terms is an eon ago. It was followed up with the Zeppelin Air, which turned the speaker wireless with the addition of Apple Airplay support. What both models shared, however, was an Apple dock connector on the front. The dock at least shifted with the times, moving from the classic 30-pin connector to Lightning.

Nowadays, plugging in a device is an archaic concept. We all control our speakers wirelessly using a multitude of music sources leaving the dock a little redundant. So, unsurprisingly, with its new Zeppelin speaker, the appropriately named Zeppelin Wireless, the dock connector is gone. That famous silhouette remains, but without the distraction of the dock it instantly looks infinitely cleaner and more elegant.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless drivers

While the outside has seen some changes, most come inside where almost everything has been redesigned. As Bowers & Wilkins’ engineers all work across the different products, there’s technology and engineering expertise from the company’s considerably more expensive products.

Inside are two double dome tweeters that have been transferred from the CM Series and flagship 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers. These are supported by two mid-range drivers that use Fixed Suspension Transducers, which allow the edge of the speaker cone to terminate without any resonance for improved clarity. There’s also a larger 6.5in subwoofer with an ultra-long voice coil to deliver the lower frequencies straight forward. The Digital Signal Processing (DSP) has seen a boost, too, at twice as powerful as its predecessor.

All five drive units are individually driven with 4x 25w and 1x 50W of power output. The Zeppelin's shape is actually designed to make the most of the drivers inside. The TunePort featured on many Bowers & Wilkins speakers is now gone so the rear of the cabinet is completely uninterrupted. Speaking of which, the reinforced cabinet weighs around 6.5kg and has been redesigned to cut down on vibrations and cabinet reverberation. The front fascia is also 50% thicker than the old Zeppelin. Picking up the Zeppelin it certainly had some reassuring heft to it.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless controls

All the inputs are upsampled to 192kHz/24-bit through the Zeppelin Wireless' DAC. Having sat through a few of my test tracks, the Zeppelin Wireless certainly delivers the clarity and control I’ve come to expect. There’s a delicate refinement to the sound, especially in the mids and trebles. The vocals in Carlos Santana and India Arie’s cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps sounded wonderful with the vocals floating delicately over the instrumentation. Listening to hip hop, electronic bass had the kind of impact that hits you in your core but remained tight and focused without muddying the rest of the music. I’ll need more time to put the Zeppelin Wireless through its paces, but I certainly came away impressed with its delivery that can easily fill a medium to large-sized room with rich sound.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless front angle

For connectivity, AirPlay makes a return, keeping in with Bowers & Wilkins’ ongoing integration of Apple’s ecosystem, but Bluetooth is also now included. Following the release of the T7 portable speaker and P5 Wireless headphones, it seems Bowers & Wilkins is finally happy with the quality achievable with Bluetooth. As I would expect from a company that puts such a strong emphasis on sound quality, there’s support for Bluetooth aptX devices for less-lossy audio. Spotify Connect rounds out your connection options, making it easier than ever to get tunes to your Zeppelin.

To help things get set up, the Bowers & Wilkins Connect app has been updated and can be used for controlling volume and playback functions. Which is handy, as a remote control is no longer included. The remote was only ever really useful for people who actually docked their iPhones in the past, so it’s not something I imagine most people will miss when their smartphone will now be close at hand.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless rear

On the top of the Zeppelin are physical volume controls and a play/pause multifunction button that can be used to skip tracks. Around the back is an Ethernet port for wired connectivity, otherwise you can use 802.11n Wi-Fi. Usefully there’s a 3.5mm auxiliary input so you could feasibly use the Zeppelin Wireless as a soundbar to bolster your television audio or plug in a Google Chromecast Audio to augment its internet connectivity. It’s a shame there aren’t a few more physical inputs, I would have loved to have seen an optical input as well, but it is called the Zeppelin Wireless, after all.

The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless is available today and will set you back £499. Expect a full review very soon.