B&W Zeppelin Air — A Short (sort of) Review
B&W Zeppelin is one of those devices that really catch one’s eye. It can’t remain unnoticed, but it doesn’t make a good impression. When we saw it in a store today, our initial thought was that it’s a beautiful toy for people willing to spend too much money (€600!) on what basically is just a fancy iPod docking station. Didn’t expect to cycle through the narrow streets of downtown Groningen holding my left hand on a shaky old handlebar of a borrowed oma fiets, and another one on a big white ‘Bowers & Wilkins’ box semi-attached to the rear rack an hour later. That hour was filled with discussions between me and Karolina whether it makes sense to spend such an amount of money on such a small ‘thingy’, and whether the sound really is that good. Well, as everyone probably already expects, it actually is that good.
Of all the iPod docking stations I’ve ever listened to the Zeppelin offers by far the best sound quality. I’m sitting in front of the device while writing this post, and still can’t believe how great the sound is. For such a small device it creates a really big scene. The sound is rich, detailed and dynamic. And it’s difficult to believe how deep the bass goes.1 The thing really sounds awesome.
And what’s funnier, its design is brilliant. The Zeppelin looks like a creature from outer space. It’s small, but relatively heavy for its size, has only three buttons (power/stand by, volume up, volume down) and a single diode on the front panel which glows in a different color depending on the source. And now here’s the fun part: besides the mini-jack aux input and a standard USB socket, the new Zeppelin features AirPlay-compatible streaming, so once you configure it for the local wireless network it can be accessed via iTunes or iPod app on the iPhone, and the audio can be streamed to it directly.
There’s also a funny little pilot in the box that comes in handy when you’re sitting on the couch with your girlfriend sipping that Italian wine and enjoying the sound of Leszek Możdżer’s piano.
And finally, the Zeppelin has a composite video output socket that can stream the video from an iPod/iPhone to a TV, but this feature we couldn’t test because we don’t own a TV set.
So in the end it all boils down to the question: why wouldn’t you simply buy a nice micro hi-fi system, with separate loudspeakers? Well for one, the Zeppelin is much more portable, and given that Karolina moves statistically 3 times a year since she moved to the Netherlands, it’s pretty important for her to avoid having unnecessary items. In addition, the AirPlay feature is really convenient, especially if you live inside the Apple ecosystem (and we both do). And finally, for this price there aren’t that many micro systems with sound comparable to the Zeppelin.
- Just to be clear here: the sound obviously isn’t as good as what a proper micro-system produces. Even a low-end Piano Craft plays better, but it’s more expensive and is simply a different kind of a device. ↩