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Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker Review

by Eric Shelton May 26, 2016
  • Product Name: Zeppelin Wireless Speaker
  • Manufacturer: Bowers and Wilkins
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: May 26, 2016 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 599
Technical Features:
  • Apple Airplay technology
  • Bluetooth v4.1, Class2
  • Spotify ConnectDigital Signal Processing (DSP)
  • Digital Amplifier
Drive Units: 
  • 2x25mm (1.0 in) double dome tweeter (see below for more)
  • 2x90mm (3.5 in) “Fixed Suspension Transducers” midrange
  • 1x150mm (6 in) subwoofer
Frequency Response:
  • 44Hz to 28kHz
Amplifier Power Output:    
  • 2x25W – tweeter
  • 2x25W – midrange
  • 1x50W – subwoofer


  • Network (RJ45 Ethernet or Wi-Fi)
  • Auxiliary – analog (3.5mm jack)
  • Height 7.5 inches (188mm)
  • Width 26 inches (660mm)
  • Depth 7.2 inches (183mm)
  • Weight 14.3 pounds (6.5kg)

Bluetooth Codecs:

  • aptX Standard latency
  • AAC
  • SBC


  • Precise room filling sound
  • Bright natural sound with excellent bass
  • Excellent aesthetics
  • AirPlay streaming and Spotify Connect
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Very easy to setup


  • Comparatively expensive
  • Requires proper placement for maximum sound quality


I first heard the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless while doing a video review of a group of Bluetooth speakers. I was blown away by how much presence the Zeppelin Wireless gave to the room. I didn’t know whether this was due to the comparison I was making with the other speakers or simply how well the device stood out on its own.  So I decided to take one for a spin, and spend some time living with it to truly gauge its performance.

zepplin tag.jpg     zepplin 1.jpg

Build Quality

The Zeppelin Wireless is an odd elongated football-shaped speaker with a small centered base. On the base is the branding and a single button with the Bluetooth logo. Around back are connections for an Ethernet port, power cord, and a single 3.5mm auxiliary input. On the top are three large but nearly unnoticed buttons for play/pause, rewind, and forward. Ultimately, the speaker is designed to be set up and then not touched again.     

zepplin 2.jpg     zepplin inputs.jpg

The internals of the Zeppelin Wireless have been completely redesigned. According to B&W they have reengineered the enclosure with a thicker reinforced housing made with 30 percent glass fiber reinforced ABS to help reduce vibrations. The enclosure has two 25mm double  dome tweeters, their own internal 800 series Diamond 90mm mid range drivers and a 150mm long throw subwoofer. That's a lot of impressive hardware for a lifestyle product.

The decoupled double dome tweeter is a technology borrowed from the B&W CM line and is now found in many of their speakers across multiple lines. The double dome starts with an aluminum dome mounted to another dome that has had it’s center removed and is more like a ring. Bowers and Wilkins promises that this design reduces audible distortion. To further isolate vibrations from the cabinet the whole tweeter assembly is decoupled or separated from the cabinet with a ring of gel surrounding the tweeter assembly.

Each driver is powered by a dedicated Class D amplifier with 25 watts for the tweeters and midrange and 50 watts to the sub.

B&W highlights their new digital signal processor (DSP) and digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which they claim upsamples all audio to 24-bit and 192kHz sampling.  I was able to send Apple Lossless format and standard AAC, MP3, and several streaming formats to the Zeppelin Wireless. I heard some notable differences when I switched between different streams, so even though the speaker is providing upsampling, the specific audio format did seem to make a difference in the quality regardless of the processing.  Remember garbage in garbage out so be sure to feed this speaker good audio recordings and you will be rewarded with great sound.


That brings us to actually using this odd-shaped speaker. The Zeppelin Wireless is both Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and wired. So in order to test all of its functions, I used both an iPhone, a Mac, a Nexus tablet, and direct streaming from the audio output (headphone jack) from my TV monitor. Setup was quick and flawless with the downloaded Bowers & Wilkins Controller iOS app. After installing the app on my iPhone, the app quickly found and identified the Zeppelin Wireless and then set it up on the network. I didn’t have to type in any Wi-Fi passwords or wait for any talk back, the speaker was set up and appearing as a playable device in under one minute from the time it was powered up. In fact, connecting to the Zeppelin Wireless over Wi-Fi was faster than every other Bluetooth audio device I have ever used.

zepplin setup1.png      zepplin setup 2.png      zepplin setup 3.png

I did try and repeat the setup process using other methods. The manual boasts that setup can be completed through a browser on a Windows computer and that it should also be able to be set up using the browser of an Android device. I had mixed success. At the time of this writing there was no Android app, and although I was able to set up the Zeppelin Wireless on my network using the Edge browser and the Chrome browser in Windows 10, it was by far a more difficult and time-consuming task. But this doesn’t surprise me, the device is an AirPlay enabled speaker and is definitely focused on using AirPlay to play music over Wi-Fi. Score one for Apple.

At the same time, the device is also Bluetooth-enabled and the Bluetooth antenna is very robust. I was able to connect to it quickly and seamlessly with every device I could get my hands on. This meant that I could play sound through it as a Bluetooth speaker for any connected device. This rendered my Wi-Fi problem with my Android tablet null and void. Any stream that I could bring to my device could be routed to the Zeppelin Wireless.

Listening Tests

I was able to listen to YouTube videos, SoundCloud albums, Pandora playlists, and even as an external speaker to tablet games I played with my children. The device was very flexible and the internal Bluetooth antenna was excellent, rendering sound without breaking up from almost any room in my home. If I was streaming music over Bluetooth and went upstairs, the Zeppelin Wireless seldom broke up and lost the stream.

However, Wi-Fi is where the device shines. With the new Apple Music and the awesome library of Spotify the Zeppelin Wireless is an excellent all-in-one, room-filling speaker.

First, the Zeppelin Wireless supports Spotify Connect. This is a technology for spotify.jpgSpotify Connect paid subscribers. Once established, a music stream goes directly to the Zeppelin Wireless and your phone now acts like a remote control for the speaker. You can change tracks and control volume, but you are no longer streaming directly from your device. So if you play a video on your phone after starting Spotify Connect, the audio from your video will play over the phone or tablets speakers without interrupting the music stream being played by the Zeppelin Wireless. This was an excellent feature considering the number of times I was listing to music from Apple Music only to interrupt it when playing a video that popped up on social media.

On the Spotify front, you do not have control of the streaming quality when using Spotify Connect. However, you can still stream from your device to the Zeppelin Wireless either using the Zeppelin Wireless as an AirPlay connected speaker or through Bluetooth where you do have control of the streaming quality. However, for the most part, I was only able to hear a slight difference in quality when I switched to Bluetooth and chose the lowest quality stream. Both the Spotify Connect and the higher quality streams were indistinguishable to my ears.

If you are unfamiliar with AirPlay, it is aairplay.jpgn Apple brand for their Wi-Fi streaming technology and it works around their products. If you are part of the Apple ecosystem then you can stream to any AirPlay-enabled device from iTunes, iPhones, iPads, and now 4th generation Apple TV’s. Although I generally don’t use Apple’s lossless format, I did want to see if the Zeppelin Wireless could play this and other formats over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Zeppelin Wireless was able to play everything I could throw its way and although there did seem to be more definition to the lossless format at high volumes, I couldn’t really distinguish between most formats I played.

Switching audio sources over AirPlay was a snap. One of our computers is considered our media center housing our movies and music. Using the iPhone remote app to send music to the Zeppelin Wireless was seamless and easy. This meant I could control the music from any computer or iPhone in the house without having to stream from my phone or tablet. Further, I also used my TV monitor’s headphone jack as an auxiliary input into the Zeppelin Wireless in order to use it as an external speaker for my television and to hear music from my AppleTV, cable network radio, and Roku.

The Zeppelin Wireless’s sound is exceptional providing surprisingly deep bass response with very accurate and bright mids and highs. Jazz sparkles on the speaker, while listening to rock and country is very entertaining and fun. Set on a table with some distance away from the nearest wall, the B&W plays the best, filling the room with sound and providing enough stereo separation to be believable. Granted, the shape of the Zeppelin Wireless is clearly to provide enough speaker separation to get a stereo sound stage, the fact that the tweeters are no more than a meter apart does limit the stereo response. B&W claims that proper room placement and their own DSP help reestablish the soundstage even with the limited separation of the speakers.

Trombone Shorty’s Hurricane Season put the Zeppelin through its paces. The deep bass track was meticulously reproduced and loud. The kick drum never overdrove the bass driver and the sound was rich. The trombone sounded bright loud and complete. It’s as if Shorty is right in the room with us. The cymbal crashes were crisp and clear, but moreover the sound was never distorted or clipped. Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck sounded equally good.

Switching over to rock, Peter Gabriel’s Steam was breathtaking. Closing my eyes I forgot how small the speaker was. The bass line from steam was loud and relentless as the guitar and vocals come through clear. Subtle nuance from the music was amazing and the instruments were very distinct. The sound was always pleasing and never overblown or distorted. The DSW did a great job keeping the music balanced and accurate. The speaker has amazing presence in the midrange and vocal tracks are dynamic and natural. The crossover handily kept the bass out of the midrange speakers and provided little to no bleed into the vocal track.

Music with more a more synthetic production did suffer some. With the 44Hz roll off in the lower end, R&B tracks from Beyonce and Rhianna were smooth in the vocal range, but the synthetic bass tracks had some losses. I was however, pleasantly surprised at how well the Zeppelin continued to provide a rich even sound as the bass tracks rolled off at the bottom end.

The Zeppelin even provided a fantastic upgrade to a television monitors built in speakers. With the 35mm input or with the ability to receive multiple streams, the Zeppelin became an almost seamless replacement for the built in speaker on my television. The sound from movies jumped from the screen and filled the room adding range and sounds that just weren’t being reproduced. The vocal range was punched up and bass rumble from explosions and vehicles could be felt around the room.

Placement Considerations

I can’t argue. The sound was phenomenal with a clearly separated audio experience as long as the Zeppelin Wireless was placed correctly. However, there were noticeable differences in sound quality and volume depending on placement. On a table within a few feet of the provided the best audio. Also on the top of a stereo cabinet with your monitor mounted above will provide excellent audio. However, my monitor rests on top of my stereo cabinet. The Zeppelin Wireless did fit perfectly inside my stereo cabinet but once inside the bookshelf like compartment, the speaker was definitely subdued with reduced bass response and a distinct loss of punch. Take care in placement of the Zeppelin and try out a few locations to see which sounds best while still being aesthetically pleasing.


Zepplin Top viewWhile placement was a bit finicky with this speaker, the Zeppelin Air sounded phenomenal. However, the user can run into some issues when switching between sources on the Zeppelin. Switching between Bluetooth devices creates a recurring problem: In order for one device to stop playing and another to take over I often had to not only stop playing from the first device, but sometimes disconnect it from Bluetooth and reestablish a connection with the other device. More than once I had to make the first device forget the Zeppelin. Although that procedure is inconvenient and annoying, at least the Zeppelin does connect quickly. This also required pressing the Bluetooth button the device itself in order to initiate the paring.

Next switching from Bluetooth to airplay was actually easy and usually seamless, but there were disturbing and abrupt changes in volume that I still feel a dedicated DSP should be able to smooth out. Switching between the Zeppelin and other AirPlay speakers was simple and the Zeppelin could be played in a multiple speaker arrangement with other AirPlay speakers, but switching from the AirPlay to the auxiliary jack required quite a bit of negotiating and didn’t always work the same way each time. The Zeppelin didn’t prioritize the auxiliary input and there is not a way to select it directly from the Zeppelin itself. Once I realized that you had to push the play button the top to select the auxiliary input, I was able to switch easily. Further complicating this was the monitors’ own volume output was often at odds with the Zeppelin, requiring both to be adjusted to find a pleasing range.

All of these problems are really minor considering how good the Zeppelin Air sounds. The Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless doesn’t come cheap at an MSRP of $599 but the tech it packs is a cut above most of the competition. This is a crowded field of speakers and to distinguish yourself you have to bring something different . The Zeppelin is definitely eye catching, better yet, its flexibility and simple setup belies a deep rich listening experience.