Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin 2021 Review: Worth The 6 Year Wait?
The Zeppelin speaker is, honestly, quite iconic. 15 years ago, the original Zeppelin was launched as an iPod dock speaker, and there were a few subsequent models, but we’ve had to wait six years since the last one for the 2021 Zeppelin. Is it worth the wait?
Let’s talk design first. Right off the bat, it looks like a Zeppelin. There’s no other way to say it. It’s kept that same iconic shape, but it’s even more wireless. In fact, there should only be one wire connected to the speaker most of the time, and that’s the power cord. At the bottom, there are only two ports, a power port and a USB-C port for service, and a reset button. No ethernet port, no aux port, nothing. And it’s fine in my opinion, Bowers & Wilkins were very clear about their vision for this speaker, and it’s built specifically to prioritise wireless streaming.
This is an all-in-one stereo speaker, so you get a 150mm central subwoofer with two 90mm left/right midrange drivers on either side, along with Bowers & Wilkins’ Decoupled Double-Dome tweeters on either side of the far ends, all powered by 240W of amplification.
It’s all packed into this slim speaker, that sits atop a metal pedestal stand that’s incredibly stable. No rocking of the speaker at all, and there’s even an underglow lighting effect that’s very nice, especially if you’re placing this speaker in a prominent position in your house.
Across the back of the speaker, you get a row of physical buttons, from left to right, volume up, play/pause, a multi-function button for connecting and pairing the speaker, a button for Amazon Alexa, and a volume down button. Personally, I never really touched the buttons much at all. Everything was controlled through my phone, aside from the initial set-up where I had to use the multi-function button.
As for connectivity, the speaker supports AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and even the aptX Adaptive codec. The app also supports linking with a number of music services like Tidal, Deezer and more, although there’s a very notable omission in Apple Music. After linking the speaker to the app, there’s an option to adjust the treble and bass gain, although I found it perfectly fine the way it was, along with the ability to turn off the underglow light or adjust the brightness if wanted.
Bowers & Wilkins is also planning multi-room functionality for these speakers, but that’s only coming sometime in 2022, so we’re going to have to wait on that. Another thing you’ll want to note is that Tidal doesn’t stream in MQA yet on this speaker, but that should be coming soon as well.
As for the sound, well, a quick sum-up would be that I’m surprised this only cost S$1,200 or US$799. They sound really good. You get a very expansive soundstage, it’s really very spacious. The bass is punchy, impactful and really powerful, and the mids and highs are very clearly separated and distinct. I particularly liked the vocal performance on these speakers, they’re forward enough to enjoy, but they still blend well with the overall mix.
My one quibble is that while you do get a sort of sense of the stereo imaging, it’s not quite as… precise, I’d say. There’s a bit of a lack of detail in the staging, particularly in the finer, softer sounds. Some elements can get a bit lost. But, we have to keep in mind, it’s a single unit. This sort of performance out of a single speaker unit is already impressive.
All in all, I’d say the Zeppelin is a very enticing buy. There are some features lacking that, when they eventually come, will make it even more compelling. Even without MQA right now, it sounds really good, and it gets loud enough to fill whatever space you want to place this speaker in. Most of all, it’s not an eyesore. Even if it’s not playing music, it looks sleek and like an art piece.