The day has come, physical connection fans: British hi-fi brand Bowers & Wilkins has finally dropped the iOS dock from its Zeppelin speaker.
The new Zeppelin Wireless retains its well-known shape, but eschews the physical 30-pin or Lightning iDevice connection for the dependable smarts of AirPlay, Bluetooth AptX and Spotify Connect. It’s only its second speaker to use Bluetooth, after the excellent honeycomb-adorned T7, and it makes the Zeppelin more accessible to those without an Apple phone. That said, it retains an 3.5in aux-in jack, so if you're still using an iPod Classic you need not fear change here.
The cabinet has been slightly reshaped and beefed up - at 6.5kg, this is very much a mains-powered, tabletop speaker. It has a larger 6.5in subwoofer, and gets the company's double-dome tweeters and 'FST' midrange drivers.
B&W has said that the new Zeppelin Wireless represents a noticable sound upgrade over the previous Zeppelin Air, for the same £500 price. (Which is good news, as there are now plenty of great sounding speakers for way less money.)
You can control the cigar-shaped soundshifter using buttons on the top, or through B&W’s Control app for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows. Or, more likely, by just using the play and volume controls in whatever music app you are streaming from.
While you can, theoretically, AirPlay stream to several Zeppelins at once, there is no multiroom capability. (Mind you, a few of the new Chromecast Audio devices would sort that out lovely.)
B&W first launched the Zeppelin in 2007, when the terms ‘iPod speaker’ and ‘classy’ had no right to be seen out together. Hi-fi enthusiasts sneaked out in heavy disguise to buy Zeppelins and were (secretely) delighted with how good they sounded. Further challenging the audiophile norm, B&W announced its first Apple AirPlay wireless version, the Zeppelin Air in 2011. But, keeping caution very much out of the wind, that kept the physical dock.
The Zeppelin Wireless is available now from the Bowers & Wilkins online shop, and will be rolling out to High Street emporiums in the next few weeks. We should be getting one in soon, and look forward to testing its claims of a better sound for the same price, especially in this era of ten-a-bob wireless speakers.