My wife calls it the silver bullet. I think from behind, it looks like a twisted alien face, staring out at you. In reality, however, it is one of the most unique speakers I have ever used. Modeled after the Zeppelin flying machine, if this speaker sounds half as good as it looks, then I think we will have a real winner here. Hit the jump and listen along…
Like I said, this is a most unique speaker. It is shaped to represent the Zeppelin, making a large oval shape, with each half representing one speaker. Separating the two speakers is a thin strip of chrome, containing the controls (power and volume). Here is what it looks like from the front.
While the front is covered with your typical black speaker cover, the back is a shiny, reflective, stainless steel surface. Perfect for fingerprinting. Interestingly, this appearance of being colored on the front and reflective on the back, made it appear as a natural accessory for my iPod Touch…black on the front and reflective stainless steel on the back. I was impressed by how well the iPod and Zeppelin seemed to integrate together.
The cool thing here is that the rounded stylings do not end with the speaker. Everything is curved and swooped to match and blend with the speaker. The stand, for example, is rounded and contains a swooping ridge pattern which will connect with the pattern on the bottom of the speaker, marrying the two together.
Likewise, unlike many iPod docking speakers, which just toss a connection in front of you and hope for the best, this one has an elegant arm which swoops across the front of the speaker, standing at the ready to hold your iPod or iPod Touch. I know some of these speaker systems have caused some problems with the iPhone, but I cannot speak to whether that issue has been resolved here or not.
One thing you will notice is that swooping, elegant arm can only hold an iPod connections. Don’t worry, though. If you own a Zune, Sandisk Sansa, or any of the other myriad of media players around, you can still enjoy this one as well. Just use the included cable to plug your device into the back of the speaker. It is not quite so elegant (and you will be stuck with that arm hanging off the front) but it gets the job done.
While we are checking out the back, you may notice that there is an S-video connection back there. Now, I am used to seeing that on my DVD player or TV, but on a speaker? What was that all about? Well, some of you may not realize this, but your iPod can also play video. It’s true. So, if you have one of those video playing iPods, all you have to do is slip your iPod into the docking arm, and then connect the speaker to your TV with the S-Video connection. Wallah! Your TV just became a digital monitor, broadcasting the video from your iPod as the Zeppelin speaker blasts the sound. Pretty cool.
While we are on the subject of sound, this would obviously not be much of a speaker review if we did not talk about how they sound. Before we get there though, let me just share with you how these speakers create their unique sound:
Zeppelin incorporates a full 3-way stereo speaker system. Left and right channels have individual midrange and tweeter drivers, while the bass is both handled by a single central bass driver. With the efficient and cool running switching amplifier, this ensures extremely high quality, room filling sound.
OK, now that is pretty impressive sounding. In fact, that is a description you would expect to find on a higher end sound system, not a stand alone speaker dock.
Of course, I could not just let the Zeppelin rest on its laurels, I had to give it a full test. And that includes a three year old and six year old throwing a good old fashion jamm session right in our sun room.
Now, the first thing I will say is that I positioned the speaker incredibly poorly (it is on the shelf to the right), with the sound blaring into the smaller part of the room, and the back facing the wall. This was not by design, but it did serve as a good test for the speaker. Despite the poor placement, I found I could hear extremely crisp sounds from anywhere in the room, even those parts that were behind the speaker.
I did note, however, that the sound felt a little heavy on the bass. If you are a bass fan, you will probably like this a lot. If not (and I am not) then the bass could feel a bit overpowering at higher volumes. I wish there had been a separate bass control to lower the bass volume alone.
The rest of the controls were extremely easy to use and intuitive. Once docked, your iPod controls will continue to work as usual, which is nice. You can also choose to use the included remote. I liked this remote because, not only did it match the design of the Zeppelin speaker, but it also feels extremely comfortable in your hand. The cool thing about the remote is that it directly controls your iPod. This means you can use the remote to adjust the volume or switch to a different track. I did note, however, that the battery compartment on the back can be a bit tricky to open the first time.
A light on the front of the speaker will show you the status of the unit. Red means it is turned off, green is turned on, and blue means it is connected and ready to play. If the light is flashing then it is probably receiving a Morse Code message or about to enter self destruct mode…OK, you’re right. There really is no self destruct mode. But the flashing light does communicate quite a bit of information, so be sure to study the user’s guide as there may be a test on this.
In the end, I was extremely impressed by the Zeppelin speaker. Not only did it offer a unique look, but it also sounded amazing. I have used numerous portable docks, and usually they offer mediocre sound. They make a great system for parties and crowds where the music is well in the background. The Zeppelin system is refreshingly different. Not only did it bring the music to the forefront, it actually offered a sound which could compete with my regular stereo sound system. I have never tested an iPod or mp3 docking system with that caliber of sound. I cannot wait to see what Bowers & Wilkins has in store for us next. I just hope they do not continue the flying machine trend and base it on the Hindenberg.
What I Liked: Great sound. Attractive and unique design. Remote control.
What Needs Improvement: Sound was a little heavy on bass.
Where To Buy: Bowers & Wilkins