Hardware Reviews

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin

Zeppelin Pearl Grey 547

This is the fourth iteration of Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin sound system, officially announced in October 2021 – almost 20 years to the day after Apple introduced its very first iPod. Why is that significant? Some of you may remember the first Zeppelin, launched in 2007, represented a new category of audio product that was specifically made for the iPod, a device that went on to disrupt and revolutionise the way music is now delivered and consumed.

While the market started to become populated with ‘iPod docks’ from a variety of other manufacturers, it was Bowers & Wilkins that set the benchmark for not only sound but also aesthetics – with that now familiar curvaceous design, the Zeppelin looked right at home in Apple’s stylish Stores, rubbing shoulders with brand’s range of exquisitely-designed gadgets.


Since then, the Zeppelin has moved on from being an iPod dock. This latest version is billed as a wireless smart speaker and works not just with Apple iOS but also Android and other compatible Bluetooth devices. And so begins the next chapter in the Zeppelin story which comes at a poignant moment: in May 2022, Apple announced that it would be discontinuing the iPod and which would only be available while stocks last. (I look forward to a future, retro-styled model to commemorate some kind of future anniversary.)

Beneath the curves
The Zeppelin is certainly gorgeous to behold (and the addition of dimmable ambient lighting on its attached stand is a nice touch), but its real beauty lies beneath that exquisitely sculpted and acoustically optimised rigid exterior. Here, you’ll find two speaker assemblies mounted either side of a 150mm subwoofer, all powered by an internal 240W amp.
The assemblies include 90mm midrange drivers that feature the company’s ‘Fixed Suspension Transducer’ technology as found in its high-end floorstanders (such as the reference 800 Series Diamond). These drivers are matched with the company’s ‘Decoupled Double-Dome’ tweeters (as featured in its 600 Anniversary Series. These are mounted at the far edges of the enclosure and, says Bowers & Wilkins, are fully isolated from vibrations running through the cabinet generated by the other drive units.


This latest Zeppelin is entirely wireless and doesn’t have any interfaces for physically connecting audio devices or a router (there’s a USB-C port, but this is just for service support). It uses Bluetooth 5.0 which supports aptX Adaptive, AAC and SBC. It also has Amazon Alexa voice control built-in.

As well as streaming from Apple Airplay, Spotify Connect and many popular high-quality streaming services, radio stations and podcasts, there’s also support for Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer Hi-Fi and Soundcloud, among others. Up to 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution support is available, depending on your streaming subscription.

To get started, you’ll need to download the Bowers & Wilkins Music App for iOS and Android. As well as bringing together all the music services above, the app also offers digital signal processing, dynamic equalisation, and playback controls, plus support for Spotify Connect. It took me a couple of goes to connect first my iPhone 8 and then my Google Pixel 4a, but once done, the Zeppelin doesn’t need to be re-paired, even if you disconnect it from the mains to move to a different location.


Ready to fly
Wow. Stream Lana Del Rey’s ‘Groupie Love’ from Spotify Premium and the Zeppelin explodes into life with a room-filling sound that belies its relatively compact size. The Bowers & Wilkins conjures up an expansive acoustic landscape filled by Del Rey’s luscious vocals accompanied by dream-like keyboards and percussion. It all comes across with such a clean-sounding clarity that has me instantly hooked.

Feed it with some more female vocals, this time Queen D fronting She Said (Big Jet Plane) by Trinix, and the dream continues with those gentle new deep house beats providing an intoxicating aural cocktail that immerses the listener.

Sticking with vocalists, this time the baritone of Gregory Porter and Hey Laura, which leaves you in no doubt of the power that this speaker system has on tap. The way it delivers Porter’s booming voice across that rich jazzy mix of brushed drum skins, piano and sax has you instantly smitten as the Zeppelin goes straight to the heart.


There’s no doubt that the Bowers & Wilkins is capable of pumping out a big and bold sound, and switching up a gear to something busier and brasher does not prove to be its undoing. The Arabic ‘dabke’ of Syrian singer Omar Souleyman can crash some systems, especially on ebullient tracks such as Tawwalt El Gheba where shrill-sounding instruments can come across as bright and harsh unless carefully controlled.

The Zeppelin doesn’t disappoint here, not by keeping everything on a tight leash and thereby restraining the performance, but by having an uncanny knack of dynamically presenting a full throttle sound that retains energy, vibrancy and great pace.

Now it should be said that that the Bowers & Wilkins big and bold sound can be a double-edged sword. For example, lower frequencies can tend toward excess with some material. An example here is Mahler’s Adagietto from an EMI recording of his Symphony No. 5 where some of the bass notes are a little more prominent than they need to be. There were similar instances in other gentler and more piano-based and classical-oriented tracks, such as those on Nick Harvey’s album Emotive Underscores or Perspective by Helen Jane Long.


The Zeppelin could do with finer gradations on the volume control, as it is you can go from an ambient background volume setting to loud and ceiling-rattling within a few short swipes of the volume bar. But let’s put this in perspective, if your musical tastes veer towards the classical and gentler end, then B&W has plenty of other options for you as the Zeppelin is unlikely to be your first port of call.
Those wanting a great sounding and easy to use streaming system for say, rock, pop, hip-hop etc., should definitely get on board the Zeppelin, it’s a great musical trip.


Type: wireless smart speaker
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, aptX Adaptive; AAC, SBC, Airplay 2
Native streaming services: Spotify Connect, Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer
Amplifier power output: 240W
Drive Units:
HF 2x 25mm (1-inch) double dome tweeters
MF 2x 90mm (3.5-inch) FST midrange
LF 1x 150mm (6”) subwoofer
Frequency response: 35Hz to 24kHz
Dimensions HxWxD: 210 x 650 x 194mm
Weight: 6.5kg
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
£699 when tested
Manufacturer Details:

Bowers & Wilkins
T 0800 232 1513


wireless smart speaker


Rahiel 'Naz' Nasir

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