The Bowers & Wilkins name is practically synonymous with high-end sound. Since the original B&W 801 first appeared in 1979, the English company has enjoyed a great deal of success by producing some of the worlds finest and most stylish speakers found in recording studios and homes around the globe. In September 2007, B&W announced the Zeppelin iPod dock– an eye-catching, if a bit bulky, overachiever that has become a sort of modern design paradigm for the world of electronics. Now, B&W offers the Zeppelin Mini. Scaled down in size, the Mini promises to better fit your office, bedroom or living space and fill it with extremely high quality sound. In this review, we put the Zeppelin Mini through its paces to see if it earns its asking price of $400, and dig into some of its more unique features.
Out of the Box
There isn’t much packed in the box with the Zeppelin Mini. Accompanying the speaker dock is an egg-shaped remote control, four docking brackets, a DC power supply and a very simple quick-start guide. For more detailed user instructions, visit B&W’s website .
The Zeppelin Mini is a tidy 6.8 inches high at its tallest point, 12.6 inches wide and just 4 inches deep. Setup was pretty straightforward until we learned a firmware update was available. Going about updating the Zeppelin Mini was a little bit of a hassle, but their online instructions helped clear up the problem and we were soon up and running.
The Zeppelin Mini is one very cleverly designed piece of equipment. Its aesthetic mirrors the iPod Touch’s black-on-chrome color scheme very successfully. The top of the unit is a concave mirror of chrome that looks more like real chromed steel than it does plastic. Affixed to the top of the speaker section is a 90 degree rotating dock arm that effectively puts your iPod on display as if were a piece of art on its own. The speakers are covered in black grill cloth and trimmed with more chrome on the bottom. The only buttons to be found on the unit are inconspicuously placed on the side of the unit. The front face of the Zeppelin Mini is remarkably clean looking. Even the power indicator light is cleverly tucked under grill-cloth so that it remains unobtrusive.
On the back of the unit we found a USB connection, 1/8-inch mini jack and power connection all located just below the flared, textured speaker port. The rear is otherwise covered in more grill cloth.
Under the hood, you’ll find a digital amp pumping out 18 watts per channel to two 3-inch drivers, and some DSP technology for shaping the sound that is sent to the speakers.
The remote control is egg-shaped and, like the Zeppelin Mini itself, comprised of black and chrome plastic with just a few buttons. They allow the user to power on the unit, turn the volume up or down, advance the track back or forward and pause, or start playback. A seventh button resides at the bottom of the remote, but we can’t seem to determine what it does. The button doesn’t appear to be addressed in B&W’s manual either, so we’ll just enjoy that mystery for now.
The docking arm on the Zeppelin Mini deserves some special attention. To the best of our knowledge, it is the only dock that can rotate to allow landscape mode of an iPhone or iPod Touch – something we consider a bit of an oversight on the part of other manufacturers. Not only that, but the docking arm is positioned at the top of the unit and reclined back to make operating your iPod much more comfortable.