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B&W’s Zeppelin gets rebooted as a $799 hi-res smart speaker

Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) has brought back its iconic Zeppelin, and it’s loaded with new features that make it a thoroughly modern wireless speaker. Priced at $799, the new Zeppelin is available starting October 13 in Midnight Gray (black) and Pearl Gray (gray).

The Zeppelin is one of the most enduring designs of the new millennium. The original, which was released in 2006, was a beautiful but extravagantly priced iPod speaker dock. It was followed by the 2011 Zeppelin Air, the Zeppelin Mini, and most recently, the 2015 Zeppelin Wireless. And while the new Zeppelin holds onto that unique ellipsoid shape, it goes much further than its predecessors both inside and out.

Bowers and Wilkins new Zeppelin wireless smart speaker.
Bowers & Wilkins

On the outside, the new Zeppelin is tiny bit taller and tiny bit narrower than the Zeppelin Wireless, and it now features a switchable and dimmable LED light that casts a “halo” on the speaker’s built-in aluminum stand. You’ll find the same top-mounted controls, but now — in addition to the familiar play/pause and volume buttons — there’s also a multifunction button and a dedicated Amazon Alexa button. Yep, the new Zeppelin has been given voice assistant smarts, so you’ll be able to control the speaker’s functions (and anything else Alexa can do) with just your voice.

As with the Zeppelin Wireless, there’s an available wall-mount bracket in case you’d prefer to see your Zeppelin float instead of stand.

Bowers and Wilkins new Zeppelin wireless smart speaker.
Bowers & Wilkins

The changes aren’t all additions — B&W has removed both the Ethernet and auxiliary-in ports that used to sit at the base of the Zeppelin Wireless.

Bowers and Wilkins new Zeppelin wireless smart speaker.
Bowers & Wilkins

Inside, B&W has used the same number and style of drivers — two tweeters, two midranges, and one subwoofer — but it has upped the amplification power considerably. The Wireless model had a total of 100 watts of power, but the new Zeppelin packs 240 watts. It should also produce more low-end oomph thanks to a deeper frequency response of 35Hz to 24kHz (the previous model could only go down to 44Hz).

Technically, a speaker or set of headphones should be able to reproduce frequencies from 20Hz to 40kHz to be considered fully hi-res compatible, but in our experience, the overall sound quality matters more than pure numbers. What’s more important from a hi-res point of view is that the new Zeppelin can be controlled via the Bowers & Wilkins Music App, which includes access to streaming services like Deezer, Qobuz, and Tidal, all of which have subscription tiers with lossless and hi-res audio tracks. Soundcloud, Last.fm, and TuneIn are also included, and B&W says that more services are being added regularly.

Bowers and Wilkins new Zeppelin wireless smart speaker.
Bowers & Wilkins

From a connectivity point of view, the new Zeppelin has Apple’s AirPlay 2, which means the speaker can be added to Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform. It also supports Bluetooth 5.0, along with SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive codecs, giving Android users a wireless audio connection that is almost as good as AirPlay 2. Spotify Connect is also available for direct control from within the Spotify app. B&W is also working on a firmware update that will let the new Zeppelin work as part of a whole-home wireless audio platform, which could include other Zeppelin speakers, as well as products from B&W’s Formation family of wireless speakers.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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