The Zeppelin Wireless lives up to its lofty look with the sound B&W always wanted

As Bowers & Wilkins approaches its 50-year anniversary, it seems to think now is the time to do some revamping. In September, the company unveiled its new 800 Diamond Series 3 flagship speakers, which were completely reengineered from top to bottom. And now, in the “low end,” B&W has given the same treatment to its Zeppelin tabletop speaker series. The new Zeppelin Wireless ($699) retains its familiar namesake shape, but inside are completely redesigned components to deliver even better sound than before.

If the Zeppelin Air is the best iPod dock speaker on the market, then the Zeppelin Wireless could be the best Bluetooth speaker.

In the luxury goods market, calling something entry-level is a bit misleading. Yes, you could classify the Mercedes C-class and BMW 3-series as “affordable” luxury cars, but that doesn’t put them in the same space as an entry-level Kia, for example. The same analogy could be applied to the Zeppelin: In the B&W ecosystem, the Zeppelin is downright cheap in price when compared to the new 800 DS3, which starts at $4,000. But the Zeppelin Wireless is a premium product throughout, and B&W hasn’t watered down the product in order to achieve a sub-$1K price point. Rather, it’s improved it.

On the outside, you’ll notice that the chrome accents and iPhone dock, found on previous generations, are now gone. B&W has turned the Zeppelin from an iPod/iPhone dock speaker to a true wireless product that supports Bluetooth (AptX), AirPlay, and Spotify Connect (via Wi-Fi). In doing so, B&W not only created a cleaner looking product (we thought the chrome on the Zeppelin Air felt a bit cheap anyway), but an agnostic tabletop speaker that works with any device – iOS, Android, Windows Mobile … whatever. The B&W Control App for iOS, Mac, and PC has been improved for easier setup (although strangely, an Android app is missing).

Going completely wireless isn’t much of an innovation when the cheapest of Bluetooth speakers are moving in the same direction. What makes premium speakers worth their salt is the engineering, and the same team that worked on the 800 DS3 also rebuilt the Zeppelin. From the dual 1-inch double dome tweeters to the two 3.5-inch midrange drivers and larger 6.5-inch subwoofer, as well as the amplifier and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and Digital to Analog (DAC) chipsets are all new.

Treble is cleaner with the tweeters; voices and instruments come in clearer thanks to the Fixed Suspension Transducer drivers; the larger throw of the subwoofer delivers deeper, tonally on-point bass; the DSP is twice as powerful as the one in the Air; and the DAC does a better job at processing the digital data to create truer, more dynamic sound. All this without changing the look and size of the physical unit.

But the new components aren’t solely responsible for the improved sound (which we will get to in a minute). One reason why B&W is now totally reengineering its products is because there’s technology available to help improve design. Using the same type of 3D software used by aircraft and auto manufacturers, in which they mimic the laws of physics, B&W engineers could determine where strengths and weaknesses were and create better prototypes. Its engineers knew its products could be better, but they didn’t always know how; computer software can now locate where in the cabinet sound resonates, which affects clarity. In analyzing the previous Zeppelin Air, B&W made the front fascia of the Zepellin Wireless 50-percent thicker and used glass fiber ribs to strengthen various parts of the cabinet.

The Zeppelin is an aspirational product – something that brings in a new generation to this storied brand.

If you think the oblong shape is odd, there’s a reason why B&W is sticking with it. The tweeters are placed as far apart from each other in order to deliver stereo sound. The tapered shape, from left to right, has an acoustical function. The placement of these parts is what led to the elongated design – form follows function.

We had a listening session inside a large, high-ceiling room with windows. While not an ideal environment, both the Zeppelin Air and Zeppelin Wireless speakers B&W brought along provided nice big sound. But it was in the comparison listening where the improvements proved immediately noticeable. The quieter cabinet and new components delivered substantially clearer sound. Instruments, vocals, and bass weren’t fighting with one another, as there’s greater separation of space. The Zeppelin Air isn’t a bad speaker (we gave it our Recommended award and applauded its sound quality), but the Zeppelin Wireless sounds cleaner and is just plain better. Because the new Zeppelin gets its input signal both wirelessly and through Ethernet, varying sources will have an effect on sound quality (AirPlay is a better signal than Bluetooth, for example), so keep that in mind. But no matter the source, it all sounds really, really good.

We have the Zeppelin Wireless in our testing lab and will be putting it to the test, so stay tuned for a more thorough sound check. But, from our first experience, we can say this: If the Zeppelin Air is the best iPod dock speaker on the market, then the Zeppelin Wireless could be the best Bluetooth speaker.

With the Zeppelin on one end and the 800 DS3 on the other, B&W says it has a “full-circle package” of products. At $699, the Zeppelin Wireless isn’t exactly affordable, but B&W has no intention of depreciating its brand. Like a 3-series or C-class, the Zeppelin is an aspirational product – something that brings in a new generation to this storied brand, and grows them into the more expensive speakers. But forget all that for a minute, and let’s look at the Zeppelin Wireless for what it is: It’s all about creating the best sound possible, and that’s really what this company cares about anyway.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Product Review

Focal’s ultra-clear Sphear Wireless bring sexy back to banded Bluetooth buds

Focal’s Sphear Wireless are a sleek and simple pair of banded Bluetooth earbuds with exceptional sound and an affordable price, making them some of the only non-true wireless earbuds we’d consider buying right now.
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart home speaker is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for February 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for February 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Home Theater

They were robbed! From Crowe to Pacino, 10 times Oscar voters got it wrong

With the 91st Oscars rapidly approaching, now is a fine time to look back at several Oscar-worthy performances that were completely ignored by the Academy, as well as others that were nominated and astoundingly denied the little naked…
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: Yesterday, Tolkien, Triple Frontier, and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's trailers for Yesterday, Tolkien, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Triple Frontier.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.