Skip to main content

Bowers & Wilkins Z2 Review

Bowers & Wilkins Z2
MSRP $399.99
“This speaker’s elegant design, flawless wireless performance, and stellar upper register make it a serious contender in the mid to high-end wireless speaker market.”
  • Stunning upper register
  • Smooth low end and mids
  • Flawless wireless performance
  • Elegant, minimalist design
  • Tone can be a tad bright
  • Bass slightly inconsistent
  • Fairly pricey

Bowers & Wilkins is one of those audio companies that is as talented at aesthetic styling as it is at sound engineering. A quick look at the company’s website reveals a wide array of innovative products, all perfectly fashioned to accent the decor of the modern living room, study, or, in the case of its headphone line, a well-tailored suit.

Of course, with premium design comes a premium price. The company’s signature Airplay dock, the Zeppelin Air, tows behind its airship-inspired frame a price tag pushing $650. Luckily for the sub-luxury crowd, Bowers & Wilkins has been developing its line of speaker docks to include several price tiers. The latest and most affordable addition to the family is the Z2.

At a more manageable price of $400, the Z2 promises convenient Airplay wireless audio streaming and elite sound in a sleek little package. But can the less expensive and diminutive speaker maintain performance worthy of the Bowers & Wilkins name? We sat down with the device to find out. Here’s what happened.

Out of the box

Pulling the Z2 from its box, we were struck with the succinct elegance we’ve come to expect from Bowers & Wilkins’ products. The Z2 is an ovular monolith of rubberized plastic and metal, with B&W’s signature, dimpled “Flowport” nicely integrated on the rear. Inside the box we found a DC power adapter, some instructions and promotional material, and the pod-shaped remote control we’ve grown to love.

Features and design

While the litany of manufacturers coughing out wireless speakers these days are opting to outfit their wares with rechargeable batteries to enhance portability, Bowers & Wilkins has yet to embrace the concept. But while the Z2 needs to be plugged in to a wall outlet and stay put, it looks super sexy while doing it. This speaker is handsome and compact enough to dress up any kitchen counter, desk, hutch or nightstand.

The Z2’s exterior design is a sort of lesson in minimalism. The glass-reinforced ABS surface curving along the top of the device is disturbed only by a small divot in which to dock your Lightning-equipped Apple device, and a pair of touch capacitive volume controls that protrude subtly at the front.

Beneath the dimpled sound port on the rear is an input for the supplied DC adapter, an Ethernet input, a 3.5mm aux input, a power button, and a tiny, inset reset button.

The Z2’s retro-futuristic remote looks like something straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Along its glossy, curved surface are controls for volume, play/pause, song search, and source selection. The little device is just cool to hold, with ergonomic touches like a small dimple on the bottom which perfectly fits your index finger.

Unlike the Z2’s beefier A5, A7 and Zeppelin counterparts, this speaker does not feature separate tweeters. Under the Z2’s mesh speaker screen sit two 3.5 inch full range, fiberglass speaker cones. Beneath the screen, to the right of the Bowers and Wilkins logo is a small LED which blinks red when the device is first plugged in, and, later, a flashing yellow as it awaits connection to your network.

The wealth of various treble tones in the album… quickly revealed the Z2’s stunning upper register as the star of the show.

Before you can connect wirelessly to the Z2, you must first download Bowers & Wilkins’ setup app (this is the 21st century after all). The app leads you through a series of short steps to connect the dock to your wireless network, and select the name with which it will appear on your device.

After the short initial setup, the LED gleams violet as the Z2 powers on, poised to deliver its crystal clear Airplay connection. Throughout our testing, we had nothing more than a solitary blip of signal disruption, a virtual first in our ample experience with wireless devices.

Audio performance

We tested the Z2 by playing a wide variety of music from our iPhone 5’s catalog, primarily via Airplay. What we experienced was an articulate, well balanced sound signature notable for its airy upper register (no pun intended), and matched by a silky low end and midrange.

How long we stick with our first music clip is usually a good initial indicator at how much we enjoy an audio device. In this case, we queued up an old favorite from The Decemberists, The Crane Wife, and listened through to its completion thanks to the Z2’s vivid clarity. Canvassing the album’s wide range of instrumentation, the speaker displayed a clean balance of detailed vocals, silvery acoustic guitar, and biting rock organ and electric guitar. The wealth of various treble tones in the album – from crash and ride cymbals, to xylophone and moog synthesizers – quickly revealed the Z2’s stunning upper register as the star of the show.

bowers and wilkins z2 dock class d amplifier macro

As we moved on to other genres, we were struck by Z2’s brilliant midrange and low end performance as well, displayed with a satiny texture that we found pleasant and comfortable. Snare drum and toms had a smooth, thick crush on many tracks, and bass tones were often velvety. While we wished for a heavier presence in the lower register, you can only ask for so much from a speaker of the Z2’s size before you have to start making some compromises. If a little bit of bass must be sacrificed for that sparkling treble we described earlier, we’re ok with that.

The Z2 was also adept at separation; and in more ways than one. The Z2’s drivers did a great job of creating defined instrumental spacing, allowing us to thoroughly explore the various timbres and tonal colors throughout our recordings. But we were also surprised to find a fairly decent amount of stereo separation coming from such a compact speaker; an effect that was especially evident in the sweeping movement of the synthesizer tones found in some of our favorite electronic music.

Perhaps our favorite moment (or at least the one that sticks out the most) was the Z2’s gorgeous display of the piano on Bowie’s “Fill Your Heart” from Hunky Dory. We were in sheer reverie as we followed the bright flare of the keys descending fluidly into the next track, “Andy Warhol.”

bowers and wilkins z2 dock glass reinforced abs driver enclosure macro

We do have a bit of criticism to offer: We found that the Z2’s bass response was oddly inconsistent. With some tracks, we felt the speaker came off a bit boomy, while other tracks lacked low end force, revealing kick drums with a flat, poppy tone. However, for the vast majority of our experience, the bass was ample and well-balanced. Perhaps this makes an argument for some on-board tone controls. Thought it can also be argued that our device’s EQ could be used almost as easily.

Our only other issue with the Z2’s sound has us circling back to its best attribute: treble response. As mentioned earlier, we felt the midrange was, at times, robbed of energy by the drivers’ focus on the high end, an aspect that was especially evident in older rock tracks. All this is to say that we think those who prefer a darker sound may find the Z2 to be a little on the bright and shiny side.


At $400, the Z2 is still a bit of an investment for such a compact wireless speaker/dock, but we think it’s a worthwhile one. Though we wished for a bit more warmth and fullness in the Z2’s tone at times, it consistently displayed its prowess for brilliant clarity and immaculate detail throughout our listening sessions. This speaker’s elegant design, flawless wireless performance, and stellar upper register make it a serious contender in the mid to high-end wireless speaker market.


  • Stunning upper register
  • Smooth low end and mids
  • Flawless wireless performance
  • Elegant, minimalist design


  • Tone can be a tad bright
  • Bass slightly inconsistent
  • Fairly pricey

Editors' Recommendations

Ryan Waniata
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
The awesome Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin wireless speaker now comes in white
Zeppelin speaker in white

Last year, Bowers & Wilkins introduced the latest model of its Zeppelin wireless speakers, and despite the unusual look of the speaker, we were fairly impressed by how it sounded.

Now that same sound can be found in a new package, as Bowers & Wilkins has announced that it will soon begin shipping the Zeppelin in white to complement the original black color scheme. The British audio brand said in a press release that the new option was designed "to appeal to palette purists and design enthusiasts who prefer a more neutral colour tone."

Read more
It still isn’t cheap, but this 77-inch LG OLED TV is $200 off today
The LG B2 OLED 4K TV in a living room.

It may not be a cheap deal by any means but if you've been considering buying a high-end and large OLED TV, you might like one of the TV deals that Best Buy has right now. Today, you can buy the LG 77-inch B2 OLED TV for $2,300 instead of $2,500. That means you save $200 which might not quite be 10% off but is still a good discount on such a pricey TV. You've probably already done all your research but if you still need a little more explanation about this TV, read on while we take you through it.

Why you should buy the LG 77-inch B2 OLED TV
You can't go wrong with an LG TV. It's one of the best TV brands around these days and it truly knows how to make the most of OLED technology. A big selling point here is its huge 77-inch display but it's packed with self-lit OLED pixels so you get infinite contrast, perfect blacks, and over a billion colors that add depth and make whatever you're watching look spectacular.

Read more
Samsung’s sleek Frame TV just got a massive discount
The 50-inch Samsung Frame TV hangs on a living room wall displaying art.

The Samsung Frame TV is an incredibly cool and stylish-looking TV. It also features as the highlight among the many TV deals going on at the moment at Best Buy. It's a fantastic TV in its own right as you'd expect from Samsung, before you consider its unique artistic frame-like quality that's perfect on your wall. It's even more tempting when it's on sale. Right now, you can save up to $800 depending on the size screen you want. However, you're going to need to be quick. This offer is on for a very limited time with stock running low on all models, whether you're considering the 50-inch variety or a huge 85-inch model. Let's take a quick look at what else you need to know before you hit the buy button.

Samsung 50-inch The Frame TV --
Samsung 55-inch The Frame TV --
Samsung 65-inch The Frame TV --
Samsung 75-inch The Frame TV --
Samsung 85-inch The Frame TV --

Read more