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Published on January 4th, 2012 | by Ruth

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Sexy Sound With Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air

We love re­view­ing au­dio gear. It’s in­ter­est­ing to com­pare nu­ances in tone col­or, func­tion­al­i­ty, dura­bil­i­ty. It’s al­so some­thing that’s go­ing to be sit­ting tak­ing up re­al es­tate in your liv­ing space, so the aes­thet­ics are im­por­tant. Some sound equip­ment is cute. Some sys­tems are el­e­gant. Once ev­ery long while, you meet one that can on­ly be de­scribed as sexy. The Zep­pelin Air by Bow­ers & Wilkins is sexy. The elon­gat­ed egg shape is un­usu­al, rem­i­nis­cent al­most of a Bran­cusi sculp­ture. It’s a sys­tem peo­ple ad­mire when they walk in­to a room.

Hav­ing es­tab­lished that the Zep­pelin is a beau­ti­ful sys­tem (and did we men­tion that the black and chrome adds to the classi­ness?), we start­ed think­ing about how it sounds. Specif­i­cal­ly, we com­pared against the pre­vi­ous­ly-re­viewed Zep­pelin Mi­ni. Like many sound sys­tems, it takes a few hours of play for the sound to blos­som. The ini­tial fair­ly con­strained qual­i­ty quick­ly gave way to rich, open, life-like sound. Since it’s a dock rather than a book­shelf sys­tem, place­ment is a bit of an is­sue- the sound is quite de­pen­dent on how the de­vice is po­si­tioned. We ex­per­i­ment­ed with a few ori­en­ta­tions, be­fore de­cid­ing that it was best not quite fac­ing di­rect­ly to­wards a lis­ten­er.

We tried out the gam­bit of mu­si­cal styles, from Ar­vo Pärt to Miles Davis to Cee Lo Green to Ra­dio­head to Em­inem to all of the hol­i­day mu­sic we could find (yes, we have eclec­tic mu­si­cal tastes). The qual­i­ty es­pe­cial­ly showed up with jazz, where each plink and tap could be heard, dis­tinct­ly and pre­cise­ly. The Zep­pelin al­so has a fan­tas­tic amount of pow­er. It can fill a 1500 sq. foot space with sound.

The sys­tem func­tions both as a tra­di­tion­al dock- stick your iPhone or iPod on and play- but this ver­sion adds the abil­i­ty to wire­less­ly stream your mu­sic through Air­Play, via iTunes or your iOS de­vice (or from Air­foil, which we con­tin­ue to ap­pre­ci­ate). For those An­droid de­vices or non-Ap­ple me­dia play­ers, you might not ap­pre­ci­ate the Air­Play fea­tures, and could con­sid­er the ex­cel­lent orig­i­nal, our fa­vorite over­all dock. But for those with dreams of hav­ing your mu­sic play across mul­ti­ple rooms, it’s amus­ing to switch mu­sic from an ad­join­ing room. The dock is much more portable than a book­shelf sys­tem would be, but is still not some­thing you want to cart around ev­ery day. We were wor­ried that it would be awk­ward to move, since it doesn’t have a han­dle, but the oval shape makes it pret­ty easy to pick up and car­ry.

While stream­ing we did ex­pe­ri­ence some tech­ni­cal is­sues. Oc­ca­sion­al­ly, the au­dio would cut out, and the de­vice would ap­pear to restart (dis­ap­pear from the ac­tive Air­Play list). We hear that it’s a mi­nor bug in Ap­ple’s soft­ware, and that a fix is on the way. It hap­pens so rarely and briefly that we’re not too con­cerned about it. We did note that firmware up­dates are avail­able, but weren’t able to get them in­stalled- it re­quires a non-in­clud­ed ca­ble, and a fair­ly tor­tur­ous pro­cess un­for­tu­nate­ly. The on­ly oth­er re­al is­sue we had was that set­ting up the wire­less can take a bit of time if you’re not used to work­ing with net­works. The Zep­pelin comes with clear in­struc­tions, and can be set up wire­less­ly or us­ing the pro­vid­ed eth­er­net ca­ble to con­nect it to a com­put­er. If you’re get­ting it as a gift for some­one less tech­ni­cal­ly savvy, con­sid­er set­ting it up for them, just in case. Once past the ini­tial set-up, it’s a breeze to use. It’s al­so solid­ly built, and of­fers a re­fined de­sign with no mass of glar­ing LEDs.

The re­mote that comes with the Zep­pelin seems like a bit of an af­ter-thought. It’s hard not to feel a lit­tle dumb when you re­al­ize that you’ve been point­ing a re­mote at your­self try­ing to turn down the vol­ume. It is, how­ev­er, small and handy.

The Zep­pelin is avail­able for $600 on Ama­zon. Yes, at $600, this sys­tem is ex­pen­sive. It looks ex­pen­sive and it sounds ex­pen­sive. We think that it’s worth the mon­ey. It will look great in your house or apart­ment, and han­dle any type of mu­sic with aplomb. If you’re look­ing to spend a bit less, Bow­ers and Wilkins al­so of­fers an ex­cel­lent MM-1 speak­er sys­tem. And those who want more per­son­al sound should def­i­nite­ly check out the best in-ear head­phones we’ve tried so far, the B&W C5s.

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About the Author

The ampersand tattoo on her shoulder goes a long way towards explaining Ruth's outlook on life: there's always an "and." With TrulyNet, Ruth enjoys working on social media and writing... and editing... and... Ruth went to the University of Oregon, where she studied music, dance and cognitive psychology (and sleeping very little). While there, she designed classes and taught arts enrichment to talented and gifted grade-school students. After graduation, Ruth spent several years as a Market Analyst at a large law firm in New York. Feeling the pull back to the west coast, Ruth moved to San Francisco and worked for Stanford for a year before deciding to focus on her passion for the arts. Ruth spends more time on Facebook that she cares to admit. When not attached to the computer, working for TrulyNet, or dancing, Ruth rock climbs, knits, swims, obsessively plays Boggle, plays games, plays tennis, cooks, sips beer, wine and whiskey, and travels seeking adventure.



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