Product Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin iPod Speaker System

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*A touch of class*

Genuinely beautiful. This is the kind of object that you will see about twenty years from now in a dusty, 2008 issue of Architectural Digest, lounging lustily on some perfect piece of Marc Newson furniture, stealing all the thunder from the Gehry-designed room it inhabits… and you will say “That is why the world has become so Zeppelificent (A word which will denote a sort of enthusiastic and extreme beauty in 2028)”.

A little while back we talked about this product (and others like it... perhaps not as pretty) and here it is again... Yeah, it’s that pretty. We really don’t want to let it go. Not because of the sound- which is great, not because of the size, but because of how hot it is. Sitting on top of a low bookshelf in the dining room, it looks as though it is just hovering there while it gathers data used for future domination of the planet- a foible we happily indulge!

But if you thought this thing looked good from the front, wait ‘til it turns around… the two ports for the bass are shrouded by a polished stainless steel backplate which looks like it was cut with a laser… by NASA… in space.

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This is also the most use we have gotten out of our iPod since we first invented it a few years ago. If you are using a recent iPod, the two meld into one like Brangelina. The remote is so super-simple and intuitive that you might think it came with the iPod to begin with- and holy crimony; it matches the design of the body.

the little plugs, all lined up in a row...

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the only two buttons on the thing...

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How does it sound? We ran a few iPods through it and the sound is predictably limited by the output of the players themselves… but iPods never sounded so good. When we hooked up a cd player with no sound-distorting compression/skip protection we beheld what was meant to be heard. On the 7th day, we declared it good. It is B&W after all.

Other sources that can be used:

  • MP3 players, including early iPods without click wheel.
  • CD players - portable or static.
  • Portable radios with headphone or digital outputs.
  • Computer direct.
  • Computer wirelessly using Apple Airport Express
  • Zarconian fuel modules from the planet Zarconia.
  • Video iPods can make use of Zeppelin’s video output capability to connect to a television: composite video and S-Video standards are supported.

We wanted to try something a little different since there are a number of well-written reviews online, replete with convenient, flowery analogies of airships in flight. Unplggd is about style, but we love substance even more and so we decided to use an unusual and antiquated source for music reproduction: the humble turntable (reviewed here). Nowhere on the B&W site will you see mention of vinyl in association with the Zeppelin, but since there is an aux input on the back, all we had to do is route the signal through a phono preamp (tube, of course) and plug it right the funk into that jack.

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Magic! Finally, the truth comes out and it doesn’t hurt at all. Truly a sweet sounding machine. To be fair, we spun some “Julian Bream plays Bach” so we were stacking the deck but why not? We wanted to see what this sammich could do.

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B&W has essentially taken two speakers and stripped them of all the excess fat, butted them together and Photochopped them into the perfect little package. 100 watts of monster truck squashing power assures you that your music will sound much bigger than you deserve. You will not be disappointed spending six bills on this; it is heavy, solid and rich sounding- better than any other iPod speaker we have heard.

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