Bowers & Wilkins Z2 Review

Updated February 28, 2014
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Bowers & Wilkins Z2
Bottom Line

The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 is a smaller, less pricey alternative to the company's Zeppelin Air (Est. $600) . It's still not truly portable however, as it requires AC power and a Wi-Fi network. Though its sleek styling matches the Zeppelin Air's, reviewers generally aren't quite as impressed with its sound quality. It also has a few of the problems with streaming that plague the more expensive model.

Performance

Good but not outstanding. Reviewers are not as consistently enthusiastic about the Z2's sound performance as they are with the larger Zeppelin Air's. PCMag.com says the Z2 delivers "warm, rich, transparent sound," while Wired describes it as "natural, bright and full." Some reviewers, however, are less impressed. Digital Trends says the upper register is "stunning," but the bass is slightly inconsistent and the overall tone can be a bit bright; Engadget and other reviewers, by contrast, say the bass is too "boomy" and drowns out the treble. CNET describes the overall quality "good for its size, just not great" -- certainly not great enough to justify the $400 price tag.

ProsGood sound quality, Sleek design, Smaller and cheaper than Zeppelin AirConsSetup can be tricky, Some problems with streaming, Not truly portable

Ease of use

A few glitches. The Z2 comes with a remote, but reviewers find it awkward to use. Controlling the music through the phone itself works better, but streaming isn't always smooth. Michael Calore of Wired explains that AirPlay's performance varies based on factors like network signal strength and interference; while many users have no problems, he experienced a lot of dropouts and "stuttering" in the playback. Jamie Lendino of PCMag.com had a different problem: The Z2 chopped off the first half-second or so of every track during streaming. As for the setup process, CNET says it's "fairly straightforward," but some professional and user reviewers say it's tedious and confusing.

Design

Futuristic design. One feature of the Z2 that reviewers uniformly like is its sleek, modern styling. Digital Trends calls it "elegant, minimalist design," and Wired says it "looks gorgeous, with soft-touch material around the top and bottom and a sleek metal grill in front." It's only about half as big and heavy as the Zeppelin Air: about a foot across and weighing 5.5 pounds. However, it's still not truly portable. Like the Zeppelin Air, it has no built-in battery, and it depends on a wireless or Ethernet network to function.

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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Wireless AirPlay Speaker Dock
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Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

Bowers & Wilkins Z2, Jamie Lendino, March 28, 2013

The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 is an Editors' Choice at PCMag.com, with an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5. Editor Jamie Lendino loves its "warm, rich, transparent sound" and sleek design, but he says the speaker chops a couple of seconds off each track in wireless mode.

2. CNET

Bowers & Wilkins Z2 Review: A Nice Speaker That Fails to Wow, David Carnoy, Nov. 5, 2013

Carnoy gives the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 just 3 stars out of 5, calling it "a nice speaker that fails to wow." While he likes its design and overall sound quality, he doesn't think its performance is special enough to justify its $400 price tag.

3. DigitalTrends.com

Bowers & Wilkins Z2 Review, Ryan Waniata, April 3, 2013

Digital Trends gives the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 4 stars out of 5 overall. Waniata praises its "elegant design, flawless wireless performance and stellar upper register," but he says it's pricey and its tone can be a bit too bright at times.

4. ConsumerReports.org

Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Speaker Systems, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2014

ConsumerReports.org tests over 40 wireless and Bluetooth speakers, including the Bowers & Wilkins Z2. Each speaker is evaluated for sound quality, ease of use and features. The editors classify the Z2 as a wireless speaker "for home use."

5. Which? magazine

MP3 Speaker Dock Reviews, Editors of Which? magazine, As of March 2014

Which? magazine, a British counterpart to ConsumerReports.org, examines 44 speaker docks, including the Bowers & Wilkins Z2, putting them through a rigorous series of tests. A panel of listeners rates the sound performance on seven different pieces of music, and testers evaluate features and ease of use.

6. Wired

Bowers & Wilkins Z2, Michael Calore, Sept. 5, 2013

Michael Calore of Wired awards the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 6 points out of 10, which translates to "a solid product with some issues." He says the speaker delivers plenty of volume and a "bright and full" sound, but he finds the AirPlay streaming to be "flakey."

7. Apple Store

Customer Reviews & Ratings for Bowers & Wilkins Z2 Wireless Music System, Contributors to Apple Store, As of March 2014

The only owner-written reviews we found for the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 are at the Apple Store, where it earns 4.5 stars out of 5 from about 10 users. Users say this speaker delivers great sound, but a few users find the setup tricky and the physical dock useless.