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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Review

Est. $600
Reviewed
March 2014
by ConsumerSearch
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air

Best AirPlay speaker

Pros
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Easy to use app
  • Sleek design
Cons
  • Awkward controls
  • Streaming can be unreliable
  • Not truly portable
Where to Buy
 

Bottom line

To call the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air a "portable" speaker is stretching a point. It's over 2 feet wide, and it doesn't include a rechargeable battery -- so it's tied to AC power as well as to your home network. However, within your home, it will look and sound great. A free app makes AirPlay streaming simple, but some reviewers find the connection unreliable. The price may also give many users pause.

Performance

Very good, but not flawless. Professionals and users consistently agree that the Zeppelin Air produces full, rich sound. However, various reviewers raise a few minor quibbles. CNET says there's little stereo separation unless you're right next to the speaker, and PCMag.com says it "slightly processes sub-bass." Trent Wolbe of Engadget.com thinks the "big fat bass pumping out of the Zeppelin Air will do its best to choke out high end in many situations," and it isn't possible to adjust the levels sufficiently to bring out the treble. As a result, he thinks this isn't a good choice for your primary stereo system.

Ease of use

Mixed results. Reviewers generally find that the tiny, egg-shaped remote that comes with the Zeppelin Air isn't much use. It's much easier, they say, to control the device through your phone with the free app. However, they're split over this speaker's streaming performance. While Wired praises AirPlay's "lossless streaming," both CNET and many users at Amazon.com describe glitches in which the music cuts in and out or stops altogether. (One Amazon reviewer claims that updates to the iPhone 4S have fixed this bug.) Also, PCMag.com describes an annoying lag of a few seconds when playing, pausing or changing volume. We read mixed reports about the setup process as well: Some reviewers say it's easy, while others find it confusing.

Design

Sleek styling. One feature reviewers consistently love about the Zeppelin Air is its sleek, futuristic styling. Words like "striking" and "distinctive" show up in most reviews, and Wolbe describes the black ovoid as "13.5 pounds of mesh-coated minimalism designed to look fierce on your coffee table or bookshelf." Users are generally impressed with its build quality, as well. Its biggest drawback is its sheer size: At 25 inches wide and 13.5 pounds, it's not likely to do a lot of moving around. However, that's mostly a moot point, since its lack of a battery and its dependence on a network mean it's unlikely to leave your home anyway.

Where to Buy Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Wireless AirPlay Speaker Dock - ZEPAIR

 (125 reviews)
Buy new: $599.99 $599.95   11 Used & new from $299.99

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Our Sources: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Ipod Speaker Reviews

1. PCMag.com

Greenwald awards the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5 (excellent). He says the audio performance is "top-notch" and the styling is gorgeous. However, he finds the remote control "useless" and complains of an irritating delay in playback when using AirPlay.

Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air (With Lightning Connector), Will Greenwald, Feb. 4, 2014

2. Which? magazine

Which? magazine, a British counterpart to ConsumerReports.org, examines 44 speaker docks, including the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, 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.

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

3. CNET

The editors of CNET rate the first-generation Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air 4 stars out of 5 overall. They say the sound quality is "solid," though there's little stereo separation at any distance. However, they say streaming can be glitchy and the steep price tag is a big drawback.

Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Review, Editors of CNET, March 22, 2011

4. Wired

Wired awards the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air the title of Best Sound among wireless speakers, saying it provides "unmatched richness and clarity." Although admitting that it's a bit limited in terms of device compatibility, reviewer Michael Calore still rates it "nearly flawless."

Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, Michael Calore, March 2, 2011

5. Engadget.com

Wolbe gives the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air 7 points out of 10, saying it looks "fierce" and produces room-filling sound. However, he adds that it doesn't offer enough fine control to satisfy true audiophiles. He concludes that it's "really fun," but not a good primary audio system.

Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Review, Trent Wolbe, May 5, 2011

6. Amazon.com

The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air receives about 100 reviews from owners at Amazon.com, with ratings averaging 3.5 stars out of 5. Owners generally find the setup easy and the sound quality solid, but many complain of a bug that causes unreliable streaming.

Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Wireless AirPlay Speaker Dock, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2014

7. Crutchfield.com

There are only about 20 reviews for the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air at this audio retail site, but they're strongly positive, averaging 4.5 stars out of 5. Owners love the Zeppelin Air's looks, sound performance and build quality, though a few say that the setup process is confusing.

Review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, Contributors to Crutchfield.com, As of March 2014

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