Buying your first hi-fi is like a rite of passage. The point at which you realise that those all-in-one stereo systems with all the flashing lights have nothing to do with sound quality and everything to do with shop floor attraction is like an epiphany - sadly it's an epiphany that many never experience. After experiencing my moment of clarity, as Jules would put it, in my late teens, I went shopping for my first hi-fi separates, along with my first set of "proper" loudspeakers. The speakers I settled on were a set of B&W DM 560s, and they were absolutely beautiful. In fact I was so impressed with my first set of B&W speakers, that I have never bought speakers from a different manufacturer ever since!
Unfortunately for high fidelity companies like B&W, the audio trend has swung away from quality and towards convenience over the past few years, and now the majority of consumers are listening to compressed music on devices like Apple's iPod. As a result of this transition, many companies have tried to mesh high end audio equipment with the iPod - the Fatman iTube ValveDock instantly springs to mind. And now B&W has decided to embrace the iPod generation with the launch of its Zeppelin iPod speaker dock.
Gordon first reported on the Zeppelin back in August 2007, and I tried to get hold of a review sample back then, but B&W had decided to only launch it in the US, which was odd, considering it's a UK company. Anyway the Zeppelin is finally hitting UK shores, and for anyone who's wondering - yes, it was well worth waiting for!
B&W may be all about sound quality, but it clearly knows a thing or two about design aesthetics too. The company's Nautilus speakers remain one of the most beautiful design statements in the audio world, assuming that you have a large enough room to accommodate them and £44,000 burning a hole in your pocket. The Zeppelin may not be as imposing a design statement as the Nautilus speakers, but it is very beautiful. Now, beautiful is not a word that I use to describe products very often, but I really can't think of any other way to describe the Zeppelin. Put simply, even if you never switch the Zeppelin on, it will still give you much pleasure every time you look at it.
One look at the Zeppelin will tell you why B&W gave it its moniker - it looks pretty much just like a Zeppelin, although with considerably less chance of bursting into flames and killing every passenger on board. The ellipsoid styling gives the Zeppelin a decidedly organic look, much like the aforementioned Nautilus speakers. The black speaker covering is offset by the chrome band the wraps around the very centre of the device. With dimensions of 640 x 208 x 173 (WxDxH), the Zeppelin demands enough room to be appreciated, unlike many iPod speaker docks which find homes on bedside tables instead of clock radios.