Review Price £398.99
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin iPod Speaker Dock - B&W Zeppelin
One of the design highlights (and believe me, there are many) is the actual iPod dock, which makes every single implementation I've seen before look clumsy. Projecting from the base of the Zeppelin is a solid metal band that follows the curve of the speaker casing. Just below the mid point, you'll find the iPod connector mounted in a chrome block bearing the B&W logo. Unlike every other iPod speaker dock I've encountered, the Zeppelin doesn't employ an endless array of adapters to accommodate all the different form factors of iPod - the dock on the Zeppelin fits each and every type of iPod without the need for annoying bits of plastic.
The key to the Zeppelin's universal iPod support is the spring loaded connector. When you connect an iPod a spring pushes the device against the metal band behind it - this means that regardless of the size, shape or thickness of your iPod, it will always rest securely against the metal backing plate, ensuring that no strain is ever put on the docking connector in either the Zeppelin or your iPod. This design also allows for easy navigation of the iPod while it's docked, again putting no pressure on the connector, since your fingers naturally wrap around the metal support band, rather than the back of the iPod as with other docks.
Unbelievable as it may sound, but the back of the Zeppelin looks almost as good as the front. The rear is finished in mirrored chrome, with twin bass ports mounted at equal distance from the centre - the effect is quite stunning, which is saying something considering you'll rarely see the back of the unit except when connecting it up!
Talking of connecting up, there's a pretty generous array of connections to complement the iPod dock. There's an auxiliary input for hooking up a non-iPod source device - this is a standard 3.5mm mini-jack affair, but it's worth mentioning that it will accept an optical digital input as well as an analogue one. You also get S-Video and composite video outputs for streaming video from your iPod to your TV. An interesting connector is a USB port, which at first I thought was there to sync an iPod, but in fact it's there for updating the firmware in the Zeppelin, which is a pretty compelling USP in itself.
But it's inside the Zeppelin that B&W has worked its magic with the driver configuration - whereas most iPod docks just use off the shelf speakers that fit a cabinet design, B&W has designed drivers specifically for the Zeppelin in order to create a balanced and cohesive sound. At the far edges of the tapered cabinet are the left and right tweeters and adjacent to these you'll find midrange drivers. Dead centre is the large bass driver - this is where most speaker docks fall down, they either lack bass response, or it sounds forced and overpowering. But when you remember that B&W is a high-end speaker manufacturer, it's clear that the drivers will not be an issue and there will be none of the separated sound problems that plague low-quality speaker docks that employ poor crossover technology.