Review Price £398.99
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin iPod Speaker Dock - B&W Zeppelin
Of course the really important thing is sound quality and I have to say that you simply won't believe that an iPod could sound this good. I've heard countless iPod speaker docks, but the Zeppelin doesn't just take things to another level, it moves them to another dimension! OK, so any audiophiles out there will argue that any all-in-one device that's designed to playback compressed music from a portable player will compromise musical fidelity, and they'd be right, but they'd also be missing a very important point. Like it or not, the majority of consumers out there listen to most of their music as compressed digital files, and a large percentage do that via an iPod. So, once you've accepted that you're working with a device with intrinsic audio limitations, the key is to produce the best possible experience using said device, and that's exactly what B&W has done.
The sound from the Zeppelin is just so beautifully balanced that it's sometimes hard to believe that it's coming from an iPod speaker dock and not a hi-fi. B&W's legendary reputation in the loudspeaker market comes shining through, allowing the Zeppelin to turn its hand to any genre of music with equally stunning results. Listening to Paul McCartney's superb Band on the Run, helped me to remember that this is a man who should be in the media for his groundbreaking music, not for his messy divorce. This is a track with more subtle nuances than you can shake a stick at and the Zeppelin revelled in the challenge and produced an encore worthy performance. No matter how many times the music changed tack, it didn't phase the Zeppelin - the light guitar riffs and the vocals were given a beautifully melodic presence, while the underlying bass line kept the sound full and flavoursome.
Turning to another musical legend I fired up 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon, another track that's etched into my brain not from years, but from decades of listening. That snare drum intro sets the tone for the whole song and continues throughout the proceedings - not only does the Zeppelin do an amazing job of rendering this distinctive percussion arrangement, but it also manages keep it easily discernable throughout the entire song. Meanwhile the simple guitar chords that sit just behind the vocals add just the right amount of atmosphere without becoming distracting. Finally, the backing singers during the chorus are clearly heard and complement Paul's lead vocals perfectly - something that's often lost in the mix when listening on poor speakers.
Just to prove that my entire music collection isn't made up of artists called Paul, I thought I'd move onto Aimee Mann and her haunting rendition One. Aimee's take on One is a major departure from the Three Dog Night original, but I find that the best covers often are. Once again the Zeppelin did a fabulous job of capturing not just the sound, but the atmosphere of the song, with the near desperation in Aimee's vocals coming through loud and clear. But the Zeppelin still managed to project the subtle background percussion, with the gentle tap of a high hat as easily discernable as the bass drum.
Ultimately, the Zeppelin is just as comfortable with Aimee Mann's subtle and angelic vocals, as it is with Dave Grohl's more urgent screams and yells. Even throwing some Claude Debussy at the Zeppelin just reaffirmed its talents, with Clair de Lune just flowing forth like honey. Likewise, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair sounds truly beautiful via the Zeppelin - quite an achievement for any hi-fi, let alone an iPod dock.