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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini - Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini

By Riyad Emeran



  • Recommended by TR
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini


Our Score:


At the rear there’s a single, centrally mounted bass port, as opposed to the twin arrangement seen in the original Zeppelin. Below the bass port you’ll find the power socket, which this time requires an external power block, thus helping reduce the overall size of the unit. Next to the power socket is a 3.5mm auxiliary input so that you can connect up a second source that isn’t an iPod – at home I have a Sonos ZonePlayer plugged into the aux input on my Zeppelin.

The last port at the rear of the Zeppelin Mini is USB. The USB port brings with it some notable new functionality, like the ability to synchronise your iPod while it’s docked – assuming of course that your computer is close enough. You can also update the firmware via the USB port (as you could with the original Zeppelin), but the most notable function is that you can stream music directly from a computer via USB.

The ability to stream music via USB gives away the fact that the Zeppelin Mini has an integrated DAC. So, whether you’re streaming music from a PC or an iPod, the digital data is converted inside the Zeppelin Mini itself. This means that if your source device has a less than ideal DAC, as with most computers or even an iPod, you can take it out of the equation. Although the original Zeppelin could stream music digitally via its combined analogue and optical input, music pulled from a docked iPod was taken as an analogue feed.

The big question is whether a digital iPod connection can make up for the reduced dimensions and hardware compared to the original Zeppelin, and the answer is, predictably, no. However, I don’t think Bowers and Wilkins ever designed the Zeppelin Mini to sound as good as the original Zeppelin, after all, it’s a smaller, less obtrusive device for consumers who don’t want something the size of the original Zeppelin in their homes. That said, the Zeppelin Mini still sounds very good indeed.

If you’re worried that the Zeppelin Mini wont be powerful enough to fill a room, don’t be. In fact, the Mini managed to fill my local church hall without any problems, when it handled music duties at my daughter’s fourth birthday party. Okay, so it does sound a little harsh at very high volumes compared to the full size Zeppelin, but that’s to be expected given its size. In the majority of situations – when it’s not in a hall with 20 screaming children on a bouncy castle – it produces a beautifully balanced sound.

Most surprising is how expansive a soundstage the Mini manages to create – obviously you’re not going to get any real sense of stereo mixing, but it does a pretty good job of enveloping the listener, as long as you’re not sitting too close. This aspect was highlighted when I played Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and the sound floated through the room in an almost ghostly manner, taking me back to the first time that I watched Gallipoli.

You’re obviously not going to get as much bass from the Mini as you do from the original Zeppelin, so if you’re preference is R&B or Hip Hop, you might find the results a little underwhelming, though not completely disappointing by any means. More acoustic fare like Kate Walsh’s superb album, Tim’s House is beautifully rendered with the Mini managing to recreate all the intrinsic delicacy of tracks like Talk of the Town and Bury My Head.


February 1, 2010, 3:06 pm

I demoed both before xmas before settling on the full size Zepp - for £80 more the sound was much more dynamic and room filling. Not to say the Mini was bad but more suited for smaller rooms.

"The ability to stream music via USB gives away the fact that unlike the original Zeppelin, the Zeppelin Mini has an integrated DAC."

are you sure about this? I am using the optical input on the Zep from my HTPC - so digital into the Zep via Toslink to mini-Toslink cable.


February 1, 2010, 3:59 pm

@HSC: Yes, I'm the same. I have my Zepp stuck under my TV and use the mini TosLink connected to the Optical out of my TV. Much better than the TV speakers of course :). So yes, the Zepp must also have an integrated DAC & Decoder.

The only thing that is a little annoying about my Zepp is that the Iphone always complains about it not been compatible, yes fair enough you can just click the don't go into Airplane mode, but still annoying, but I blame Apple here, surely my phone should just come up with this message once, or have the ability to turn the nagg off.

One thing I really find the Zepp useful for is recharging my Iphone, sometimes when the Iphone battery get too low if wont recharge, and this is using Apples original wall socket charger, stick it in the Zepp and it's fine.


February 1, 2010, 7:24 pm

Nice product if space is limited in your house.

I'm still very happy with my originalZepp :) Kinda disappointed that they've kept the same pebble remote (btw - the remote is upside down in the pic).. For the £400 i spent on my zepp, i'd have expected something a little more from the remote. Still, it does the job and doesn't effect sound quality ;)


February 1, 2010, 11:29 pm

Never understood the bashing of coverflow. Covers are how I think of my albumns, and great for prompting an ooh I haven't listened to that in a while


February 2, 2010, 1:49 am

@HSC & Keith – You’re both absolutely right, the original Zeppelin does have a built-in DAC for use with the combined analogue and optical auxiliary input. However, it does NOT take a digital signal from a docked iPod.

When you’re using a docked iPod, the Zeppelin is receiving the analogue line-out signal from the docking connector, so the DAC inside the iPod is still being used. Given, this is still far better than the quality you’ll get out of an iPod headphone jack, but if you believe that the iPod DAC is lacking, you can’t take it out of the equation with the original Zeppelin.

The Zeppelin Mini on the other hand pulls the digital stream direct from the iPod’s docking port, thus bypassing the iPod’s internal DAC and using its own. I think that I was so hung-up on the fact that the Mini can stream digitally from an iPod, that I forgot that the original Zeppelin could decode an optical digital input. In my head I had decided that the reason the original Zeppelin wasn’t pulling digital data from the iPod was a lack of internal DAC.

Streaming digital audio via USB is potentially more reliable than using optical digital anyway, since there’s less chance of jitter causing a problem. That said, when I spoke to Bowers and Wilkins out at CES I was told that the company is close to perfecting an asynchronous digital connection, which should eradicate jitter giving you a completely clean digital signal from any source. Once something like that is available, it won’t matter whether your music is stored on a disc, on a computer or on a NAS appliance, the quality of signal will be identical.

Horace Coker

February 2, 2010, 1:52 am

"So, if the most important thing to you about an iPod dock is that it looks like an airship, you may be slightly underwhelmed by the Zeppelin Mini." It's sentences like this that make make TR reviewers stand out from the crowd! Keep it up!!


February 2, 2010, 2:01 am

@overthere - I agree that CoverFlow does try to recreate that feeling of browsing your record collection, but for me it just seems like a waste of time if I know what I want to listen to. Curiously though, at the weekend I found myself browsing my CD collection on the shelves, finding something I wanted to listen to, then playing it on the iPod docked in my Zeppelin :)

prag fest

February 2, 2010, 3:41 am

I've been curious to see your review of this. I have an original zeppelin and absolutely love it, so didn't hesitate to pick up one of these. Even taking into account realistic expectations given the reduced size and speaker arrangement, I was massively disappointed with the sound it produced, sending it packing back to John Lewis a couple of days later. Strange, I found the sound stage very small and the whole thing terribly tinny, it didn't sound anywhere as good as a friends bose sound dock thingy.

Not only that, the damn blue LED flashing frantically on the front drove me crazy (had it sitting on my work desk) and the iPhone dock adapter seemed to wedge the phone in so tight I kept missing calls because I couldn't prize the thing out in time. To add insult to injury, thought it was way overpriced at £300 quid too.

Rant over.


February 2, 2010, 3:02 pm

Hi guys - I know a little off topic, but I'm interested in the idea posted above of taking the optical output from my TV and putting it into a Zepplin sat beneath it.

Could anyone who's done this please answer a few questions for me ?

1) Does this just use a normal optical cable of the type used to connect (for example) a DVD and AMP ?

2) Would the Zep perform ok sat on a shelf beneath the TV facing directly into the room ?

3) When the iPhone is docked and playing, can it be remote controlled via the Zep remote ? For example forwarding a track, pausing, etc.

Just thinking aloud, thanks for any advice.


February 2, 2010, 3:45 pm


1) Does this just use a normal optical cable of the type used to connect (for example) a DVD and AMP ?

Yes it uses normal optical cable, it takes a mini TosLink, so if your cable is normal TosLink you will want a TosLink to Mini TosLink adapter.. eg http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module...

2) Would the Zep perform ok sat on a shelf beneath the TV facing directly into the room ?

That's were I have mine..

3) When the iPhone is docked and playing, can it be remote controlled via the Zep remote ? For example forwarding a track, pausing,

Yes, also on you Iphone you get some extra options for controlling Bass too.


February 2, 2010, 8:13 pm

whilst i was looking at the bigger zepplin dock and commenting on a few of its flaws, the sales assistant informed me that the B&W rep, who setup the zepplin display, had told them a newer version of the dock would be out this year around september time. Has anyone heard about this?


February 2, 2010, 9:18 pm

Thankyou for that information Keith. Very useful. Especially interesting to know that I can remotely control the docked iPhone from the Zep handset.

On the top of a Zep-2 coming out, well the present one has been out over 2 years now, but September is a long long time away still.


February 2, 2010, 10:34 pm

@AJ / Keith - Are you talking about the Zeppelin or the Zeppelin Mini?

The Zeppelin Mini definitely does not accept mini-Toslink whereas the Zeppelin (airship)does. (The Mini's aux in is 'line-in' only and not fibre optic, whereas the Zeppelin could double as both.)


February 3, 2010, 2:58 pm

@Dan, AJ just asked for the Zeppelin not the mini, and my previous comments before were related to the DAC of the airship model. :)


February 26, 2010, 11:38 pm

Any chance of the B&W P5 headphones being reviewed? They sound interesting to me (no pun intended!)


October 16, 2010, 6:40 pm

still struggling to see why no internal battery is present. if you love quality hifi your likely to have one at home which will play ipods beautifully anyway.... so surely portability and inbuilt power source has to be a major factor with these units!? Or is hoiking cables, plugs and extension leads around still the way to go? Even a detachable battery pack that doubles as a base would be just the ticket...?? Also 'zeppelin mini' terrible name, it isn't a zeppelin and isn's a mini zeppelin either. Maybe the B&W 'doink' would be a better name? ;o)

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