One thing that I did notice about the Zeppelin Mini is that it doesn’t respond well to low bit-rate sources. Whereas I can happily stream Napster through my original Zeppelin via a Sonos ZoneBridge with reasonable results, pumping the same feed through the Mini via my PC’s USB port was less than satisfactory. The sound produced is almost painfully harsh, with the Mini highlighting all the shortcomings of a 128kbps source file. Of course with any decent audio device you should feed it the best possible source, and sticking to high bit-rate files means that you won’t have a problem, but this is an area where the original Zeppelin proves that it’s slightly more versatile than its new sibling.
The Zeppelin Mini ships with exactly the same egg shaped remote control as the original Zeppelin, which offers control for power, play/pause, skip forward/backward, volume and input source. Neatly hidden along one side of the Mini itself are controls for power and volume, so you can control everything directly if you don’t want to use the remote, or happen to lose it.
Some might complain that the Zeppelin Mini doesn’t have a built-in clock or radio, but that’s not really the route down which Bowers and Wilkins is travelling. Most of the iPod docks you find stuffed with features like clocks and radios, do so at the expense of far more important aspects like build and sound quality. The Zeppelin Mini and the Zeppelin before it are all about getting the best audio experience from your iPod, full stop!
Unsurprisingly, the Mini isn’t as expensive as the original Zeppelin, but you still wouldn’t consider it cheap. With a price tag of £299, it definitely sits at the top end of the iPod dock market, but like its big brother, it goes a long way to justifying that price. That said, if you are looking for a high-end speaker dock for your iPod, I’d still suggest stumping up a bit more cash and going for the original Zeppelin, it really is worth it. If however, you simply can’t stretch that far, don’t have the space or are particularly keen on the digital iPod connection and USB connectivity, then the Zeppelin Mini won’t disappoint.
Bowers and Wilkins has proved that it can produce superb iPod sound quality in a smaller chassis, while adding a few new features along the way. The Mini isn’t as aesthetically striking as the original Zeppelin though, and it doesn’t excel aurally to quite the same level, but considering its size, it does an amazing job of filling a room.
Bear in mind that if you have a library full of low bit-rate files, the Zeppelin Mini will highlight the limitations of those tracks, so it’s best to stick to high quality sources to get the best results. Given the choice, I’d still buy the original Zeppelin over the Mini, but there are many reasons why someone may prefer the smaller and cheaper option.