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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air review

Gordon Kelly




  • Recommended by TR

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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air


Our Score:



  • Beautiful design, Incredible sound quality, Apple AirPlay wireless streaming,


  • Expensive, Less subtle than the Arcam rCube,

Key Features

  • Apple Airplay wireless streaming, Class leading sound quality, Premium pricing, Universal iPod dock,
  • Manufacturer: Bowers & Wilkins
  • Review Price: £499.95

For three years the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin reigned supreme as the connoisseurs' iPod dock of choice. In January the Arcam rCube took its title. Just three months later B&W wants it back…

The 'Zeppelin Air' is the company's weapon of choice. At first glance the it looks like little has changed for the original Zeppelin. The Air still has the same iconic stretched oval design that 'inspired' the TEAC Aurb and countless others, but inside it is revolution not evolution. The Air has updated drive units, up-rated amplification, improved Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and by far the biggest crowd pleaser: added AirPlay technology.

For who haven't come across AirPlay before, it is Apple's proprietary wireless streaming technology and it allows iPhones, iPods, Apple TV and iTunes itself to push media around the house wire-free. For Apple's audio products the big news is AirPlay is capable of delivering lossless sound quality and no adapters are required. AirPlay can also work in conjunction with multi-room environments allowing media to be delivered to multiple products around the house.

Out of the box the Air makes a dramatic first impression. The sweeping curves keep the same look at its predecessor and at 640 x 208 x 173mm it is exactly the same size. At 6.2Kg, however, is it a whole 1.3Kg lighter. Like the Zeppelin, the Air is very well made. The metallic back has gone to be replaced by love-it-or-hate-it piano black plastic, but it still feels like a premium product and arguably the more subtle colouring makes it classier.

Maanwhile the Air retains the same physical buttons for power and volume on the metal band around the centre of the dock and the dock connector itself, while perched, feels more solid than it looks. Inside you'll now find WiFi and along the back the Air has power, Ethernet, a USB port (for firmware updates), auxiliary and composite inputs and the simple pebble-shaped remote remains unchanged from the Zeppelin.

What does mark a significant change though is the sound quality…


May 13, 2011, 1:41 am

So, this one gets 9/10 for sound - but is apparently an audio improvement on the 10/10 given for the original Zeppelin!? It can't be based on the increased value - as that is in the 'value' rating, and can't be because it only uses apple airplay....because that is what it is supposed to do. So...maybe it is time to add a mark out of 11 - to signify the step change in quality in this category and give it a 10.5, and the Arcam an 11. Otherwise I can have no faith in such reviews.


May 13, 2011, 3:37 am

Damo, the scores we attribute to a product are based on the market at the time of writing. The landscape changes all the time, which is why the iPhone 3G was rated 10/10 and the iPhone 4 received a 9/10 score.


November 20, 2011, 8:49 pm

Damo, until I read this review I have always been weary of any printed opinion. Since my early twenties I have been reading Audio and Stereoplay (german magazines, I am Dutch) to see what their opinion was on equipment I was contemplating to buy. Most of my early earned money after graduating university was spent on HIGH END audio equipment, still owning today part of that ' hobby' : Nad Power Envelope (pre amp separate) and the AR 9 speakers (costing in 1990 DFL 10.000 altogether (about 5000 euro now). At the time Audio Magazine was a very trusted source, but for me that ended when I started using NAD (practically no tests available, as they didn't spent money on advertising....)
Before giving my opinion, it's good to know that I've come from a long way...
Now the Airplay. I just bought it after reading various tests (please note my wife is forcing me out of the ' old school' equipment since a few years (needing lot's of space and wires !) and AFTER having bought the ' old' Zeppelin in October 2010. So I now own both (plus the Harman Kardon Go & Play, in our kitchen, after first 'trying' the Bose Waveradio). Having heard my new Airplay and being the owner of the ' old' Zeppelin, everything in this review I can agree to. The Air does sound better then the predecessor. Be assured I have tested this as critical as possible, with an iPod with wav-files, the originals! My living room measures 10,5 mtrs by 5,50 meters and the sound is really AWESOME (the predecessor sounds very good as well). My old NAD / AR 9 sounds off course better, but with closed eyes NOone would guess the small Zeppelin (air) is responsible for the sound reproduction.
Again, I fully agree with this review and will revert back to this site for reviews of other equipment.


January 9, 2012, 10:28 pm

v. recent purchase of ZA from JL & totally impressed, design, product quality, sound repro and import'y airplay. As with any logic circuitry it operates as instructed so pl give the CORRECT instructions? Set up your ZA but then register o/L with B&W(and get some goodies) d/L the instruction manual and read the relevant parts and all will become clear to allow endless hours of uninterupted steaming musical pleasure as I am now doing. Warning: adjust the vol signal output on itunes-top left of page c.60% and multiple speaker tab ZA c.40% when streaming from pc or you'll blow your windows out when it connects! and have also found setting the equaliser (see-view) to treble-boost gives optimum overall sound repro but this is personal pref. nb.stunning unit with awesome acoustic sound range 9.5/10

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