- Review Price: £329.99
- 2 x 3.5-inch drivers
- Class D amp
- Lightning dock connector
- Aux input
Bowers & Wilkins has just expanded its massively popular compact speaker range. The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 is the baby of the bunch, and is a lifestyle-leaning speaker that’s just gagging to live on your kitchentop, or in your lounge.
It’s entering a busy market, but the £329.99 Airplay-enabled Bowers & Wilkins Z2 is sure to win an instant gaggle of converts.
Bowers & Wilkins Z2 – Design
This is the smallest and most convenient of all Bowers & Wilkins’s home speakers. The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 is intended to sit on a worktop – not pulling focus like a Zeppelin Air, but not quite slinking away into the background like a Bowers & Wilkins A5 either.
This speaker functions both as a wireless dock, using Apple’s AirPlay standard, and as a more traditional jam-your-phone-in-the-top dock. It uses the Lightning port, and there are no plans to produce a 30-pin version. Those days are long gone, folks.
The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 more-or-less ignores Android users, although there is a 3.5mm auxiliary jack on the rear should you want to plug in another source. When quizzed about its decision to leave out Bluetooth, Bowers & Wilkins said there were no plans to change the current Apple-oriented strategy, but teased with the addendum that you never know what might happen in the future.
In short, it slots perfectly into the current Bowes & Wilkins iPhone line-up.
That also means that build quality is tip top. The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 has a reassuring weight to it, and is built to withstand some punishment. Its speaker grille is metal rather than plastic or fabric, and the dock part is recessed a fair way into the top of the unit, so won’t get damaged by an accidental knock.
The Bowers & Wilkins Z2’s body is finished in soft-touch plastic. It looks and feels great but, as the white demo unit we saw proved, attracts mucky scuffs like no-one’s business. It comes in black too, though, which should suffer from no such problems.
Aside from a couple of delightfully low-key capacitive volume buttons up top and the dock ports itself, all the controls and ports are on the device’s rear. That includes a power button, the aux input, power socket and an Ethernet port – which is optional as the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 has integrated Wi-Fi.
There’s no Bluetooth, however, and no battery. The Z2 is resolutely an at-home speaker.
Bowers & Wilkins promises that setting-up the dock will be blissfully simple compared with the AirPlay docks of old. There’s a setup app that will simply ask you to input your home Wi-Fi’s security key – then you’ll be off. We’ll test this first-hand when we get one in to review.
A multi-colour LED shows the Z2’s current state
Bowers & Wilkins Z2 – Drivers and Sound Quality
Like many docks of this size, the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 uses full-range drivers, rather than separate tweeters or subwoofer units. It packs two 3.5-inch drivers, mounted flat underneath the curvy metal grille.
Given that there are none of the side-firing driver tricks often employed in smaller speaker units, the Bowers & Wilkins Z2’s dispersal of sound is pretty impressive. It should have no trouble filling smaller rooms.
Bowers & Wilkins has tuned the unit to mitigate another issue with small speakers too – limited bass. The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 has a fairly warm sound, with decent bassy thwack for a little unit. Although there’s no dedicated bass driver, there is a bass port on the rear, fitted with dimpled that Bowers & Wilkins says will help eliminate distortion – alongside dynamic EQ that manages the sound output as volume goes up and down.
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It’s clever, easy to use, and has sound that we’d happily listen to casually. However, there are naturally limitations in a speaker box this small. Bass depth and sound separation are fairly limited, as is treble detailing – not surprising given the lack of separate tweeters.
These are all things to expect from something that relies on a pair of fairly small drivers, but is something that we find hard to swallow when paying over £300. It’s a problem of many smaller AirPlay docks, which command up to a £100 premium over their non-wireless counterparts. AirPlay doesn’t come cheap, apparently.
However, if the cash means little to you and you’re after a classy smaller dock that produces good sound quality in a small package, the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 sounds like a winner. We’ll be back with the full verdict once we get one in to review.