Before you can fully enjoy the Zeppelin Air you will have to set it up. Here comes a snag. AirPlay ”should” be a game winner, but it is far from being as intuitive as it needs to be. B&W’s ‘Quick Setup’ guide has no less than 17 steps before you’ll be up and running and even then it will only work with devices on the same network and only play audio from Apple devices and iTunes. Do you want to blast the sound from YouTube videos, Ogg albums or AVI/MKV videos through the Air? You’re out of luck. You will also require an iDevice packing WiFi in the first place.
The good news is once AirPlay ”is” setup all computers and iDevices sharing your wireless network are setup too. The result is iTunes and WiFi equipped Apple products will add a speaker option during playback which allows you to switch to the speakers of the Air. It is an undeniably neat system and as long as you’re within range of your network you’re within range of the Air. That said making music blast out of it while you’re in another room only really has value for practical jokes.
What about actual performance? The Air is definitely a crowd pleaser. It packs 2x 25W tweeters, 2x 25W midrange and a 50W subwoofer. The result is a system that is louder, even more bombastic than the original Zeppelin and has the potential to shake your window frames. It produces the kind of full blooded sound that pulses with emotion and makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. That said the Air doesn’t lack detail. It is equally happy playing Chopin as it is The Prodigy and it is this flexibility and additional clarity where the Air makes its most significant advancements on the original Zeppelin.
Where it could improve is stereo separation. Despite its elongated shape the Air still has the same fairly narrow projection of sound. Consequently it can, at times, feel like Brian Blessed bellowing from the corner of a room. If we could improve one element of the Zeppelin range in general it would be that they would ‘fill’ a room with sound rather than shout at it. This is nitpicking, but for Â£500 it’s justified.