Zeppelin Wireless – the story behind great sound

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Zeppelin™ Wireless delivers a dramatic leap forward in sound quality when compared to the already exceptional and award-winning Zeppelin Air. We talked to the product’s Senior Development Engineer Tom O’Brien, to discover the secret of its sonic success.

Zeppelin Wireless was much more than simply the third generation of Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin music systems. It is the first to lose the traditional iPod/iPhone dock. It is the first to feature Bluetooth® and Spotify® Connect connectivity, also making it the first to offer its services to uses of non-Apple mobile devices. It is also the first to come in a choice of colours, with the sumptuous new White version. But, and this is possibly the most important part, it is also without doubt the best-sounding Zeppelin product by some considerable margin.

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We talked to Development Engineer Tom O’Brien, and asked him how you would go about updating a product as successful as Zeppelin Air, which itself was a massive leap forward in terms of acoustics and connectivity when compared to the original, iconic Zeppelin.

“Some decisions were easy,” Tom told us. “We knew we wanted to remove the dock because it just reflected the way things were going in the portable world. We also knew that we wanted to open up the product to non-Apple owners so we set about about introducing new ways to use the product that opened it up more. Hence Bluetooth AptX and Spotify Connect.”

So much for the connectivity, but what about the acoustic performance? Tom says that he was told many times that customers never complained about the sound quality of the Zeppelin Air, but he couldn’t help but improve the performance.

“That’s what we do! I can’t stop myself, I suppose. I can’t imagine a world where we wouldn’t try to make a product sound as good as we possibly can within the limits of what we have to work with.”

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The first element of the acoustics that was addressed by Tom and his team was bass performance. “We felt we could do more to improve its integration and make the product easier to live with wherever you installed it,” he told us. “Removing the rear ports has helped significantly with flexibility because it means we have fewer problems with proximity to the boundary – a bookshelf, a corner, on a wall bracket – than we did before. Obviously removing the ports leads to other issues though, and we significantly changed the cabinet to counteract the potential downsides.”

For starters, Zeppelin Wireless’ cabinet is significantly more rigid than previous incarnations, and is constructed from a stiffer single layer of skin. This also provided the team with more internal volume to work with – a major factor when it comes to producing better bass.

“We have a 50% increase in internal volume.” Tom says. “And we’ve coupled that to a bigger, COMSOL-modelled and heavily redesigned bass driver. It’s much more linear than the old one and it has a single, cleanly identified break-up mode that we can deal with via a first-order filter, handled via DSP. We’ve ended up with more overall bass sensitivity than the older model.”

The Zeppelin Wireless project also utilised the same recent advances in computer modelling that were a major feature of the 800 Series Diamond development project, in particular increased used of the COMSOL computer modelling application.

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“With the midrange driver we wanted to use the FST TM (Fixed Suspension Transducer) technology that appears on many of our core loudspeakers because it’s more transparent, cleaner and more free of the box than a regular driver. FST units are also more sensitive so it gives a welcome sense of immediacy to the midrange. Much the same applies to Zeppelin Wireless’ twin high-frequency units, which use the new Double Dome tweeters, as used in our CM S2 loudspeakers.”

The result needs to be heard to be believed, and Zeppelin Wireless outperforms Zeppelin air in all areas. But as someone who has been pivotal in the development of all three generations of Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin products, we will leave the last word to Tom.

“When we went from the Zeppelin to Zeppelin Air it felt like a massive leap forward. We’d improved so many aspects of it that at first we felt that maybe we’d never be able to do that much better again with the new model because of the costs involved and the retail price we wanted to aim for. But with Zeppelin Wireless I really feel it’s a bigger leap over the Zeppelin Air than the Air was over the original. The product feels even more ‘grown up’ now. I think it’s really a dramatic change. The level of resolution and the information retrieval is just exceptional.”

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You can purchase Zeppelin Wireless direct from Bowers & Wilkins here

7 Comments

  • argoub mourad says:

    The zepplin wireless made by Bowers & Wilkins can not be compared to other products in the market for many reasons :
    * the outstanding design !
    * quality of the drivers !
    * amazing sound !
    * durability !
    * good value for money !

    I have listened to the zepplin air : then I saw the fantastic product !
    I originally have a B&W speakers the CM7 since four years and still very happy !!
    Go ahead, the company of John Bower it’s the best ever !!!

  • Downing Bethune says:

    As a proud owner of the original Zeppelin purchased six years ago, I was still thrilled when the Zeppelin Wireless was released. Never a big fan of Apple’s Airplay, I have a large number of 4th Generation iPods with the original 30-pin connector with all my music converted to Apple Lossless, and I was worried that someday they would be rendered useless when my Zeppelin finally gave up the ghost. But with the addition of Bluetooth capability, I was able to upgrade to the Zeppelin Wireless with no issues.

    I love the redesigned cabinet. While the original iPod dock was certainly iconic, the Wireless looks much cleaner without it. Both the back of the cabinet and the speaker fabric were upgraded as well.

    And most importantly, the sound, which was already great, is even better. The bass is the first thing I noticed. Much more pronounced but still not overwhelming. And the mid-range is cleaner.

    All in all, I was and continue to be a very happy Zeppelin owner. Keep up the great work, B&W. I look forward to seeing what you have for store for me in another six years or so.

  • Wilson says:

    I miss the dock. It was a great place to charge your device. And being old school, I miss seeing the album artwork displayed.

  • Joe says:

    The question about the connection between Zeppelin air and Iphone6 plus

    When I bought that model Zeppelin air from your company, I was using Iphone4.

    and the connection was perfect each other using Apple air play.

    But, The problem has began after I have bought the newest model from Apple, Iphone6

    The connection speed has decreased a lot compared with the previous status, Moreover disconnection has frequently occurred with Zeppelin air so that I tried to find newest firmware on your official website and installed it and applied to my Zeppelin and My Iphone6, too. However, there is nothing improved about the connection in Zeppelin and Iphone6.

    I understand that If the model has the most appreciate setting configuration with Iphone4, but as much as upgrade of mobile device, I believe that Zeppeline air should also have appreciate firmware with new model.

    I need to have certain solution about this problem. because, I can t use it

  • Michael Maddan says:

    Hello! As the owner of an original Zeppelin–and as one whose relationship to the World of Music is, admittedly, casual and far from the rarefied heights quite possibly frequented by owners of B&W music systems, generally–I must wonder if there Really is that much of a difference between my old friend, and the latest Zeppelin Wireless? I reckon you’ll appreciate my (sincere) questioning, if I simply allude to sports car performance: certainly, an Aston will absolutely Fly from 0-150 MPH more rapidly than, say, a mid-range Porsche…but, really, is it not fair to suggest, that either motor does what it does so well, that comparisons dwell more in the Land of Electronic Timing, than in seat-of-the-pants sensations? Then again…as a somewhat impovrished Retiree, the Wireless needs compete with home upkeep, and stray cat maintenance…a tough crowd to play to! Thanks! Michael Maddan, USA

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    We can confirm that every component has been upgraded and improved from the Zeppelin Classic to Zeppelin Wireless models. These components include the drive units, cabinet, DSP etc. and therefore the performance has been improved massively.

    Please click on the following link to find out more information on the Zeppelin Wireless, as well as our ‘Find a Retailer’ tool so you can have a listen to one before you make your decision;

    http://www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk/Wireless-Speakers/Wireless-Speakers/Zeppelin-Wireless

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    We are sorry to hear you are experiencing issues with your Zeppelin Air.

    We believe the change of iPhone models is simply a coincidence and more than likely not related to the issues occurring, this is because the performance of wireless streaming is dependent on the strength of signal between the streaming device, Wi-Fi router and speaker, regardless of what model the device is.

    Please click on the following link to be directed to a helpful FAQ on our website regarding audio dropouts during AirPlay, with tips on improving the wireless connection;

    http://bowersandwilkins.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1156/p/7

    If you require any further assistance, please contact our technical support team who will be more than happy to help;

    http://bowersandwilkins.custhelp.com/app/ask/p/7/

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