Hands on with Zeppelin Air

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air - Lifestyle

Zeppelin Air is about to launch, and we are obviously very excited about it. We are confident it’s the best iPod speaker Bowers & Wilkins has yet produced, and that its breathtaking sound quality, coupled with Apple’s AirPlay technology will make it a huge success.

But it’s not just us that are excited about it, as you can see from these hands-on previews from Stuff, Pocket Lint and Electric Pig.

45 Comments

  • Franz Nawratil says:

    I have a first gen Zeppelin running with an Apple Airport Express on AirPlay. I do not utilize the dock. it’s always “on” (not necessarily playing music) but consumes unnecessary power!
    So is the Airport Express, and that one eats a lot!
    I do not enjoy searching for the Zepp. remote al the time.
    I wish the new Zepp. Air would be low power in standby and could be switched on and off via AirPlay. Volume at turn on should be programmable, so one does not need to look for the Zepp. remote when playing iPod or iPad streams.
    An additional useful feature for would be a wall bracket.
    with kind regards, Franz, one time proud owner of a pair of B&W 800 Matrix speakers.

  • Kieran says:

    Good morning Franz,

    Thank you for your comment.

    You’ll be happy to hear that the new Zeppelin Air offers the functionality that you are looking for. When the Zeppelin Air is in “Sleep” mode (bright red LED light), it transmits a wireless signal which means it can be “awoken” and streamed-to without the need for finding the Pebble remote or pressing the power button on the unit itself.

    The Zeppelin Air when in Sleep mode consumes less than 1 pence/hr.

    With regards to playback volume, the Zeppelin Air will automatically default to the volume set on the device streaming audio to it, so if the volume slider on an iPhone 4 streaming to the Zeppelin Air via AirPlay was set to maximum, that would be the volume level that the Zeppelin Air would output audio at.

    For your information, Zeppelin Air wall brackets are available for purchase. Please contact your local Bowers & Wilkins dealer for further information.

    Kind regards

    Kieran
    New Media Technical Support

  • emmet doyle says:

    i love the look of this thing! The reviews are brilliant and the technology looks top notch. I want one and I think the price is reasonable. It was this or Sonos for a streaming music solution. However! the one aspect of this that I am not so keen on is that large silver and black dock…I would never want to use the system as a physical dock, and intend only to stream music to it. Is it possible to remove the dock arm?

    Keep up the good work!

  • joe says:

    The sound overall is VERY impressive, and at times with the right recordings & apple lossless format are AMAZING! The D/A Converter and separate amps for each driver may account in part for the superior over the original Zeppelin.

    sound limitation: The Sub creates too much bass of which can become muddy at times.
    It may be the cross-over placing too much music on 50 Watt Sub (away from the mids) or a DSP Bass issue.
    Not 100% certain why.
    The ‘Sub’ does take on more of the music then it can playback cleanly, moment to moment.
    With certain musical passages this ‘thudsy’ like sound is not at all apparent.
    (certain electronic space music or certain rock songs with vocals)

    Reading that people are lowering the bass eq or raising the treble on their ipod is a mistake cause NO Eq should be used with the Zeppelin Air! (needs to be off)
    (this according to B&W, due to its own complex internal DSP)

    Listening to the Rolling Stones “lady Jane” on the Zeppelin Air was s t u n n i n g.

    The ‘lower end’ sounds over the top sound that often overwhelms the mids!!
    Rating it 3 stars, based on my unit with major glitch and with the low end sound being less then high end like.

    Lastly on one more point on the low end sound issue, that I hear on the Zeppelin Air.
    It may be that the sound of the Air is so great, that this one issue stands right out because of such.
    I have a 5 year old JBL Radial sound dock. (the larger of the two they make). While the B&W Zeppelin Air
    is clearly superior to it in almost every way, as it should being it is Bowers & Wilkins and 3 times price..
    The ‘Sub’ on my JBL ‘Radial’ produces a Deep, Transparent Clean PUNCH, that the new Zeppelin Air simple does not offer. And in taking on so- much of the music and not being tight enough, at times does indeed dominate it
    famous B&W mid range sound from its two mids!!

  • Lars says:

    I own the new Zeppelin Air and I like it – however, I have one complaint concerning volume settings: I ofter use the Zeppelin Air with my computer speakers simultaneously. I set the Zeppelin low so that the volume level fits. However, everytime I change my settings which speakers iTunes should “serve” and accidentally click on the Zeppelin as the only speaker, it gets LOUD AS HELL, because it has much more power and my iTunes main volume control is at full maximum. (Hope I described this understandable, English isn’t my native language …)

    I know it is obvious that – if I change to the Zeppelin Air as the only speaker – the iTunes main volume slider suddenly also becomes the Zeppelin “instance”. However, as I normally have to turn on the Zeppelin volume for only about 1/5 of the maximum and it just happens sometimes that switching to only one speaker again goes wrong (not pressing “Computer”, but “Zeppelin Air” on the bottom right of iTunes), it’s not only a shock for my neighbors, but also for me and I’m afraid to damage my Zeppelin Air. (really, really loud …) It just happens although I am always careful now to only change to both speakers or only computer speakers, but never ever accidentally to Zeppelin Air onl … Therefore, I would have loved a maximum loudness setting in the Zeppelin Air, mabye with the online setting program you have to start when first using the Zeppelin. Would be nice if this mabye is added in a future firmware update, but I don’t keep my hopes high… Otherwise, a very nice box!

  • Lars says:

    P.S.: Wasn’t deleted, sorry – all my browsers didn’t show my first comment anymore (although I refreshed and deleted cache), but it came back when posting again. Sorry for the double post.

  • New Media Support says:

    Good afternoon Emmet,

    Thank you for your comment and your kind words regarding the new B&W Zeppelin Air.

    I regret to inform you that the B&W Zeppelin Air’s docking arm is a permanent fixture in the products design and cannot be removed or detached.

    The way that the Zeppelin Air has been designed means that it is necessary for the docking arm to be permanently attached for a number of different reasons. One reason being that the LED light indicator information is displayed on the docking arm itself so removing this feature would compromise the speakers usability considerably.

    I will however take note of your suggestion and forward your comment onto our Research & Development department for their consideration.

    Kind regards

    New Media Product Support
    Bowers & Wilkins

  • Steve says:

    Hello, I have the original zeppelin bought a year ago and my only gripe is that when my iphone is on to listen to music I sometimes feel a bit ‘naked’ (yes sad I know) so the airplay seems like a great solution. However I do want to shell out another £500 to get one.
    Can my old zep be converted to receive airplay or is there an adapter which I can buy to achieve the same?
    Or even a trade in scheme, similar to updating a phone?
    Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

  • New Media Support says:

    Hi Steve,

    Trading in your Zeppelin is something you would need to discuss with your dealer.
    Unfortunately it is not possible to update existing Zeppelin or Zeppelin Mini models to make them compatible with Airplay. It is not a simple matter of firmware, the hardware inside Zeppelin Air is completely different.
    You can find out more here:
    http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/iPod_and_Computer_Speakers/iPod_and_Computer_Speakers/Zeppelin_Air/sound.html
    I hope this helps,
    Kind regards
    New Media Support

  • Patrick E. Vuithier says:

    Zeppelin Air is just stunning. But my main problem with it is, that it is – at the lowest level selected – still much to loud. I wanted to use the Zeppelin Air in my sleeping room to listen to music before sleeping. But it is much too loud. Is there a way I can reduce the volume of this machine? I also had the same problem as Lars with the loudness when streaming from iPhone/iPad/iPod that uses other volume levels. I also would love to have a maximum loudness setting on the Zeppelin Air. Would be great, also for my neighbors!

  • Michael Benner says:

    I must say that im very pleased with the sound quality, and the brilliant design of the Zeppelin Air. Besides that, it seems to me that the hardware volume controls is bugged. When i try to turn up the volume it all of a sudden turn it all the way down again. If i press an hold the volume up button, funny things starts to happen too. However, in my case I was able to find a solution by turning the iphone “sound check” off.
    Hopes this helps anyone else.
    By the way I can recommend the MM-1 PC speaker system – They sounds brilliant. Great job B&W :)

  • New Media Support says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Thank you for your comment regarding wanting to reduce the volume of the B&W Zeppelin Air at its lowest volume setting.

    Unfortunately there is no way of reducing the volume to a lower level than the level it is currently set at. When streaming wirelessly via AirPlay from an iOS device, the Zeppelin Air will play to the volume level set on that device so please ensure that the volume is set as low as possible. It is however not possible to get the volume to play at a lower level than what it is set to on the device streaming audio to it.

    Kind regards
    New Media Support Team

  • vexner says:

    Having enjoyed the original Zeppelin since the day it became available, I must say I’m amazed at the improvements of the Zeppelin Air over its predecessor in terms of QOS as well as useability. Excellent work!

  • Franz says:

    Hi Kieran,
    You will be happy to read that yesterday I bought the Zepp. Air and I am really Impressen by the progress B&W has made.
    I like the “sleep-mode, it works well. What is the actual powerconsumption in sleep? 1 Pence/h is relative.

    A new question: a lot of mentioning of the 24/96 DACs. Love the HD on the MM1 on the Mac. How can I stream your B&W music? ITunes cannot handle 24 Bits, and Amarra has nö Air Play.
    Thanks for your help.
    Franz

  • Mervyn says:

    Hello people at B&W,

    I am a proud owner of the Zeppelin Air since 1 week after the launch of the Air.
    The sound quality is very impressive and fills up our living room so nicely.

    I just have a query on what I have noticed today with the Zeppelin.
    I usually leave it on standby all the time and today i noticed that the unit is quite warm, especially towards the centre (the area behind the dock station area.

    I didn’t notice this before. Is this normal?
    or is there a firmware update I should put in for that?

    Thanks in advance,

    Mervyn.

  • mark says:

    This is the second zepplin i own and must say a huge improvement on the first i love it the only problem
    i had at first was the unit would play for about 30 seconds then stop and the flashing red light would not stop
    i installed the firmware update that was recomended and it is working fine now the version that was installed
    was 1.0.0 so if any one has a similar problem just do the update thank you B&w for an amazing product

  • mike fisher says:

    I have bought 3 of these. 2 are on my yacht and one in a house. Different computers / itunes (one a mac mini and one an XP Windows based). I am using computers or ipad and iphone to airplay them, but, in each location I have unreliable airplay connectivity. One minute the airplay icon shows then not. Sometimes the ipad is ok and the iphone is not or everything is good or nothing is good etc etc, after an absence it may restart or it may not. Sometime the airplay icon is there and when I press play it can no longer find the Zepps. Sometimes it even stops in mid song. Strange rituals of rebooting the Zepp or the sending device work, but, not always the same way. Somehow something is set up wrong, maybe the WANs are not staying active! This is the same in the house and the boat.
    Please help.
    When it works it’s a great sound and functionality, BUT!!!!

  • Robbie678 says:

    I have been trying to to update the firmware on my Zeppelin Air, though when I run the ZA Programmer I get the message No device found. I have tried the cable on other devices and it appears to work fine with them.

    If anyone else has been able to overcome this problem, I’d appreciate any insight you could offer.

  • New Media Support says:

    Hi there Mike,

    Thank you for your comment regarding the B&W Zeppelin Air and issues streaming wirelessly via AirPlay.

    Issues such as the ones you have described will most likely be being caused by the wireless router you have the Zeppelin Air’s connected to rather than being caused by the Zeppelin Air units. In order to help determine whether the issue is being caused by possible wireless interference, try hardwiring one of your Zeppelin Air’s directly to your router, essentially to take away the wireless side of things and to see if this improves the issue or not.

    To do this remove the Zeppelin Air’s power cable, connect it directly to your router via Ethernet cable and then re-insert the power cable. When powered onto AirPlay mode, the flashing purple LED should change to a solid purple and you should then be able to test this out to see if this improves the problem.

    If it does improve performance it is safe to say the issue is being caused by wireless interference of some sort. Things to be wary of to ensure that your network is optimised for wireless streaming are; the distance between the router and the Zeppelin Air (too far a distance between the two could cause an issue), whether the Zeppelin Air or router are positioned close to a cordless telephone or microwave (as these appliances can interfere with a wifi signal), and the amount of devices simultaneously connected to a network (the router may be struggling to cope with the amount of traffic it is dealing with)

    As well as the above, if it does appear to be a wireless issue it would be worth fixing the wireless channel on your router’s to a channel such as 13, to help reduce possible interference with other networks in your area. It could be that your router is accessing the same channel as another router and this has potential to cause undesired behaviour due to conflicts in signal.

    I hope this information helps resolve the problem for you. If you are still encountering problems or have any further questions then please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to help.

    With kind regards

    Kieran
    New Media Product Support
    Bowers & Wilkins

  • New Media Support says:

    Hi Robbie678,

    Thank you for your comment regarding the Zeppelin Air and updating the firmware.

    The “No device present” error message is likely to be being caused by an absence of installed drivers for the Zeppelin Air on your Windows PC. Prior to going through the firmware update process you will need to install these drivers, please see below for details on how to do this:

    Ensure that the Zeppelin Air is connected to your PC via a USB A to USB B cable (also known as a printer cable) and is in its firmware update mode (White LED) by following the instructions in the Zeppelin Air programmer. Then when you are presented with the No Device Present error message, navigate on your PC to its Device Manager, which can be found in Start > Control Panel > System. You should see the Zeppelin Air part way down the list with a yellow exclamation mark next to it, right click on this and select Update driver software.

    From here you will need to choose to Browse your PC manually for the driver software rather than let Windows search for them automatically. On the next page click on the Browse button and navigate to C:/ > Program Files > Bowers & Wilkins > Zeppelin Air Programmer. If you then click OK and then Next, the drivers should then successfully install onto your system.

    Once this has been done, if you then go back to the Zeppelin Air programmer, you should be able to go through the process of updating the firmware without the “No device Present” error message you have previously been subjected to.

    I hope the above information helps. If you are still getting issues or have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask and we will be happy to help.

    Kind regards

    Kieran
    New Media Product Support
    Bowers & Wilkins

  • Mark says:

    Is there any future version planned with no dock or a removable dock. I don’t need it for an iPod as I want to stream to it and the empty 30 pin dock is ugly. I don’t want a Bose but a couple of their models can hide the dock.

    Thanks

    P.S. I still miss my CM1 in Wenge :-(

  • New Media Support says:

    Hi there Mark,

    Thank you for your comment regarding the B&W Zeppelin Air and a removable docking arm.

    As you already know, the B&W Zeppelin Air’s docking arm is a permanent fixture in the products design and cannot be removed or detached, and I can confirm that there are no immediate plans to introduce a version that will offer this functionality. It is however possible there is something in the pipeline that we haven’t been made aware of as of yet.

    The way that the Zeppelin Air has been designed means that it is necessary for the docking arm to be permanently attached for a number of different reasons. One reason being that the LED light indicator information is displayed on the docking arm itself so having a detachable docking arm would compromise the speakers usability considerably.

    However I will ensure to pass your comment onto our Research and Development department for their consideration.

    If you have any further questions at all then please do not hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

    Kind regards

    New Media Technical Support
    Bowers & Wilkins

  • Andrew says:

    I would buy one if you could remove the docking arm.

  • Brion says:

    Yes, jumping on the “ugly docking arm bandwagon”. I can’t believe that no one at the boardroom table spoke up about how ugly the docking arm is. Can’t buy one until this is addressed (most certainly will once it is though). Appreciate your consideration.

  • Jason says:

    I’d get one if it came without the docking arm!

  • Paul says:

    I love my B&W speakers and wanted to buy a Zeppelin for another room. However I’m holding out until buying the Zeppelin until B&W can make the superfluous dock removable. With the great strides Apple has made with Airplay and IOS 5 there is no need for a docking system.

    I’ll be first in line as soon as the cradle becomes removable

  • Keith says:

    My Zeppelin has been without dock all its life. It is attached to an Apple Airport Express and receives lossless files from my iTunes library. The dock removal was done with advice from B&W service dept. who even told me which size of security Torx head was required. Have held off replacing/adding a Zeppelin Air since the dock was made part of all operations; a big design mistake especially when AirPlay was added which made the dock even more superfluous for some users. Many visitors to my home have commented on how cool the Zeppelin looks without the dock and have asked how it was done!

  • Henric says:

    I agree with others, the docking arm is dead ugly, on such a otherwise beautiful design. It actually makes we not buy this, and wait for something else, from B&W or the competition.

    Making it detachable and having the LED somewhere else would have been so easy. A shame that you didn’t realize or prioritize that.

    Thanks

  • Henric says:

    Reading through almost all the comments I realized just how big of a deal this dock issue is to a lot of people. It would be great if you (B&W) would reconsider making the dock detachable in a version 1.1. Coming soon :)

    Full transparency as for if and when this update would come would be great too, but maybe too much to ask?

    Thank you!

  • Jim Wright says:

    I bought a Zeppelin Air this week and returned it today because I had a similar problem to Lars above.

    Every time I switched to the Mac as the source, the volume of the Zeppelin went to max – it would not retain the prior volume setting and would not take volume control from the Mac, only manually on the speaker or using the Zeppelin remote. It worked perfectly on my iPhone and iPad – I could control volume from the device, and it would remember the prior setting. The remote would also allow you to skip tracks, etc. – very nice.

    But if I used it with the Mac, got the volume properly set, then used it with the iPad, then reconnected the Mac, the volume would immediately be at a deafening maximum. Note that this is even if the system volume on the Mac was at a very low setting – the volume on the Mac was completely unrelated to the volume on the Zeppelin.

    This is a serious problem.

  • Jim Wright says:

    Ah, I figured out the problem – it’s the use of exclusively the iTunes volume, which is not adjusted (or at least not permanently) when you set the volume on the speaker. If you use wired speakers at all (as anyone with a laptop would when unplugged, etc.), the iTunes volume is combined with the system volume, but when you use AirPlay, it uses *only* the iTunes volume – so you have to turn the iTunes volume down before you activate the Zeppelin and then back up for another speaker and if you forget, you will get blasted as I have described. Also, on iOS, adjusting the volume on the speaker or using the remote adjusts the volume on iOS, which does not seem to happen (or is not remembered if it does happen) on OS X.

    It’s unfortunate that it does not retain the volume setting for the speaker or use a combined volume, as with OS X, as it renders using AirPlay speakers with OS X and iOS devices together clunky and error prone.

  • Bowers and Wilkins says:

    Good morning Jim,

    Thank you for your comment on our blog regarding the B&W Zeppelin Air and volume inconsistencies streaming via AirPlay on an Mac.

    Your second comment is absolutely correct. Regardless of the volume on the mac itself, the volume that the Zeppelin Air will play at is controlled by the volume slider in the top left hand corner of iTunes.

    For this reason, if you were to press play on iTunes once the Zeppelin Air is connected via AirPlay and the volume is set to a maximum then it will play loudly, so it would be worth double checking that the volume is set to a usable level before pressing play.

    The volume can be altered via the Pebble Remote of the Zeppelin Air or the volume on the speaker itself. If you alter the volume using either of these you should see the volume bar on iTunes change in accordance to this.

    I hope this helps in clarifying things for you. If however you have any further questions then please do not hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to help.

    With kind regards

    Kieran McDowell
    New Media Product Support

  • Tom Vanwagner says:

    Nice Post Quick read and informative.

  • Etai says:

    I bought a Zeppelin Air last week, and I love the sound and design – I would, however, make the dock removable though if you could, as I only use it as an AirPlay speaker… kind of ruins the whole slick design.

  • John Little says:

    Hi,

    Could anyone tell me if and where I can get a longer power cable for the zeppelin air? I have mounted mine on a brick wall and dont want to chase the cable in. I have to run it the nearest plug but i absolutely hate seeing cables, therefore I want to run it down and along the skirting board and need a longer cable.

    If anyone can suggest any discreet white cable covers I would appreciate it.

    Also while im here I would like to point out that the zeppelin is a quality product and i dont know what I did without anything but the speakers in my iphone! However can anyone at B & W briefly tell me why the MM1 speakers are so pricey? If you convince me I just might buy a pair!

    Thanks!

  • Marc Verbeelen says:

    I’m also waiting to buy one until the dock cradle can be removed.
    You see, I wanted to buy one this week, so I did a seach on Google to see if it was possible, that’s how I ended up here. I also will never use the dock, and I do agree, the design of the Zepplin is soooo great, but the dock cradle soooo ugly.

    Regards,
    Marc.

  • Prabhu Chellamuthu says:

    Slightly surprised that some do not like the cradle! I am sure it will be removed and redesigned in the next version of zeppelin air; but not any time soon as there are people who will like to dock their iPods, without using airplay.

    A problem I have with zeppelin air is, even after firmware updating, it drops off when I try to connect with multiple speakers using iTunes (Apple TV and Zeppelin air). Will this be fixed any time soon? Otherwise a very good product – great sound and design!

  • Brian says:

    Hi,

    In my opinion, having 2 Mini-TOSLINK inputs would have been great. I am currently streaming music to my Zeppelin Air with a CD Transport and a 96kHz / 24bit FLAC transport (Logitech Squeezebox). Both of these devices have optical TOSLINK output, however as the Zeppelin only has 1 input, I’ve had to resort to using a physical switch that has to be actioned every time I switch sources. This isn’t too much of an issue since I would have to walk up to the CD Transport to change discs anyway, but it just makes my cabling work look messy.

    It’s a shame that even though the Air supports AirPlay, the protocol is still limited to 44kHz at 16bits, necessitating sending my tunes to the Squeezebox which then sends it to the Zeppelin over TOSLINK. If there was a way to send my 96/24 tunes directly to the Zeppelin, it would have saved me quite a bit of cash and all these headaches.

  • Kirby says:

    Guys, I have 2 new Zeps Air and a pair of mm1 all sound great. If you are worried about the 30 pin connector on the Zeps being exposed without a cover, you can used the clear plastics covers from the iPad camera connection kit.the kit has 2 connectors and they have clear plastic covers. Good idea huh. I use them because I AirPlay both Zeps all the time and don’t want dust to build up on the zep dock connector.

  • Bill Lought says:

    Another one for the ugly arm. If a version comes out with the option to take it out, I am buying one. With today’s AirPlay technology there is no need to attach an iPod to the device. All I want is to have that speaker as part of the design in my room and not have an “empty arm” hanging on it. Please consider that option.

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