Zeppelin Wireless is the result of intensive research, acoustic innovation, and smart engineering. Here we take you through the development process of some of the key components.
The original Zeppelin changed everything. For the first time ever, people came alive to the fact that the ultra-convenient iPod in your pocket could also be a good quality music source at home. Zeppelin went on to win many awards, and pretty much single-handedly created the premium iPod dock market.
Zeppelin Air then came along, and most obviously added the option of wireless connectivity via Apple’s (then) very new AirPlay streaming technology. This allowed the streaming of high-quality audio files from a source to Zeppelin Air.
However, Zeppelin Air also drew upon many of the lessons our engineers learnt in the development of the original Zeppelin, and in fact offered a considerable acoustic improvement on the previous model. That’s an important part of what we do at Bowers & Wilkins. A lot of our buyers are repeat customers, and we always want to ensure that someone upgrading from one iteration to another really feels (or actually hears) the benefits. We pride ourselves on this.
Therefore this is one of the main challenges presented with the development of Zeppelin Wireless. When the decision was made to remove the iOS dock and opt for a purely wireless system, the next challenge was ensuring that the performance of Zeppelin Wireless outclassed not only any rivals in the market, but also its predecessor, the very highly regarded Zeppelin Air. No easy task.
As with the development of the new 800 Series Diamond, Finite Element Analysis played a large part in the work done on Zeppelin Wireless. Access to new tools and also increased experience allowed us to drill down into the Zeppelin Air, and really see where improvements could be made.
The result? We changed almost everything. There are no common acoustic parts between the two models. And we didn’t stop at drive units; all the electronics have been tweaked for improved sound quality. We have even improved circuit design where we felt it would deliver acoustic benefits.
Inspiration came from Bowers & Wilkins core range of loudspeakers – both in terms of long developed technologies and new technologies that have already seen the improvement of high-end ranges such as the award-winning CM Series.
The development of the Double Dome tweeter has dramatically improved the performance of the recent award-winning CM Series of loudspeakers. The tweeters in the new Zeppelin Wireless use exactly the same dome, constructed of a thin, light aluminium dome bonded to a thicker aluminium ring. This approach helps to push the frequencies of resonances higher up, taking them further out of the range of audibility, and helping to deliver purer high notes, and an overall more natural sound.
The midrange is obviously a major consideration in any loudspeaker – as it is here that the information on voices and most instruments is contained. For the new Zeppelin Wireless we again looked at our core range of loudspeakers. Fixed Suspension Transducer (FST) technology has been around in Bowers & Wilkins for many years now, and is still a feature in the very high-end 800 Series Diamond. This ‘surroundless’ midrange minimises distortion, and helps deliver a cleaner, more accurate sound to a wider group of people.
Zeppelin Wireless midrange also features the Anti-Resonance plugs that have just been introduced to the new 800 Series Diamond. This cap has been tuned to reduce voice coil resonances. The result is smoother midrange response, and an altogether better sound.
We also listened to the Zeppelin Air and to some feedback we had that in the previous model the bass could sometimes be overwhelming, particularly when placed close to a rear wall. It was therefore decided that controlling bass output was something that required our attention.
Producing bass from a relatively small enclosure is no easy task. Well, producing bass is easy, but producing tightly controlled accurate bass is a lot trickier.
One of the ways that was achieved was to increase the internal acoustic volume available for the subwoofer to operate in. The Zeppelin Wireless’ bass driver now has 50% more volume to operate in, not that you could tell this from the outside. This coupled with the removal of ports led to improved, cleaner bass. And that was before we changed the driver itself….
Finite Element Analysis (FEA) has been applied to many of the subwoofer components. The shape and material choice for the suspension has been modelled and designed to ensure total linearity, and the cone has been modelled to ensure a break up frequency way above the operating band.
Zeppelin Wireless has adopted a larger 6.5 inch subwoofer. A large magnet system with an ultra long-throw voice coil allows for even the deepest bass to played at impressive volume. The driver’s chassis was also heavily modelled, and has a resonance three times higher than the old one.
These physical changes have been complemented with an updated version of Bowers & Wilkins own Dynamic EQ. Zeppelin Wireless monitors and analyses the audio signal at every sample and intelligently optimises the system to ensure controlled bass output and room filling sound at all listening levels.
Elsewhere, we knew that Digital to Analogue Converters (DACs) are vital for getting the best from high-quality drive units. On Zeppelin Wireless all inputs are up-sampled through the audiophile-quality 192kHz/24bit DAC. This has the effect of reducing noise and increasing dynamic range, creating a more detailed, natural sound. And as we said earlier, all the individual electronic components have been tested and changed for the best acoustic performance and the signal paths have been adjusted where necessary.
Now with added stiffness
We are very aware that the cabinet plays a vital part on the performance of drive units – no matter how good the transducers are, put them in a floppy enclosure and the sound will suffer. The enclosure has been fabricated from 30 per cent glass fibre reinforced ABS. This results in an enclosure that feels more like a piece of ceramic pottery rather than plastic! The wall thickness is 50 per cent thicker than previous generation Zeppelins; this along with optimised bracing helps to control and reduce cabinet resonances so the sound reproduction is free from coloration.
The result is the best connected, best sounding Zeppelin speaker yet produced. And one very much worth all the effort.
You can purchase Zeppelin Wireless direct from Bowers & Wilkins here