The making of Zeppelin Wireless

B&W_ZeppelinWireless_location2_PJHarvey

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.

challenges

Challenges

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.

Tweeter

Core inspiration

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.

Midrange

Midrange clarity

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.

Bass

Better bass

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.

Circut-board

Digital domain

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.

1

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

11 Comments

  • Hans-Joachim Weintz says:

    Already the description of the “making of” is very impressive! I have the Zeppelin Air and enjoy every time its stunniing sound and perfect design.
    And thats the only critics I would have with the new Zeppelin Wireless: in its design something is missing: a metal stripe in the middle, like the one behind the former iPod dock.

    What do you think?

    Cheers, Hans-Joachim

  • William Toh says:

    Hi, I’ve been using my Zeppelin since it was launch and till now have been enjoying the air version…. It’s is really good but just to share with you, how about incorporating a line out so user can plug in a sub woofer as this will enhance the listening pleasure. I’ve have been wiring up my set with an active sub and its sounded great. I’m crazy for good sound and Zeppelin have done it well.
    Cheers
    Sound engineer (consultant for installation)

  • Frank Koiner says:

    B&W, I have owned the Zepp Air for 1 1/2 years. I am very pleased with it overall. I also own the Peachtree Deep Blue, which has a 6.5 in. Woofer with very deep Bass response. Overall, I like the sound of the Zepp Air better. I think the sound of the Zepp Air is cleaner & more detailed. I assume the DAC does a better job in the Zepp Air. The high end is naturally smoother. The only real weakness of the Zepp Air, is the same as all one piece wireless units, the absence of the W I D E Soundstage. Although the Zepp Air does better then most. The other thing is the lowest octave of Bass below 50-60 cycles. I am now wondering how much Bass is added below 50-60 with the your New 6.5 woofer in the New Zepp Air. Plus, you seem to be saying that the Sound overall is more precise, clean & smooth. I will have to try to audition the New Model somewhere. I do wonder about the added low frequency response, plus I noticed that you did away with the Ports. That is definitely a design philosophy change. Thank You, Frank Koiner.

  • Parthiben says:

    Wow…Wow…………..Wow…………………..You guys never fail to impress me with the Zeppelin.I bought the first one in 1998 and then later upgraded to the Zeppelin Air and will checkout this version from the local dealer here in Singapore.

  • BVDR says:

    Hello

    I am using a Zeppelin Air connected with an USB cable to a windows laptop.
    The music player on the laptop is JRiver.
    Most of my mu sic files on the laptop are high resolution 24 bit in 48 to 192 kHz, which is the motivation to use an USB cable instead of airplay.
    The Zeppelin Air can handle files up to 24 bit 48 kHz with the USB connection.
    The DAC of the Zeppelin Wireless is up-sampling all inputs to 24/192 PCM.
    Will it be possible to play the Zeppelin Wireless with an USB connected cable to the laptop and play JRiver with the unmodified high resolution files 24/48 up to 24/192 PCM?
    Actually with the Zeppelin Air i need to output these files on JRiver on maximum 24/48 PCM.
    Thanks for your support.
    BVDR

  • Chaz Nandra says:

    Absolutely amazed by the Zeppelin Air I purchased a while back. I find I listen more and more to this unit compared to my high end components. Well done B&W you’re a testimony to the love of excellent sound reproduction. Keep up the good work……….

  • Chrisgad says:

    Congratulations on the new setup procedure for the Zeppelin Wireless. Despite the app, setting up the A5 was not straightforward, but the new Zeppelin was brilliant, including an over-the-air firmware update. AirPlay seems to be better, too, with not a dropout yet in half a day’s listening. I love the bass which is solid without being bassy.

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    Unfortunately the new Zeppelin Wireless features a USB port specifically for servicing purposes and not audio streaming. The only method of connection for additional device is the AUX input on the Zeppelin Wireless which is an analogue input. It will not be possible to stream ‘true’ 24 bit audio to the Zeppelin Wireless.

  • EVGENY BRENER says:

    The DAC of the Zeppelin Wireless is up-sampling all inputs to 24/192 PCM, but we all wanna listen true 24bit/192kHz audio through the Zeppelin. Airplay or bluetooth technology let us do only 16bit/44kHz. Maybe you know about Apple plans for increasing AirPlay support for 24bit/192kHz streaming? Zeppelin Wireless has WiFi 802.11ac, so it possible to stream great traffic because WiFi ac has 1.3gbit/s speed! And it’s no problem to stream true 24bit/192kHz, isn’t it? And one more question:

    •Can Zeppelin Wireless use 5Ghz wifi with up to 80mHz bandwidth?
    •Have Zeppelin Wireless MIMO technology?
    •How many wifi antenna it has?

    B&W is my favorite acoustic, I love it and have Zeppelin Air, A5 and know I’ve bought Zeppelin Wireless. It works more better than Zeppelin Air and A5, because it has Wifi ‘ac’ not only ‘g’ wifi so it was a big problem to listen them before)) And of course Zeppelin Wireless sounds great a better than Zeppelin Air or others, it has more clarity sound and outlined bass. Thank you for all.

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    We can see you have submitted your query previously and our customer service team were in touch. If you still require assistance please let us know.

  • Chaohsin says:

    I love to see this product with HDMI input, so I can easily connect it to my DSTV/TV/BD system.

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