Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker Review & Comments

t-force

Well-known Member
This is one I'm going to be watching very closely in the new year, when Bowers have said they'll be introducing multi-room features. If Roon does get included (and Bowers have put it in the Formation range, so there's definitely a chance), then I will probably take a punt on this one - it would definitely go well in the kitchen.

@Ed Selley - slightly off-topic, but you mentioned that the Qb 2 could be made to work with Alexa - would that just involve hooking up an Echo Dot, or is there something more elaborate/arcane than that?
 

Devonshire

Well-known Member
Thanks for the review.

I've a soft spot for B&W one box units. My A7 and A5 are still going strong and still sound exceptional for their size.

I might consider buying this to replace the A7 but the lack of Chromecast built-in is a real issue for me, given I'm deep into the Android / Chromecast eco system.

I'll wait for the updated model.
 

keithwiggins

Well-known Member
Thanks Ed for the review, had a couple of Zepps over the years the 30 pin plug one and then the wireless, they look great, although the fabric cover is a bit fragile, they sound great but would buy a good used wireless for 200 quid and save 500.
 

invisiblekid

Distinguished Member
It's still a classic speaker and I still want one. Where it's going to be placed, it is really only going to be used with wireless. But being forced to ONLY use wireless? Grrrr. I assume you can use a Bluetooth streamer from a hifi set-up?
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Looks good. I suppose. I certainly liked the others in the flesh so to speak.

But no optical inputs? Not even an analogue one?

Bit of a serious error there I’d say. As a music system in the living room for many who are not interested in hifi as such it would no doubt be fine indeed, but that it can’t be used as a TV sound bar will kill many a sale straight off.

Pity.
 
Sounds amazing,but can’t work out how to put it into standby?
 

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fordster

Member
In quick and far from ideal listening tests I’ve always thought the previous Zeppelin and the Formation Wedge sound better than the Naim Muso (full size versions). But the lack of digit inputs does seem a strange decision.

I know they’ve currently kept the Formation line going but I have to wonder if it is going to be quietly retired and replaced with more “classic” B&W products? Formation was really quite an embarrassment for them and even long time B&W dealers didn’t like it. If they can add things like Roon and multi speaker support to this (and perhaps other products yet to come) then there is no need at all for the Formation line.
 

oldfart

Active Member
I had the original 30 pin version when it first came out. Using an Apple iPod and input from a tv, it took the tv sound up a couple of notches, But. After about 13 months it died on me, contacted the seller who gave the usual response, out of warranty try contacting B&W which I did but was politely told to [email protected]%$* off. Swore then I would never buy another B&W product again, which I have not. Perhaps I was just unlucky.
 

keithwiggins

Well-known Member
I had the original 30 pin version when it first came out. Using an Apple iPod and input from a tv, it took the tv sound up a couple of notches, But. After about 13 months it died on me, contacted the seller who gave the usual response, out of warranty try contacting B&W which I did but was politely told to [email protected]%$* off. Swore then I would never buy another B&W product again, which I have not. Perhaps I was just unlucky.
if thats how you were treated then i dont blame you.
 

Gwarf

Well-known Member

Krobar

Well-known Member
Got one of these for my parents for Christmas. They are in their 70s and it gets used with Amazon Music and voice commands only. They are very happy with it, great sound with plenty of volume and Alexa behaves perfectly. One thing of note is that due to some sort of licensing issue you cannot get the BBC radio skill.
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
I picked up one of these yesterday. I’ve always wanted a Zeppelin.

Totally agree with the review, it is absolutely brilliant at what it does.

My only minor gripe so far is that it will only respond to ‘Alexa’ as it’s wake word. I use ‘Echo’ for my other devices and you can usually choose which word to use in the app, but not with the Zeppelin.

Hopefully they’ll update this.

I’m not sure these are selling very well. I picked mine up from my local JL store, where it’s currently £120 off, so £529. The sticker on the side of the box indicated that it was delivered to the store in November 2021, so they must still be selling the initial batch that they got.

I suppose it’s a bit of a luxury purchase, especially at full price, but I think it compares well to the other higher end speakers that are often even more expensive, and it could easily replace a main Hi-Fi for a lot of people.
 

t-force

Well-known Member
I’m sooooo tempted to go for one of these at the discounted price, but the fact that it’s been discounted does concern me slightly - are they just abandoning it? As I said above, if the (potentially non-existent) multi-room update does include Roon, then this is a superb product for me, but the price drop could suggest they’re not doing any more active investment. And obviously we’ve got to buy what a product does today, not what’s been suggested might come later.
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
I’m sooooo tempted to go for one of these at the discounted price, but the fact that it’s been discounted does concern me slightly - are they just abandoning it? As I said above, if the (potentially non-existent) multi-room update does include Roon, then this is a superb product for me, but the price drop could suggest they’re not doing any more active investment. And obviously we’ve got to buy what a product does today, not what’s been suggested might come later.

Indeed, I wouldn't base a purchase on any promised future features, especially given that the price has been reduced so early in the cycle.

I'm actually considering returning mine based on there being no easy way to do multi-room.

I don't need anything too complicated, I was just planning to add it to an Alexa speaker group to use for Spotify occasionally, but this appears to be another thing that B&W seem to have cut from a 'full' Alexa implementation.

I guess they could add it back in later, but will they bother?
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
Here's my rather long winded review. Summary for those who don't want to read all of it: A great sounding speaker with very poorly implemented smart functions.

Sound - 100% agree with Ed's review, it's just amazing for a one-box system. I'm using it in a small room (12'x 8'x 8'), and it could really drive to party-level volumes in there. I think it would be loud enough for even very large domestic rooms.

I've got it right up against the back wall, and I find the bass to be solid, but never too much or too boomy. There is basic equalisation in the app (+/- 6dB for bass and treble) to fine tune for positioning, but I've not needed to use this yet.

Even the stereo separation is better than I expected. I listened to some John Coltrane in stereo and you could really tell the positioning of each player. It seems fairly good with more subtle stereo mixes too, certainly considering that is never going to be its forte.

Build - Good overall. Everything feels solid and the materials used are good. If I'm being picky, the gaps between the front and back of the unit aren't that even and there are a few small ripples in the plastic. Nothing too bad, but this is quite an expensive unit at full price.

General Use - I've had no issues at all with connecting my phone via Airplay and Bluetooth to play from my own music library and Spotify. There are no drop-outs, it's occasionally a bit laggy when changing tracks, but the room I've got it in is a bit of a dead-spot on my own network.

I've not actually got that much use for the B&W app as I use Spotify Connect and my own collection from my phone. The B&W app comes up with a 'now playing' section when using the latter, but it's easier to control it from the Apple Music (iTunes) app.

I like the LED light, but would like more adjustment in the app. It can be switched on/off and the brightness changed, but there is no way to change the fact that it stays on for 20 minutes after it has last played music or received an Alexa command. That makes it quite difficult to use in a dark bedroom at night after you've asked it to turn the main room light out!

As a result, I'll have to turn the LED off all the time, which is a shame as It's a nice feature.

Alexa integration - This is a real let down in it's current form. Hopefully they can improve this. My specific issues are:

1. It won't work as part of an Alexa group. It appears as an option when setting up a group, but the Zeppelin remains silent when all of the other speakers in the group are playing. The LED light doesn't even come on, so Alexa isn't communicating with it for some reason. This is a relatively big issue for me as it means I can never use the Zeppelin as part os a multi-room setup.

2. There is no way of controlling the volume of Alexa's voice, and it seems to be based on the last volume that music was played at. Yesterday, I was testing it at quite high volume n the afternoon and then asked it to turn a light off at 11pm to which it said 'OK' at a volume high enough to wake up everyone else in the house!

3. I can only use 'Alexa' as the wake word, rather than a choice as with all other Alexa devices.

4. There are sometimes random alerts - one the first two mornings I had it I was woken up by Alexa's voice saying 'Hello' at huge volume at around 6am! I'd not knowingly set that up, but seem to have defeated it with a factory reset.

5. It doesn't 'do' a lot of the things that other Alexa devices do - random questions are answered with 'Hmm, not sure' or 'I don't know that one' when all of my other Alexa units respond properly.

I use £10 Echo Flex units in some rooms and they have much better functionality than this speaker which has sold for up to £700. If the Zeppelin had line in, I'd certainly use an Echo Flex as the 'brains', and leave that functionality turned off on the Zeppelin itself.

Conclusion - This is an excellent speaker and starts to look like reasonable value at £529. I'd definitely say it's a better proposition for those using it to avoid having a full Hi-Fi system in a main listening room than for someone trying to use it as a true smart speaker, certainly in a multi-room set up.

The failed Alexa integration is a huge missed opportunity to those with the latter use cases. I'd like to have seen Google Home and Apple's Siri integrated as well. I don't use either of those systems extensively but I would do for the Zeppelin if they were better integrated than Alexa.

I can understand why B&W didn't offer any physical inputs, but I'd have liked to see one on a device where the sound quality is likely to outlast any current streaming technology built in - even if they had done it properly.
 

fsxfan

Standard Member
@daveb975 thanks for the writeup, very interesting. I have a Naim Muso QB2 but I find the sound quite thin at low listening levels, it really needs to be cranked loud to get decent bass output.
I've been considering this speaker since the price drop and it seems to get good reviews across the board. The smart features are of no relevance to me, I would just use it as an airplay speaker.
As it happens, I have an offer of a 15% discount from Sonos on any of their speakers, so this brings the price of the Play Five down to €509, versus €650 for the Zeppelin. I'm just wondering how these two speakers stack up against each other and whether the Zeppelin is worth the additional outlay?
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
@daveb975 thanks for the writeup, very interesting. I have a Naim Muso QB2 but I find the sound quite thin at low listening levels, it really needs to be cranked loud to get decent bass output.
I've been considering this speaker since the price drop and it seems to get good reviews across the board. The smart features are of no relevance to me, I would just use it as an airplay speaker.
As it happens, I have an offer of a 15% discount from Sonos on any of their speakers, so this brings the price of the Play Five down to €509, versus €650 for the Zeppelin. I'm just wondering how these two speakers stack up against each other and whether the Zeppelin is worth the additional outlay?

I've only briefly heard the Sonos Five. It's good and certainly a big step up from the old model. For me, the Zeppelin seems a lot better as a single, standalone speaker but I've not done a proper comparison.

I fell out of love with Sonos years ago due to huge reliability issues, but it's a totally different system now, so for those needing the multi-room capability it would have obvious advantages. My original Play Fives sounded great in stereo pair format when I could actually get them working reliably!

I still think that the current Zeppelin would sound better than that pair did, with the exception of the true stereo image. A pair of the new Play Fives should better it significantly, but at a price of course.

If you are looking for a single standalone speaker to use with Airplay only, I think you'd be best off with the Zeppelin. It will be simple to use in that format, and I think you'll find the sound quality excellent. It's worth being sure you won't want multi-room in the future or to use the awful Alexa implementation, because then Sonos would be better.
 

fsxfan

Standard Member
Thanks so much for the reply. If I went the Play Five route, I'm not 100% sure if I would add another but the option is always nice to have. I still have two homepods setup in stereo config, so always an option to sell those. I must mull over the possibilities, but glad to hear the Zeppelin stands up to scrutiny!
 

t-force

Well-known Member
Received this from B&W support today:

"The new Zeppelin (2021) and the Panorama 3 are indeed destined to be added to the Formation multi-room system at some point in a future update. However, the development program is subject to variation in demand and as such no definitive timeline is issued. I would not expect this to be likely until the latter part of the year.

Roon interaction was part of the original Formation landscape, but is not planned for these standalone products.

Once a Roon stream was established at an original Formation speaker, this would be able to be selected on the Zeppelin, or Panorama, either through the Multi-Function button, or in the Formation Music app.

Finally, Airplay 2 could possibly be used to extend zone functions from a multi-room system, if using Apple products."

Looks like this one is a no-go for me then...
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
Received this from B&W support today:

"The new Zeppelin (2021) and the Panorama 3 are indeed destined to be added to the Formation multi-room system at some point in a future update. However, the development program is subject to variation in demand and as such no definitive timeline is issued. I would not expect this to be likely until the latter part of the year.

Roon interaction was part of the original Formation landscape, but is not planned for these standalone products.

Once a Roon stream was established at an original Formation speaker, this would be able to be selected on the Zeppelin, or Panorama, either through the Multi-Function button, or in the Formation Music app.

Finally, Airplay 2 could possibly be used to extend zone functions from a multi-room system, if using Apple products."

Looks like this one is a no-go for me then...

Indeed, too much of a gamble on possible future upgrades with 'no definitive timeline', and you'd have to be bought into the original Formation series anyway.

I also don't like the changing standards that much. Apple AirPlay2 is a great multi-room solution if you use Apple Macs/iPhones as opposed to PCs/Android, but it only tends to come built into expensive devices.

In my case, I could use the Zeppelin multi-room that way as most of my rooms have an Apple TV or Mac in them, but some don't and I'm loathed to upgrade my current systems to ones that support AirPlay2 to then find Apple move on to AirPlay3! It's worth noting that relatively recent B&W products like the A5, A7 and Zeppelin Wireless are stuck with the original AirPlay rather than Airplay2.

Spotify doesn't support AirPlay2 either, so that would force me across to Apple Music. I'm much more likely to stream music to multi-room speakers where as I'd listen to my own collection more on a single system.

It's understandable I suppose, but we do seem to be getting ourselves back into a VHS vs Betamax-type situation with all of these proprietary technologies being built into speakers, and this is compounded by ones like this not having any external inputs either.
 

t-force

Well-known Member
Indeed, too much of a gamble on possible future upgrades with 'no definitive timeline', and you'd have to be bought into the original Formation series anyway.

I also don't like the changing standards that much. Apple AirPlay2 is a great multi-room solution if you use Apple Macs/iPhones as opposed to PCs/Android, but it only tends to come built into expensive devices.

In my case, I could use the Zeppelin multi-room that way as most of my rooms have an Apple TV or Mac in them, but some don't and I'm loathed to upgrade my current systems to ones that support AirPlay2 to then find Apple move on to AirPlay3! It's worth noting that relatively recent B&W products like the A5, A7 and Zeppelin Wireless are stuck with the original AirPlay rather than Airplay2.

Spotify doesn't support AirPlay2 either, so that would force me across to Apple Music. I'm much more likely to stream music to multi-room speakers where as I'd listen to my own collection more on a single system.

It's understandable I suppose, but we do seem to be getting ourselves back into a VHS vs Betamax-type situation with all of these proprietary technologies being built into speakers, and this is compounded by ones like this not having any external inputs either.
For me, I don't want to have my phone as my music source, as the music stored on my phone is lossy, and the music on my server is lossless, so AirPlay wouldn't really be an option. Plus, having all the music on a server (still don't use a streaming service, though I am tempted by Qobuz) means that everyone in the house can access one single "store", rather than being limited by what's on their phones.
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
For me, I don't want to have my phone as my music source, as the music stored on my phone is lossy, and the music on my server is lossless, so AirPlay wouldn't really be an option. Plus, having all the music on a server (still don't use a streaming service, though I am tempted by Qobuz) means that everyone in the house can access one single "store", rather than being limited by what's on their phones.

Yep, it's definitely as much about the associated app and the way it works as it is the hardware.

I've used a lot of systems over the years, and am currently using BluOS. That gives the single store of music that can be accessed from any device that has got the app - in my case that's phone, iPad, Mac and PC.

My workflow is to add music (either buying online or ripping from CD) to the iTunes Library on my Mac, which then automatically backs up to a NAS. BluOS is then pointed at the backup so it's always up to date.

The strength of the app is that it can build playlists containing tracks from both my own library and any of the streaming services and stream to any/all of the BluOS devices on the network. Sonos is similar based on previous experience.

Since I've got the Zeppelin, I've been testing out AirPlay2 in more detail. It actually works really well in the main, but with a few limitations. The main one is that you seem to need a lot of Apple kit to make the most of it!

I've switched on Home Sharing on my main Mac which means that I can see my full library on all of the iPhones, iPads and Macs in the house and route it to any AP2 speaker or group of speakers. Being able to add/remove speakers to/from the current group dynamically is excellent as well.

I've still got the issue that I'd need to switch from Spotify to Apple Music to get streamed music into this ecosystem which is a pain as I've got a highly discounted Spotify Premium subscription!
 

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