I have to admit, I’m been pretty impressed with the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air.
And, since this week we’re featuring B&W on the front page of our website (you can check out all the awesome products here), it’s the perfect opportunity for me to spend a little time talking about what makes it so cool.
No, wait, not what makes it so cool.
What makes it so absolutely necessary to own if you have an iPod, iPad, or iPhone.
Dock without docking
Yep, the first reason has to be Airplay. Not only because it’s such an interesting technology, but because it makes this dock so incredibly useful. I don’t know about you, but when I’m listening to music at home, it doesn’t mean that I’m done using my iPod.
I’ve got games on that thing, I check e-mail on it.
When I dock something, it essentially becomes a glorified digital clock. Airplay on the Zeppelin makes sure that I can keep it in my hands (or at least nearby), but still listen to music without having to shove some headphones on. Then, when I actually want to charge it (or just need a glorified digital clock), I can dock it to keep the music going.
Depending on who you are, 2.1-channels will either sound like a huge number of speakers, or not quite enough speakers. Whichever side you fall on for this, it’s not necessarily how many speakers there are, but how good they are.
These are really good speakers. We’ve come a long way in docks in terms of speaker quality. Early docks would usually have very small, or very tinny sounding speakers. Not so much here.
The design lends itself to really clear highs (but not cloyingly so), layered mid-range sounds, and decently deep bass — and you can hear it all (see below). Now, I’m not saying you’ll be rocking your house literally (there’s an internal safety to keep your speakers from blowing out), but these speakers will rock your house figuratively.
No, discrete doesn’t mean that they’ll keep your deepest darkest secrets (your love of 1950′s era musicals will be blasted for all to hear), but I do mean that each of the 5 speakers are powered independently from any of the others.
Why is this important? Because it keeps audio levels separated, producing a more distinctly layered sound (see above) by keeping crossovers separate.
Think of how a home theater system sounds, with separate channels for your dialogue and surrounds, and how distinct each part is while still adding to the whole. That’s what having discrete amplifiers helps the Zeppelin Air do: create a whole sound that doesn’t lose its edge.
The best speakers and amplifiers in the world are fairly useless with a good Digital to Analog Converter.
Thankfully, the folks who engineered this were smart enough to realize that (they’re pretty smart guys all around, to be honest), and included a high-quality internal DAC to make sure that all the power/speakers lives up to its potential.
I’m not sure what more I can say about how important DAC is in these types of systems (especially since your major sources may well be an iPod or iPhone) that wasn’t already said last week. You should probably go read that.
I’m not necessarily saying that it’s appropriately named (it is). I’m talking more about the size in this case. It’s no larger than it needs to be, and it’s not an eyesore.
In working for Vann’s, I’ve seen a lot of strange looking docks, and it’s refreshing whenever one has a design that not only makes sense, but fits in fairly well anywhere it can go. If you’re a fan of the look of the iPhone or iPad, then you can probably appreciate the simplicity of the Zeppelin’s design.
The design also extends to the peripherals. It would be pretty hard to confuse the zeppelin shaped remote for, say, the TV remote (good matching if you’re ever struggling with a bunch of different ones), and the free app that lets you share playlists and songs with friends over the Air is pretty intuitive as well.
Let us know what you think makes a good iPod dock in the comments below. And make sure to stop by and take a look at all the awesome stuff one of our favourite British vendors has available.