Lightning strikes the Zeppelin: Bowers & Wilkins announces new wireless speaker docks
Bowers & Wilkins has announced two additions to its Wireless Music System product line: the Z2 and a retooled Zeppelin Air. As you might expect, both speakers support Apple’s AirPlay music-streaming technology, but also feature Lightning connectors for physically docking an iPhone 5, a fifth-generation iPod touch, or a seventh-gen iPod nano.
The new Zeppelin Air retains the iconic shape that marked B&W’s initial foray into the personal audio market, but the company’s engineers were given the opportunity to redesign everything else. As a result, the latest Zeppelin has new Class D amplifiers and drivers, and a retooled glass-fiber ABS enclosure with strengthening ribs designed to reduce unwanted resonance.
The Z2 was created as a high-quality wireless speaker dock that makes less of a fashion statement than the Zeppelin Air: It’s smaller and less powerful (its Class D amps deliver 40 watts, compared to the Zeppelin Air’s 150 watts), but it offers a much smaller footprint and it’s available in your choice of black or white. As with B&W’s earlier iOS speaker products, both the Zeppelin Air and the Z2 are outfitted with a digital signal processor (DSP) that will upsample incoming audio signals to 24-bit resolution before converting the signal to analog and passing it to the amplifier section.
The Lightning docks on both speakers pivot forward and back to reduce the strain on the iOS device’s internal docking port as the device is being docked. B&W has also eliminated the need to connect the speakers to a computer via USB for firmware updates—you can now handle them over your wireless network.
The new Zeppelin Air will retail for $600 when it ships in May, leaving the dock-less A7 ($800) at the top of B&W’s Wireless Music System line. The black model of the Z2 will ship in April for $400, while the similarly priced white version won’t be available until June. B&W is also keeping the $500 dock-less A5 in the lineup, and it will continue to sell the original Zeppelin Air with its 30-pin iOS dock (also $600).
- Offers both AirPlay and a Lightning-connector dock
- Very impressive sound
- Cheap, plasticky remote