Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Lightning Review: High Fidelity, High Price, High On The Christmas List

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Lightning Review: High Fidelity, High Price, High On The Christmas List

You can get an iPod dock for $US50, and it’ll do everything you’d expect: play your music, charge your phone. So how the hell can you justify spending $US600 on one? You find something that surprises and delights you.

Say goodbye to your stereo system, because this “dock” just replaced it.


Even though the Air looks exactly like the original Zeppelin from 2008, it’s a full redesign. Beyond the addition of AirPlay, the newest Zep packs five brand new drivers — two mids, two tweeters, and a sub — each powered by its own class-d amp. With 150 total watts of oomph, this thing cranks out enough sound to fill almost any space in your home. I mean, it’s not gonna shake your viking greatroom, but it can be uncomfortably loud from clear across my 12m long apartment. Beyond volume, the 96KHz/24-bit DAC and custom DSP make sure your music sounds good. Every bit of audio — whether it’s played through USB, optical or analogue inputs, or even AirPlay — is up-sampled. It only uses 0.8 watts of power in standby mode–down from the original Zeppelin’s 3.7 watts.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
Price: $US600
Input: AirPlay, USB, composite, optical, 3.5mm
Output: 150 total watts (4 x 25w; 1 x 50w)

No Like

Picks up more lint than an army of electrocuted sweaters. Has an annoying tendency to turn itself off after about 30 minutes, necessitating you to find the too-cute, too-tiny remote or simply walk over and switch the thing back on. The LED usually glows either red or purple, which look almost exactly alike; if it’s glowing a different colour, there’s a problem, and you have to consult a cheat sheet. Optical connection requires one of those dumb combo plugs that’s a stereo minijack and lightpipe at the same time — sold separately. Here’s the one I bought.

$US600 is a lot of money to spend on an iPod dock.

Last Word

This thing is expensive for a reason — it positively drips with engineering. If you have the money, and you want a great-sounding iPod/iPhone dock, buy this thing. You will not regret it.