Music listening habits have come a long way since Bowers & Wilkins launched Zeppelin speaker dock eight years (!) ago in 2007. The overhauled Zeppelin ditches the dock and adds Bluetooth — which is pretty much exactly what the thing needed.
The new Zeppelin Wireless is hardly a spec bump. The hardware has been completely overhauled. In addition to a slightly larger footprint, the company says the chasis is more rigid now, which will allow you to play at louder volumes without getting unwanted noise from the case itself. Inside, it's a five speaker design, featuring two tweeters at the left and right points, two mid-range drivers, and then a woofer smack in the middle. It's a clever design that works a bit like a soundbar to simulate a stereo setup from a single piece of hardware.
The important addition to this new unit is compatibility with all Bluetooth devices, which means that your friend with an Android phone will finally be able to pair with your speaker. The company has also added Spotify connect so that y9ou can play directly from Spotify to the device over your home's wifi. And of course, as with all B&W wireless gear, the new Zep work's with Apple's AirPlay — a technology that's becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Bowers & Wilkins still has no Sonos-like software controller, which is a little surprising. Maybe that's for the best if the company isn't going to do a good job with it.
The Zeppelin Wireless ships next week for $US700, which is mighty pricey, I must say — no pricing just yet for Australia. There are much cheaper wireless audio options that come with more robust software. But let's face it, if you're buying Bowers gear you're buying into that brand's story and history that ties the speaker to the company obscenely expensive hifi speakers, as well as fancy hardware design. The thing looks beautiful and sounds great, and if you have the cash, you probably won't be disappointed.