Alexa and Airplay 2 find $800 airship home in Bowers & Wilkins smart speaker | GeekComparison

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin in Midnight Grey.  on wooden table
enlarge Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin in Midnight Grey.

UK-based audio brand Bowers & Wilkins is offering audiophiles another ride on its Zeppelin, but this time there’s a new friend on board. The Zeppelin speaker announced Wednesday is the first new addition to the series since 2015. It flies into the new era by integrating Amazon Alexa and some newer technologies for reducing wireless latency.

Bowers & Wilkins’ Formation series of wireless speakers got Alexa in 2020, but this is the first time the smart assistant will get a ticket to the Zeppelin. For those who prefer not to talk to Alexa, the speaker also has physical buttons.

Some prefer buttons over Alexa.
enlarge Some prefer buttons over Alexa.

The latest Zeppelin continues the series’ flight to go completely wireless. Bowers & Wilkins’ original Zeppelin in 2007 was an iPod dock, while the 2011 Zeppelin Air still had a dock but had Apple Airplay added. In 2015, the Zeppelin Wireless dropped the dock, but offered a 3.5mm jack. Today’s Zeppelin has no wired option other than a service-only USB-C port.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin in pearl gray.
enlarge Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin in pearl gray.

Bowers & Wilkins relies on the latest wireless technology to ensure this decision doesn’t lead to delayed jam sessions. iOS users can connect via AirPlay 2, which also offers multi-room support. For those not using iOS, there is the aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec. Unsurprisingly, the aptX Lossless extension for aptX Adaptive isn’t present, as Qualcomm didn’t announce it until September.

The brand says the new Zeppelin is all about the “streaming era.” Like the previous Zeppelin, the new elongated speaker supports Spotify Connect. By downloading the Bowers & Wilkins app, you can control the speaker and use other music streaming services, including the hi-res focused Tidal and Qobuz.

Bowers & Wilkins also plans to add multiroom support for non-iOS users in “early 2022” and suggested continuing to update the speaker’s software over the years.

B&W promises to update the speaker in the future, starting with multiroom support.
enlarge B&W promises to update the speaker in the future, starting with multiroom support.

Bowers & Wilkins equipped the speaker with a pair of 1-inch dual dome tweeters, two 3.5-inch midrange drivers and a 6-inch subwoofer for low frequencies. The speaker supports a frequency response of 35-24,000 Hz. According to the company’s announcement, the drivers are “arranged in dedicated left and right speakers around a center, large subwoofer” and are powered by 240 W to fill a room.

Bowers & Wilkins thinks that’s enough to justify a price increase to $800-$100 more than the previous Zeppelin, the Zeppelin Wireless. Sure, there are plenty of Bluetooth speakers for much cheaper that also offer Alexa, Airplay 2, and the like. Bowers & Wilkins will have to prove its worth with sound quality (especially around hi-res) and functionality.

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