Bowers and Wilkins is the company that introduced the first Zeppelin, iPod based speaker system in 2007 and later the Zeppelin mini speaker system. Now the same firm has once again revamped the original with new features for 2011.
As the other Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelins before, the Zeppelin Air retains the unique shape of the original which looks somewhat like a zeppelin or to others a misshaped rugby ball, this original shape of the system will no doubt divide users into groups that love or hate the design. The size of the Zeppelin air is around the size of a standard tabletop mini compo system, the unit weighs 13.5 pounds and is minimalistic in terms of controls and overall design. Three control buttons on the unit are all there is positioned behind the shiny chrome coated iPod stand a remote control is also supplied to provide extra controls for the Zeppelin air unit. The remote control unit is somewhat diminutive in size and has a tendency of getting lost if one isn’t careful.
Setting up the Harmon Kardon SB 16
As with many top end all-in-one sound systems, Bowers & Wilkins advertises a room thumping sound system which is quite true, given the relatively small dimensions of the system. There are two bass ports around the rear section of the Zeppelin air which are sufficiently powerful to provide ample bass notes at high party level decibels The quality of sound coming from this unit is somewhat different from a standard segmented subwoofer system with a more focused bass and lighter treble sound. Loudness is not an issue as the Zeppelin air is capable enough to churn out house party levels of music..
As the name suggests the Zeppelin Air is essentially a wireless device so to setup and test the unit it is necessary to pair your devices with the unit. This is where things get interesting, in setup mode, a WiFi network is created from the Zeppelin air which you can log into from your computer from there you have to set which server the Zeppelin air unit has to log into each time it is started. Although the Zeppelin server has a tendency to crash now and then it is still easily rectified to allow the sound to play even for those with little or no experience in setting up a wireless sound system. For those with no knowledge at all of setting up AirPlay it is simplest to use iTunes to search for all devices on your desired network, select them as your output source and you’re all set to play music. Once this is done then the sound comes out, as advertised the Zeppelin air is able to pump the sounds out at amazing volume for a unit of its size.
Pros and Cons
As an all in one iPod speaker system with a minimalist design concept, the Zeppelin air unit works fine enough for casual users as it performs exactly as Bowers and Wilkins advertise it to work. However, for audiophiles and professionals, their feedback would be jarring, as they would be quick to point out the Zeppelin air’s weaknesses. For starters, it comes without even a monochrome display screen which would come in handy to display any status, music information and most importantly connection information. Another of the Zeppelin Air’s faults is the almost nonexistent control over the system’s performance as well as the dinky remote control included with the unit, there is virtually no way to tweak and control the sound output beyond the built in presets.
That being said the Zeppelin air does offer a good fat bass sound which tries it’s best to bring out the full sound experience through the built in preset modes and when you’re close enough to the system this works adequately well. That said even with all the possible tweaking in iTunes the total sound from the Zeppelin air still falls short of being a perfect all in one speaker system for the iPod. The speaker tries it’s best to compensate but just never manages to fully capture all the sound qualities that would have made this a great speaker system. This is a shame as the Zeppelin air does posses all the qualities of a great speaker system only to be let down by small niggles.
To sum it up, as conclusion the Zeppelin air makes a good speaker system for any room in one’s abode but is just too simple to any audiophiles or professionals. It’s redeeming qualities include surprisingly superb bass sound but this is marred by the lack of control over the treble and pitch from the device. As such the Zeppelin air is recommended for those who like it’s unique design and don’t require any high end tweaking of its sound. Thus the Zeppelin air is only recommended for casual users.