In September 2021, ChannelNews exclusively tipped that Sound United-owned Bowers & Wilkins would launch a new iteration of the iconic B&W Zeppelin. Well, instead of a dock this time it’s all about wireless speaker connectivity.
The famous iPod dock has gone, and the Zeppelin has embraced newer technologies for today’s streaming age, with the UK sound Company describing it as the “smartest and most flexible Zeppelin” to date.
The Company has prioritised wireless streaming over wired connectivity, and the new Zeppelin is compatible with AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth. There’s also a USB-C socket for updates.
While AirPlay 2 offers multi-room functionality with other speakers supporting Apple’s wireless connection, Bowers will, in 2022, add multi-room support (not inclusive of stereo pairing) for other Zeppelins and products within its Formation range.
The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin is iconic and was the must-have loudspeaker back in 2007. When linked with an original iPod or a USB device, it delivered fabulous sound.
When it was first launched, a lot of people held the opinion that Bowers & Wilkins engineers were nuts!
Why would a company like them launch a product to support a device such as the iPod? Surely nobody using one would care enough about audio to buy a loudspeaker designed to deliver fantastic sound and which, let’s be frank, cost way more than any of the competition!
Bowers & Wilkins proved the sceptics wrong.
Now a new sub-$1,200 model has been released. Instead of an attached iPod, you’ll be able to stream 24bit audio to the device.
The original Zeppelin was incredibly stylish. Cigar-shaped, it made a statement while also delivering great sound.
When it was conceived in 2007, the iPod was in huge demand, and as consumers got fed up listening to what was then 8bit music via a pair of white Apple headphones, the guys at UK sound Company Bowers & Wilkins conceived the Zeppelin in their Steyning Research Establishment (SRE) in West Sussex.
Leading the R&D was the founder of the business John Bowers, who was responsible for the Company’s 800 Series speakers which were recently upgraded in Australia and Nautilus, and technologies such as the Diamond Dome Tweeters, Matrix and Continuum cones.
This iconic loudspeaker quickly changed the way people thought about digital music, and proved quality sound from an iPod was both possible and desirable.
Before the Zeppelin was conceived, the guys at Bowers & Wilkins were thinking about why the iPod had to be limited to the types of files and the sort of speakers people used it with at the time. There was enormous potential for better-quality files, and with the move to a USB connection, better quality output, which could serve more capable loudspeakers.
The seed was sown. An idea began to grow, and what we got one of the great speakers of that era.
For me, this was the audio speaker that should have killed off the Sonos speaker before it was able to get market traction.
Sonos was all about networking and a proprietary technology.
What was inside the Sonos speaker was wireless audio technology that had initially been developed at Intel.
It was also a totally foreign technology for audio Companies like Bowers & Wilkins, who were renowned and still are for their two-channel audio. As such, few two-channel audio Companies attempted to try a similar network-attach speaker, because they didn’t have the people who understood networking.
Now that is about to change and what I can’t wait to see is the all-new Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin that’s been specifically designed for the 24bit audio streaming era.
What I do know is the design, which has not yet been revealed, is equally as good as the old Zeppelin, if not better, with its discreet blue light under the base.
Bowers & Wilkins engineers believe that “form follows function”, and much of Zeppelin’s shape is based around sound engineering principles, such as having as little baffle surrounding the tweeter as possible and removing straight sides in order to improve dispersion.
But the iconic look of Zeppelin had help from an amazing industrial designer in the form of Morten Warren and his team at design house Native.
His take on Zeppelin was so ahead of its time that even in the fast-moving wireless speaker arena it is still instantly recognisable and is a thing of beauty that throughout numerous iterations has not veered from its original concept.
For the sales & marketing guys at Bowers & Wilkins, the big question at the time was whether there was actually a market for what was basically premium iPod dock?
The answer was an emphatic yes.
The amount of competitive products that were hastily developed and continue to appear is a testament to the success of the original Zeppelin.
The product was a knockout success.
People who may never have considered buying a pair of loudspeakers before were drawn in by the performance and design of Zeppelin. This trend has continued, and Zeppelin and the improved versions that followed continue to be praised and purchased throughout the world.