B&W's knack for turning out occasionally iconic products is as enviable as it is admirable.
The PV1 subwoofer, for example: next month's 2010 Awards issue will reveal if it's managed to defend its title for the seventh consecutive time.
And this Zeppelin iPod dock is shaping up similarly. Our first listen to it was back in February 2008, when the idea of a premium-priced iPod dock was still such a novelty it appeared in the Temptations section.
Mains-only muscleThe Zeppelin's an admirably single-minded device: it runs only from the mains, and gestures towards extended functionality only as far as composite and S-Video picture outputs and a 3.5mm input.
The styling makes its 64cm width seem unimposing, its heavy rubber plinth reinforces the impression of quality while providing important isolation, and the basic remote is palm-friendly.
More after the break
Inside there are aluminium tweeter and glass-fibre midrange drivers derived from the well-regarded M-1 satellite speaker, and a 13cm Kevlar-reinforced subwoofer vented via two rear-firing reflex ports.
Where scale, drive and dynamism are concerned, the Zeppelin's as admirable as it ever was. If it's a substantial, imposing sound you're after you won't go far wrong here: an iTunes-purchased, 256kbps file of Graham Parker & The Rumour's Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions sounds vigorous and exciting.
The B&W handles the choppy tempo deftly, grants Parker's flat London phrasing ample character and nuance, and delivers top-end percussives crisply without threatening to spill into hardness, even at considerable volume.
Burly low frequenciesWhen volume does touch on ‘considerable', though, the burly low frequencies (which at more modest levels are glossily integrated into the rest of the frequency range) become slightly detached, leaving a little gap between the bottom of the midrange on the top of the bass information that the Zeppelin can't cleanly bridge.
It's a trait that's been thrown into much sharper relief by the quality of the competition assembled here. Otherwise, though, the B&W stands proud against fresh rivals.
Best with higher bitratesIt certainly makes the merits of larger file sizes obvious: a 1411kbps WAV file of LCD Soundsystem's North American Scum is more detailed, open and natural than the compressed equivalent.
It may be a master of the up-tempo, but the B&W also has the dexterity and subtlety to handle spare, minimal recordings without getting bored or being boring.
The B&W Zeppelin retained its top billing for almost three years.
That it has finally been beaten – by another determined British challenger – should not detract from its simple desirability and generally impressive sound. There's life in the old dirigible yet.