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New Zeppelin Air Impressions

Finally had the chance to pick up my zeppelin air this morning and hook it all up after having recieved good advice on here earlier, so here are my impressions/comparisons to the original zeppelin after about 4 hours of listening.

Setup:

Very fiddely. You have to first connect to a computer via ethernet and set it up almost like a router, albeit with a lot less settings. The first two tries however it would not pick up my wireless, however after a reset it finally picked everything up. Apart from that it's plug and play for ipods/phones just like the old one was. As is the previous version you can adjust the bass depending on where you position it, although default sounds the best to me.

Looks/Build:

Same as the original basically. In my opinion it is an awesome design, timeless and elegant while also making a pretty big statement. The build quality is also similar but the matt finish on the rear is not quite as nice as the original chrome, it does still have a high quality feel though and gives the sense that this is a premium product. The cloth over the front speakers seems to be tighter than the original, but this could be down to mine being over a year old now. Additionally the spring loaded dock arm seems to be more tightly sprung than the old one ever was, presumably to extend its' life. To me it always feels like something B&O could have designed, but got beaten to the punch, and minues aluminium ofc.

Sound Quality:

I have both the old and new zepplin resting on identical pieces of furniture, with the zepp air in a slightly bigger room.

It seems from my initial listening that most of B&Ws claims are well founded. When testing with an iPhone4 using Spotify Premium at higher bit rate it is clear the new model flexes its' DAC and extracts more detail with ease. There is also clearly more seperation between the mid and high frequencies, probably down to the new seperated amplification. I was always happy with the bass in the original zepp but the air really shines in comparison. Bass is tighter and more defined while still going as staggeringly deep as the original. The sound qualities are very similar to the origional, in my opinion quite warm, but still very open. It fills rooms with ease. It's currently sitting in a 40-45 sqm room and at 40-50% volume the space is easily filled allowing you to hear every possible definition from anywehre in this space. Crank it up and it remains composed, even with the bass, which was a slight failing of the original. The system definately suits people who like to listen loud, you can keep truing it up and the music just... gets louder, very little distortion and clear vocals.

Airplay:

It works. But you need one hell of a strong wireless system to make it work flawlessly. While I had it in an area with top wifi coverage it worked very well, but as soon as I moved it to its' current position it was massive fail. Now using 200mbps homeplugs which has solved the problem. The system is one of those ooooo wow moments when it does work, kind of a "no hands" (wires) moment. I can see it being a reall bonus if you have an ipad so you can lounge and select music without ever having to get up. However it is clearly still infant tech (not quite optimized, only single device support) so for the ultimate wireless solution look to sonos or squeeze box.

I am currently using airfoil with spotify from a computer where the newtork looks like this

                                                          >>Zepp Air

PC>>Wirless>>Router>>Homeplugs

                                                          >>Ariport Express>>3.5mm>>Zepp

I also have the old zeppelin in the kitchen area which is semi open plan with the living room where the new zepp is. I use an airport express and airfoil on my PC to stream to both in party mode. Once the homeplugs were installed it worked very well. Only occasionally get drop out when spotify changes track, probably due to network load of spotify begining to stream, but it's for maybe one second and happens every 30 minutes (annoying but not a massive bother). Could probably solve it by homeplugging the PC too, but enjoy the freedom of walking around with the laptop.

Sounds quality does not diminish a lot when going from plugged in iPod to streaming over wireless or wired, maybe a little, but I only really noticed when switching directly from one to the other using the same track at the same bit rate.

Reccomendation?

Upgrade from an old one? No, not a big enough difference.

Looking for a dock system? Yes definately, I heard the Bose, B&O and Acram docks before finally parting with my money. The B&O is better at some things but not all (bass/seperation in particular) but is more expensive. The other two, to me at least, sounds like plastic boxes, at high volume distortion seems to creep in much more easily, they dont have solid isolated weight of the zepp and that lets them down. Now that B&W have matched these with internal components (DAC, active design) to help with detail and seperation they can't hold a candel to it.

5 Stars IMO

Andy Clough's picture
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RE: MP3/MP4

Thanks for the review, Duol. Very interesting. Particularly noted your comments about AirPlay needing a very strong wi-fi signal to work reliably. Quite agree. I've spent a large part of today testing AirPlay at home as part of a feature I'm writing for the May issue of the magazine (which will also include our First Test of the Zeppelin Air), and have experienced similar issues.

When streaming Spotify to AirPlay via wi-fi it can be a bit flaky, but Homeplugs make a big difference. Will be interesting to see how other Zepp Air owners get on.

BTW, having spoken to the B&W engineers, they're well aware that setting it up is a bit of a faff and they're looking at ways to simplify it in the future.

Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision and whathifi.com

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