January 17, 2022

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Powers & Wilkins Zeppelin test: Iconic wireless speaker slowly updates itself

It has been more than 13 years since Powers & Wilkins set foot in the world of wireless speakers through Zeppelin. In the course of its development, the English manufacturer’s speaker gradually established itself as an icon of the genre through its sound performance, and above all through its distinctive appearance. The 2021 model under this test has several promises that will affect both its use and sound reproduction. For example, we look at Zeppelin’s integration into Bowers & Wilkins’ integrated ecosystem, AirPlay 2 and voice assistant Alexa implementation, or support for Bluetooth aptX adaptive codec.

Zeppelin cuvée 2021 is based on the new three-way audio system, which not only guarantees excellent sound reproduction, but also beautiful mastery of stereophonic reproduction and distortion.

Zeppelin 2021 was launched in October 2021 at a price of € 799, which is € 100 more than the previous model. We tested it in version 1.3 with the B&W Music app in version 1.2.1.

Bowers & Wilkins have always taken great care in the design of their Zeppelin speakers, and this 2021 release is no exception. Apart from the use of quality and sturdy materials (thick metal leg, solid mesh fabric), we feel that much attention has been paid to the assembly of the different parts so that there is absolutely no defect or minor risk. Done. Another proof that Zeppelin is synonymous with a masterpiece.

The foot glows through a ledge located in the lower part.  It can be disabled and fixed by the mobile application.

The foot glows through a ledge located in the lower part. It can be disabled and fixed by the mobile application.

Appreciating Zeppelin’s unique appearance is obviously a matter of taste. Its minimal and “brilliant” feature makes it easy to integrate into a room, and the envelopes it plays with are completely insensitive to fingerprints. All that remains is to find enough space on a piece of furniture or wall – the metal foot is removable – because it is not compact (21 x 65 x 19.5 cm, 6.5 kg). The considerable weight of the animal is well distributed over the leg, and it is not likely to tilt once.

The front grille has no mechanism for easy disassembly;  However, the speaker stand can be easily disassembled.

The front grille has no mechanism for easy disassembly; However, the speaker stand can be easily disassembled.

To the chagrin of cable enthusiasts, Zeppelin 2021 is a 100% pure wireless speaker, so it offers no wired connection, not even the RJ45 port! Fortunately, wireless has been modified to reduce frustration and offers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect supported).

Many references to Bluetooth connectivity are of particular interest. Note first that the speaker does not support Multipoint, and it can only connect to one device at a time “t” – it can store up to 8 more devices in memory. We have noticed a particularly high delay in this connection mode (350 ms line), which causes significant delay between image and sound, even in mobile applications (Netflix, Prime Video …) which provide some compensation for this delay. Additionally, although the manufacturer has specified support for the aptX adaptive codec, we have not been able to enjoy this codec on a compatible source device. Finally, in very rare cases, we saw a sharp drop in audio quality, which was resolved by reconnecting the device to the speaker or switching to another Bluetooth codec (SBC / AAC).

Impulse response measurement: Bluetooth connection delay

Impulse response measurement: Bluetooth connection delay

User experience

Like many wireless speakers, Zeppelin requires initial configuration before it can be fully used by 2021. This process, which goes exclusively through the Powers & Wilkins Music application, is guided by a refined fast tutorial, with the speaker working with very sensible and rare sound and light alerts on its side.

Once the B&W Music account is created - essentially, unfortunately - Zeppelin's start-up takes only a few ten seconds, except for any firmware update.

Once the B&W Music account is created – essentially, unfortunately – Zeppelin’s start-up is only a few seconds, except for possible updates நிலைபொருள்.

Once the surgery is complete, a minimal approach to daily use is confirmed: the symptoms do not seem to be more or less, it must be admitted, we travel almost visually until we have passed the application. In the absence of a dedicated remote control, the only solution is to use a remote-controlled speaker. Its interface is clear and intuitive. However, we should not expect advanced settings. Fortunately for the user, the speaker does not simplify its limits because the essential controls on the speaker are accessible at all times (managing sound, navigating between tracks, manually activating the assistant, triggering Bluetooth connection).

Of Zeppelin

The indicator light, located on Zeppelin’s “multifunction” button, is configured for speaker use only to determine its status when connected via Bluetooth. The second, under the manufacturer’s logo, is used only as visual feedback during interactions with Alexa.

As long as you want to use Alexa, Amazon’s assistant, you can also control Zeppelin’s voice. In this regard, no switch is integrated to manually cut the integrated collection system. Another oddity is that there is no wait to force the speaker or command to turn it on and off.

Zeppelin fits into the Powers & Wilkins music ecosystem, similar to the speakers from the British manufacturer’s Formation series.

Bowers & Wilkins Music App - A small bonus, Bowers & Wilkins speaker customers own rights to music playlists from the producer.

Bowers & Wilkins Music App – A small bonus, Bowers & Wilkins speaker customers own rights to music playlists from the producer.

From what we can see during our test, the experience is smooth, but still very restrictive in some respects. First, Zeppelin is not yet fully integrated into this ecosystem, which misses the moment of the popular multroom operation, which the manufacturer promises should come in 2022. In addition, although the interface is practical and suitable for reading, browsing and searching songs, one can only get frustrated with the compatible music streaming services (Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, Soundcloud, NTS and TuneIn short list. Internet radios). It is also not possible to run files on a local network. However, we guarantee with the support of AirPlay 2 that it allows you to stream content with compatible devices and enjoy Multiroom and Spotify Connect.

The 2021 Zeppelin sound reproduction is no big surprise in terms of the reputation created by previous models.

Frequency response measurement (85 dB SPL, 1 kHz, normalized to 1 m)

Frequency response measurement (85 dB SPL, 1 kHz, normalized to 1 m)

Zeppelin (2021) actually includes many components Zeppelin Wireless (2017) Thus providing rich, well-defined, clean and accurate rendering across the entire spectrum, with beautiful reproduction of the sound space. The extreme bass extension has nothing to do with dizziness again in this model – we know more demonstrative speakers at this level – but the same is generous enough and well controlled above all else. The loudspeaker shows particularly healthy behavior here, requiring more “mounted” pieces (multiple instruments, faster and closer rhythmic attacks …) and a more reproductive system. The different instruments are correctly identifiable, the sense of impact is well copied and the dynamics are well preserved even to the point of generous listening. This reference to identifying sources also applies to other areas of the auditory spectrum. The mask has no effect and the woods are respected. Those who like voice content will find their delight here: Zeppelin has a slight tendency to highlight the middle record, with the voices being pushed a little further in front of the stage without being distorted and obscuring other elements.

This is especially true as the 2021 Zeppelin Sound Signature is subject to minor rework compared to the previous model: High Midz Attendance for Zeppelin Wireless High Frequencies is no longer marked in the new version. The restoration of the soft and “boy” sound gives way to a little more energy and sharpness, and more In practice A very powerful sense of presence, which is especially beneficial for voices.

Frequency response measurement (normalized to 1 kHz, 1 m): calibration at 85 dB SPL (black), calibration at 95 dB SPL (pink)

Frequency response measurement (normalized to 1 kHz, 1 m): calibration at 85 dB SPL (black), calibration at 95 dB SPL (pink)

In terms of strict frequency, Zeppelin (2021) is more balanced than its predecessor, but it is not yet a complete model of neutrality and transparency. Furiists, who have the best hearing, can criticize the loudspeaker for giving too much emphasis to too high frequencies, which can sometimes give a very “artificial” feature to the effects of the room (vibrations, echoes). ) Or statues, which seem to be more important than usual. We can point out a small gap between “Binder” and Bass, Mits and Treble; An event that is definitely linked to the management of cut-off frequencies (The Shortcut) Between different speaker channels – Note that it is based on three channels: two tweeters, two midrange speakers and a dedicated bass woofer.

Harmonic distortion rate measurement (normalized to 1 kHz, 1 m): calibration 85 dB SPL (red), calibration 95 dB SPL (purple)

Harmonic distortion rate measurement (normalized to 1 kHz, 1 m): calibration 85 dB SPL (red), calibration 95 dB SPL (purple)

As we have mentioned in detail Our laboratory article Appearing shortly before this test, Zeppelin still has a generous power reserve of 2021, enough to enjoy its music in a large room. Decomposition is well controlled over the entire spectrum. There is still some confusion at low-mid / mids and there is a very low drop in low frequencies when you want to push the speaker to its limits – which is never necessary.

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