England-based audio brand Bowers & Wilkins is offering audiophiles another ride on its Zeppelin, but this time, there’s a new friend on board. The Zeppelin speaker, announced Wednesday, is the first new addition to the series since 2015. It’s ushering in a new era by integrating Amazon Alexa and some new technologies to reduce wireless latency.
Bowers & Wilkins’ Formation series of wireless speakers got Alexa in 2020, but this is the first time the smart assistant has got a ticket for a Zeppelin. For those who prefer not to talk to Alexa, the speaker also has physical buttons.
The latest Zeppelin continues the series’ flight towards going completely wireless. Bowers & Wilkins’ original Zeppelin in 2007 was an iPod dock, while the 2011 Zeppelin Air still had a dock but added Apple AirPlay. In 2015, Zeppelin Wireless dropped the dock but offered a 3.5mm connection. Today’s Zeppelins have no wired option, except for a USB-C port that’s only for service.
Bowers & Wilkins is relying on some of the latest wireless technology to help ensure this decision doesn’t result in gap-filled jam sessions. iOS users can connect via AirPlay 2, which also offers multi-room support. For those who don’t use iOS, aptX is the Adaptive Bluetooth codec. Unsurprisingly, the aptX lossless extension for aptX Adaptive doesn’t exist, as Qualcomm only announced it in September.
The brand says the new Zeppelin is all about the “streaming age.” Like the old Zeppelin, the new rectangular speaker supports Spotify Connect. Downloading the Bowers & Wilkins app lets you control speakers and use other music-streaming services, including the hi-res-focused Tidal and Cubase.
Bowers & Wilkins also plans to add multi-room support for non-iOS users in “early 2022” and suggests it will continue to update the speaker’s software over the years.
Bowers & Wilkins outfitted the speaker with a 1-inch double-dome tweeter, two 3.5-inch midrange drivers, and a 6-inch subwoofer for low frequencies. The speaker supports a frequency response of 35-24,000 Hz. According to the company’s announcement, the drivers are “arranged in dedicated left and right speaker assemblies around a central, large subwoofer” and are powered by 240 W to fill a room.
Bowers & Wilkins thinks price hike is enough to justify $800— $100 ex Zeppelin, over from Zeppelin Wireless. Of course, there are plenty of cheap Bluetooth speakers out there that offer Alexa, AirPlay 2, and the like. Bowers & Wilkins has to prove its worth with sound quality (especially around hi-res) and functionality.