|B&W Zeppelin Mini Review|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Tuesday, 23 March 2010|
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A few years ago there was a scurry among electronics manufacturers to bring an iPod speaker or dock system to market. Consumers soon had dozens of external devices to choose from: some good, some bad, some ugly, some bad and ugly. Claims of “room-filling sound” abounded, but is that a measure of desirability. I know people who can fill a room with sound by coughing or sneezing. Do I want to hear it? While mass-producers flooded the iPod speaker market, most audiophile manufacturers stayed away.
The Zeppelin Mini ($399) is the latest of B&W's sonic dirigibles and follows confidently in the footsteps of its bigger brother while kicking up some dust of its own. Measuring 6.8 tall x 12.6 wide x 4.0 inches deep and weighing less than 5 pounds, the Mini is imminently portable and placeable. On first sight, the Mini looks more like a piece of industrial or contemporary art than a typical iPod speaker. The ovoid body is wrapped in black fabric and sports a scalloped and polished stainless steel top that mirrors the unit's docking arm. But this isn't just any docking arm, the Mini's arm rotates 90 degrees from vertical to horizontal allowing iPhone and iPod Touch users to navigate tracks with album art (Cover Flow) displayed or watch video.
It also lets one hold the portable device as if it were not even docked. Although certified by Apple for iPod and iPhone, the Mini is not compatible with all models. Vertical docking works with iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch, iPod Touch 2nd generation, iPod Classic, and iPod nano 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation models. Horizontal docking is limited to iPhone, iPhone 3G and 3GS, iPod Touch and iPod Touch 2nd generation.
To get the best sound from files stored on an iPod, the Mini takes the signal in digital form and performs the digital-to-analog conversion with its own circuitry. As well, users can listen to stored or streamed audio via the USB connection. Another cool feature is the Mini's ability to sync a docked iPod or iPhone directly via the USB port. When docked, the Mini also charges the iPod/iPhone batteries. The Mini features a pair of full range 3-inch fiberglass cone drivers powered by twin 18-watt Class D amplifiers. Digital Sound Processing combined with B&W's own Dynamic EQ work together to achieve dynamic range and sound, while a rear Flowport is designed to minimize any noise created by air movement in the port.
The Mini is simplicity defined, with just three inputs (USB, AUX and Power) on the back and on-off and volume buttons on the unit's side. I think B&W missed the boat by putting the controls on the side instead of the front. If placed in a bookshelf or other tight space, the controls can be difficult to access and operation requires pulling the Zeppelin out to manipulate volume settings. In that respect, the remote is vital for easiest operation. The remote handset takes its design cues from the mothership and resembles a flattened egg. It fits nicely in the hand and makes navigating iPod/iPhone files a breeze. I even has a recessed “fingerprint” beneath the power button where the tip of the forefinger naturally lands.