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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 December 2007
Article Index
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin
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Image As the rock and roll legend goes, Jimmy Page was drinking with Keith Moon and John Entwisle, complaining about their fellow The Who bandmates Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. A few drinks later, in the midst of a booze-drenched, brainstorming session, one of the group members suggested that Moon and Entwisle should start a band with Page, to which one of them said, “That would go over like a lead balloon” – a concept that Page never forgot. After leaving The Yardbirds, and starting a new band, the concept of a “lead zeppelin” was too tempting to avoid, especially considering the heavy nature of the blues-driven, early heavy metal sound juxtaposed with the band’s nimble syncopation and musical agility. With the “a” dropped from the name (reportedly because Americans wouldn’t be able to pronounce the name correctly) Led Zeppelin was born. They were a band so versatile they could musically perform in ways never heard before and never seen since.

Enter the Zeppelin from Bowers and Wilkins, a $599 desktop audio system designed to power an Apple iPod with the pedigree that comes along with being made by one of the world’s most lauded and important speaker manufacturers. With stuffy audiophiles cringing at the idea of one of their heroes taking on the challenge of making an iPod sound like B&W loudspeakers, it may just be the challenge the audiophile community won't be able to swallow. The reality of the matter is that even the most trained and serious of listeners own an iPod by now. They have hundreds if not thousands of songs resting comfortably in the palms of their hands, waiting for the flick of a thumb to activate a collection of music that a mere 10 years ago would require a forklift to move, let alone fit into the smallest pocket of your briefcase. Moreover, audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike don’t live exclusively in their acoustically perfect listening rooms. With the power of an iPod in your hand, it's now possible to listen to your entire collection of music in other rooms of your home, at the office, in a vacation home and beyond. Looking at the balance between flexibility and power, you start to see why this component can claim rights to a mighty important name in music – the Zeppelin. Oh, and there is the shape also.

This desktop audio system comes in an oblong cylindrical shape that measures about 25 inches long and eight inches tall. At 18 pounds, the Zeppelin gets up and boogies when you want to take your music to another room or location. The front of the unit is covered in speaker cloth, complete with an internal LED light behind the cloth that changes color when you take the unit from standby to active mode. The back of the unit shows the Zeppelin’s polished stainless steel construction more clearly than the front view.

The speaker arrangement has a five-inch woofer, as well as a pair of three-and-a-half-inch drivers and a one-inch metal dome tweeter. The reported frequency response starts at a relatively low 47 Hz and skyrockets to 22 kHz. On the front of the unit, there is a metal receptacle for connecting your iPod (or iPhone, if you prefer) to the Zeppelin. While docked in the station, your iPod or iPhone continues to charge the battery. The power behind the Zeppelin offers 50 watts to the woofer and 25 watts to each of the other drivers. The amps are digital, with switching power supplies. The Zeppelin uses digital signal processing to get the most from the small shape of the system, especially at low levels. There are S-video and composite video outputs to export videos from the iPod, with the Zeppelin as the speaker system and a larger video source for the picture.

The Zeppelin is sold at select Apple stores, as well as Apple online.


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