Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Lightning Review: High Fidelity, High Price, High on the Christmas ListS

You can get an iPod dock for $50, and it'll do everything you'd expect: play your music, charge your phone. So how the hell can you justify spending $600 on one? You find something that surprises and delights you.

Say goodbye to your stereo system, because this "dock" just replaced it.

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Even though the Air looks exactly like the original Zeppelin from 2008, it's a full redesign. Beyond the addition of AirPlay, the newest Zep packs 5 brand new drivers—2 mids, 2 tweeters, and a sub—each powered by its own class-d amp. With 150 total watts of oomph, this thing cranks out enough sound to fill almost any space in your home. I mean, it's not gonna shake your viking greatroom, but it can be uncomfortably loud from clear across my 40-foot-long apartment. Beyond volume, the 96KHz/24-bit DAC and custom DSP make sure your music sounds good. Every bit of audio—whether it's played through USB, optical or analog inputs, or even AirPlay—is up-sampled. It only uses 0.8 watts of power in standby mode—down from the original Zeppelin's 3.7 watts.

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Picks up more lint than an army of electrocuted sweaters. Has an annoying tendency to turn itself off after about 30 minutes, necessitating you to find the too-cute, too-tiny remote or simply walk over and switch the thing back on. The LED usually glows either red or purple, which look almost exactly alike; if it's glowing a different color, there's a problem, and you have to consult a cheat sheet. Optical connection requires one of those dumb combo plugs that's a stereo minijack and lightpipe at the same time—sold separately. Here's the one I bought.

$600 is a lot of money to spend on an iPod dock.

Last Word

This thing is expensive for a reason—it positively drips with engineering. If you have the money, and you want a great-sounding iPod/iPhone dock, buy this thing. You will not regret it.

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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin AIr
Price: $600
Input: AirPlay, USB, composite, optical, 3,5mm
Output: 150 total watts (4 x 25w; 1 x 50w)