Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Great sound but it's too unreliable.
on 4 September 2015
I have owned the Zeppelin air play for about three years. It is a large powerful speaker. The sound is easily enough to fill quite a large room. It is clear and detailed on all types of music, both on my classical and opera or my children's hip-hop and other modern music.
After a few days it malfunctioned. B&W were very helpful. After I did the tests they suggested, they told me the unit was not fixable. They said I should take it back for a new one. John Lewis exchanged it without problem.
The Zeppelin is quite tricky to set up. On a unit costing £499 a small LED screen would not be too much to ask. This would make it easy to see what was going on, the status of the unit, etc. on the Zeppelin there is a single LED which changes colour and either flashes at different rates or varies in intensity like a pulsar! I could never tell whether the LED was white or lilac or purple (red I could get) nor could I remember what the different flashing rates meant so I always had to look it up.
For a while the unit worked OK. Sometimes it would unexpectedly disconnect and the music would stop. Sometimes it didn't start-up, which meant taking the unit and connecting it to the computer in order to reset it. Even when it was working, it took a very long time to switch on. It seemed to take well over a minute for the LED to go through its various phases. After a while, even the great sound didn't make up for these regular inconveniences.
After about 15 months the unit would not work at all. B&W were again very good. They took the unit back, repaired it, updated the firmware/software and returned it quickly. However, after a while the same problems started re-occurring. Every day it would have to be re-set to factory state and re-programmed. So much so that we don't really use it any more. With the benefit of hindsight, I would not buy this speaker again. We now use a Bose speaker which is smaller and more versatile because it works on Bluetooth as well, so it can be used with all portable devices, not just Apple. The sound is not quite as good as the Zeppelin but it's still very good.
I think B&W have severely tied their own hands. Firstly, the Zeppelin is limited to Apple. It will not stream music over the network in any other way, unlike most other units. Secondly, the Zeppelin does not use Bluetooth, which would make it compatible with all portable devices. Thirdly, when the Air function isn't working no other input works. When it malfunctions, every input doesn't work. If it won't stream over the network you can't just use the 'Aux' input instead. Fourthly, the use of a single LED is very limiting. I'm not sure whether B&W did this to save money or to make the Zeppelin look sleek and stylish. Whatever the reason, the result is a unit that is very difficult to set up and use, is unreliable and temperamental. No amount of high quality sound can make up for the constant niggles in performance, regular need for resets and the long start-up time. We will certainly not be buying B&W speakers again.