By Ben Bowers
on 8.5.08

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Recently, Gear Patrol procured a B&W Zeppelin for testing. We wanted to know what all the hulabaloo was about and why all the critics were raving about what amounts to a $600 iPod dock and speaker system. Why, you might ask, would I ever spend that much on an periperhal for my iPod. Well, lets sum it up in one sentence:

The B&W Zeppelin does for your iPod sonic experience what your first HDTV did to your old Magnavox tube TV – you feel like you’re hearing your iPod for the very first time.

Now read on to find and see just what that is.

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No, the B&W Zeppelin isn’t the newest iPod speaker system out there, but like many quality products, it might good and well be the best.

You may have walked past the gorgeous dirigible last time you were at the Apple store, but I should tell you now – that was a poor choice. You should have stopped, dropped your iPod right into its floating dock’s port, turned it right to your favorite song and prepared yourself for euphonic glory.

Comprised of two 1-inch aluminum tweeters, two 3.5 inch fiber cone mid-range drivers (25 watt amplifiation, each) and one 5-inch bass driver the B&W Zeppelin reproduces audio flawlessly. Let me elaborate by giving you a little background. The B&W Zeppelin wasn’t just hastily thrown together in some shop that makes three dozen different accessories for your iPod. No, the Zeppelin is crafted by the team that creates the speakers used to master the very song you’re listening to. The speakers in the Zeppelin are made with the same standards as those used in Abbey Road Studios and Skywalker Ranch.

$600 may sound like a hefty amount, but when you consider that the speakers used in the Zeppelin are descendents of the B&W 800 series reference speaker (which cost upwards of $18,000), it’s an absolute audiophilic steal. What it doesn’t steal though, is your experience with music. With delicious midrange, something sorely lacking in most low-end speakers, the Zeppelin reproduced the stacatto strings from Coldplay’s Viva La Vida intro with such bravado that it made my hair dance. Better yet the treble and bass were so well rounded that they became nearly transparent with nary a notion of crossover gap. Their only tangible affect – the maddening laughter I unleashed from my unbridled enthusiasm with the Zeppelin’s acoustic soundstage. I thought I was listening to a professional 2-channel sound studio.

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Often times, speakers are geared towards specific types of music – excelling in some and failing miserably in others. I wanted to run the full gamut so I put on Kardinal Offishall’s (featuring Akon)Dangerous. I was instantly transported to the back seat of a champagne hued Cadillac Coupe De Ville, multi-thousand watt sound system included. My sofa’s lack of hydraulics, painfully absent. What B&W has managed to squeeze out of a 50 watt 5-inch driver has set the bar so high in my book that I found myself tempted to pit the Zeppelin against my home theater. Long story short: my home theater was ashamed.

Lest you think the B&W Zeppelin is a luxury novelty, know that the B&W is a technological feat. From its tacticle egg shaped remote, integration with your iPod (my iPhone 3G worked fine despite B&W’s notice that they’re not perfectly compatible), DSP, Digital Amplifier, optical and analog auxiliary inputs and video out, the Zeppelin will integrate perfectly with your decor. As a matter of fact, you might want to consider building a room around the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin.

Cost: $599 @ Amazon or Apple

Postscript: For those of you who know what Lossless or FLAC files mean, then check out the B&W Music Club, a monthly subscription that gets you exclusive new music in super hi-fidelity form mastered at Peter Grabriel’s state of the art Real World recording studios. Cost: $60 per year @ Bowers & Wilkins

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