B&W has ditched the original Zeppelin’s adjustable base for a simple pedestal that lets you place the hefty Zeppelin Air on any flat surface. They clearly wanted to keep the Zeppelin looking as simple and uncluttered as possible, so the only visible controls are a power/standby switch and a rocker volume control recessed into the chrome band that runs around the centerline. The sole display is a tiny LED that switches between several colors depending on the current function.
Hidden on the back panel are the various connectors, including a LAN port for connecting to a wired home network, a music-streaming-capable USB port (also used for setup and firmware upgrades), and a 3.5-mm analog / optical digital combo jack. A video output lets you route video from your iDevice to a TV while the audio plays through the Zeppelin Air.
For many users, all those hardwired connections will be made redundant by the B&W’s AirPlay capability. As long as you have a Wi-Fi network up and running in your home, this lets you stream audio directly to the Zeppelin Air from your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or from any computer running iTunes.
As often happens with computer networking, I found that getting the B&W configured so it would talk nicely with my Wi-Fi to be pretty frustrating. Even when I followed the instructions in the Zeppelin Air’s manual to the letter, things didn’t quite jibe with what I was seeing on my PC’s screen. A quick query to B&W tech support revealed that the online instructions hadn’t been updated to reflect changes in both my freshly updated firmware and iTunes, making some of the steps obsolete. (Keeping on top of constantly changing computer software must feel like shooting at a moving target for companies like B&W.) Once I found out what to look for and managed to sort out my Windows laptop connection, getting my iPhone to connect and play proved relatively straightforward.
For many people, positioning the Zeppelin Air in a room will be dictated more by aesthetics than by ideal audio performance concerns. Even so, the system has a five-step bass-level control to help deal with potential boundary issues. After placing the Zeppelin Air on a table, I got the best overall balance with this control set to the 0 position.
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