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Hands On: Bowers and Wilkins Z2 review

B&W's small but powerful new iPhone 5 dock

Our Early Verdict

For

  • Rich, full sound
  • Apple Airplay
  • Compact design

Against

  • Quite pricey
  • Metal grille might be off-putting for some
  • No iPhone? No love

When it comes to the art of doing premium – and stylish - home Hi-Fi, Bowers and Wilkins is proudly at the top of its game. The Zeppelin, with its killer design and sonic kick, was a neat approach to home audio when it took to the skies - with the Zeppelin Mini following in tow.

Now the guys are launching the Z2, a £330 replacement to the discontinued Zep Mini that wants to nab a small spot on your living room shelf. TechRadar got some hands-on time with the Z2 to pull together some initial impressions.

Lightning strikes the Zeppelin

One of the first things to mention about the Z2 is that Apple Airplay is on board, with iPhone streaming controlled via the Bowers and Wilkins Control app. It's also done away with the 30-pin mount and replaced it with Apple's new lightning connector. Bad news for anyone still rocking a pre-5 iPhone or Android device, but good news for the rest of the Apple aficionados out there.

Bowers and Wilkins Z2

Build and design

Aesthetically, the Z2 is similar to the Zeppelin Mini, with its curved front and rear Flowhole. The whole thing is compact, designed to slip comfortably onto a bookshelf or a coffee table.

Aside from the dock itself, input/output features are mostly minimal. On the top are two capacitive volume buttons, while the rear has an Ethernet socket for wiring up your home connection.

There's also a 3.5mm auxiliary jack on the back for non-iPhone 5 devices. Although we didn't get to try playing something through the auxiliary, we assume the sound quality won't be quite up the digitally-processed dock connector on the front.

The Z2 comes in either white or black, though we have to admit that we liked the black a lot more, given that the metal grille doesn't quite flatter the white design. Either way, it does make the Z2 feel a lot sturdier when moving it about.

However, those of you who are looking to bag a white one might be disappointed to hear you'll be waiting an extra couple of months. The black model launches this April but the white won't be here until June.

Bowers and Wilkins Z2

Sound quality

Bowers and Wilkins fans will know the sort of high quality to expect here, but considering the small dimensions of the Z2, the guys aren't going for loud. Instead, it's about filling every nook and cranny of the room with that rich fullness.

Packed with two 3.5-inch drivers and a class D amp, there's plenty of power going on inside the box. We cranked up the Z2 and walked around the room, finding the sound remained impressively rich wherever we stood in relation to the speakers.

However, given its more diminutive proportions, the Z2 does have its limitations when pumping up the volume. While Bowers and Wilkins has included a bass port there's no bass driver, and less of a bassy boom at higher volumes.

Like its predecessor, the Z2 also doesn't come with clock or radio features. But that's not so much a criticism; Bowers and Wilkins is shooting for a market fully focused on what's coming out of the box rather than what's on it.

Early verdict

Even though this is more affordable than the Zeppelin, the Z2's still-hefty price tag will no doubt alienate many potential buyers looking for a more compact speaker. But if price isn't the issue, the Z2 is essentially the Zeppelin Mini but even better - and it's difficult to argue with that.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSpeaker System
Speaker Configuration2.0
USBYes
RMS Output Power36 W
iPod SupportedYes
ColourBlack
Brand NameB&W
ManufacturerBowers & Wilkins
Operating Power Consumption15 W
Width320 mm
Depth101.6 mm
Product NameZeppelin Mini Speaker System
Product LineZeppelin Mini
Frequency Response38 Hz to 20 kHz
Manufacturer Part NumberZeppelin Mini
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.bowers-wilkins.net
Marketing Information

Zeppelin™ Mini is an attention-grabber even before you've switched it on. Just like its bigger brother the Zeppelin, it's a sleek, robust piece of design - the perfect partner to your iPod or iPhone, and a stylish addition to any home or work space.

But Zeppelin Mini's beauty is much more than skin deep. Every single feature, from the continuous curve of the cabinet to the elegant way the iPod docks with the speaker, is designed with your listening enjoyment in mind. So it's not just a pleasure to look at: it's a joy to use too.

Weight (Approximate)2.50 kg