Bowers & Wilkins Z2 iPhone 5 and AirPlay dock pictures and hands-on

Audiophile speaker company Bowers & Wilkins has built a reputation for high-end, top-quality iPod and iPhone docks over the years, but they have often remained just a touch out of reach for some. Either the price has steered consumers into making compromises elsewhere, or the size of the mammoth Zeppelin Air has deterred those with smaller living rooms or bedrooms.

That's where the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 comes into its own. At £329.99, it is reasonably priced for a sonically gifted solution and is far smaller than its beefier stablemate. Sleeker, in fact.

Pocket-lint was invited to the company's offices in the heart of London to give the Z2 a quick listen to and play and we are suitably impressed. Naturally, you need more than 15 minutes with any speaker system to discover all its nuances, but fed a few differently styled tracks - at varying levels of encoding quality - it coped very well indeed.

The Z2 looks much like the now discontinued Zeppelin Mini in that it is wide at the front, fairly skinny in depth and has a sloped concave top. It also features the same golfball-esque, mottled Flowport hole on the rear, which aids bass levels no end. However, with its metallic grille, it is a little more industrial and suits Apple's own devices perhaps a alightly more than before.

On the top there is simply a slot and Lightning connector for an iPhone (or iPod touch/nano) and two volume buttons. We say buttons, but they are actually capacitive so there's no need to physically press anything as such, merely to touch them.

Alongside the dimpled port, the rear is home to an Ethernet socket for wired network connection, an auxiliary input to feed the dock from a different audio source, power socket and reset button hidden inside a tricky to get to hole - which is there in case you want to force the Z2 to forget the devices it has paired with.

That's because, as well as the dock part, Bowers & Wilkins has utilised its several years of developing solutions with Apple AirPlay in them to include the technology here also. And thanks to the firm's free set-up application, it takes mere minutes to have an iOS device, PC or Mac hooked up wirelessly ready to go.

Inside, there are two 3.5-inch drive units which are capable of maintaining crisp and accurate mids and highs, while supporting the bass levels with ability that will have you perplexed by the small cabinet. We were in a listening room the size of an average living room - we would imagine - and it filled the space comfortably. And with no gaps in the soundfield as we moved around.

The Head and the Heart's Rivers and Roads - 320kbps - was deep and yet sharp throughout, and you could hear every original recording flaw in The Who's I'm Free taken from the Live at Hull 1970 album.

This is definitely a speaker dock we want to hear more of. But from the very brief moment we had with it, we can already tell that it will be a leader in its class.

The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 will be available in black from April and white from June. As previously mentioned, it will cost £329.99 in retailers such as John Lewis and the Apple Store.