The premise of the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Mini is a simple one, to offer the same sound and experience as the original Zeppelin, but without the massive design and size - we find out whether it succeeds.
When Bowers & Wilkins released the original Zeppelin iPod speaker in 2008 it was the first time the company had ventured away from making £30,000 speakers to making something a bit more affordable. Now almost 2 years on, and the company has released the Zeppelin Mini, a follow-up iPod speaker dock for those a bit tight on space.
The biggest disappointment is that the iconic design of the original has been ditched. This did take us by surprise. After all when you name something a "mini" version of something else you expect it to be the same as the original just smaller - Mini Smarties, Nokia N97 Mini, Mini Me...
So instead of the airship look, you get a black speaker with a polished metal silver top in an ellipse design. Like the original, your iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, or iPod nano hovers over it sitting snugly into the provided plastic cradle. The bracket can be rotated sideways so you can use "Coverflow" to flick through your albums.
A small blue or red power light semi-hidden behind the black speaker cloth is the only indication of its status and the actual power and volume buttons are secretly hidden around the side to the right. They have been designed not to draw attention to themselves. Everything else, like playback functions, is via the included remote control that has been shaped to look like a pebble. It's a nice touch and one that separates this speaker from the plethora who just bundle the usual "Credit card" sized offerings in the box.
Around the back is the power socket, AUX in so you can connect another device and a USB socket so you can sync your iPod with your computer. There is no headphones jack. The move will no doubt be confusing to some, but this isn't a speaker system you're likely to sit in front of listening to your iPod. That's what the iPod's headphone jack is for.
It looks pretty, it looks executive smart, it looks well made, it looks like the £299 you have spent on it.
"That's great" I hear you cry, but does it sound any good?
We tested it with a number of tracks over a 2-week period. Everything from Grandmaster Central to Frou Frou, The Beatles and some Dylan. If that wasn't enough we then tested it with a bit of German techno, then some Crystal Method and then our bass test tracks that are designed to push a speaker to its limit for good measure. Basically, we played a lot of different types of music on it.
The result? The Zeppelin Mini produces a well rounded mature sound that will easily fill a medium-sized room, without it sounding like it's wallowing in a bath tub. It might be smaller, considerably more so than the Zeppelin, but the company has still managed to do wonders with the sound especially considering the size of the unit.
At no point did the speaker bleed out at the high end or sound tinny in our tests. One criticism we did have was that the remote wasn't as responsive as we would have liked with a firm press and exact direction needed to cause an effect.
So that's it then, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini produces as good a sound as the original Zeppelin, keeps the company's consumer line-up doing what it does best, and gives you a package that lets you enjoy music on. Great.
Not so fast.
Where the Zeppelin Mini falls down is not in its performance, but the lack of connectivity options available, certainly when you compare it to the only slightly more expensive (£50) Sonos S5 Zoneplayer. The Sonos brings internet radio and music streaming services like last.fm and Napster to the mix as well and therefore is a more, in our mind, compelling offering.
If you've got an iPod touch or iPhone (which will double as your remote) we would recommend spending the extra £50 and opt for the more connected device. It will serve you better in the long run and offers equal sound quality for your cash. It is white over the Zepellin Mini's black though.
If you aren't ready for the connected option just yet, and there will be many that won't be, then this will do you very nicely.
Once upon a time, the Bose Sound Dock was the must have iPod speaker dock to have, now Bowers & Wilkins has proved for a second time that its is the product to have if you are looking for a simple, but effective iPod speaker.