The Air is a good all-round speaker, and rock tracks like My Chemical Romance's Bulletproof Heart sound as clear and light as instrumental numbers like Antoine Dufour's Lost in Your Eyes. Vocal tones sound impressively precise and natural.
Come out and AirPlay
The Air supports AirPlay, Apple's wireless audio technology. Using it, you can wirelessly stream audio from iTunes on a Mac or PC, or from your , or iPad, as long as it's running iOS 4.2 or later. It works over your home network, with the Zeppelin Air connected either via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet port around the back. AirPlay supports multiple speakers, so, on the off chance you've got enough dough to purchase two Airs, you can have more than one playing at once.
Streaming from iTunes works as follows. A tiny AirPlay icon will appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the iTunes window. Clicking on this brings up a multiple-speakers window, which lets you control the volume of any AirPlay devices on the network.
If you're using an iOS device, an extra icon will appear in apps where AirPlay is available. Tap this and you'll get the option to export your music to connected speakers. The system works with Spotify, although we noticed Spotify was rather slow to respond to commands.
AirPlay works very well and, if you're playing tunes through an iPod, iPhone or iPad, the ability to control them while walking around, tapping out emails and even playing games shouldn't be underestimated. Not having to consign your device to the speaker dock every time you feel like zoning out with some music is very liberating.
There's one caveat, however. Our office Wi-Fi can be flaky, and it's not particularly speedy. We did notice music cutting out now and again, or spluttering as the connection wavered. If your home network is stable and fast, we imagine you won't have this problem, but it's worth bearing in mind if your wireless network is temperamental.
If AirPlay's not your bag, there's an RCA phono socket around the back, and a 3.5mm socket too, as well as a slot for USB streaming from a PC or Mac. There's also a remote control in the box. It's small, rounded, highly susceptible to being lost, and redundant if you're using AirPlay with an iPhone, iPad or iPod, since you can control the volume and track selection from the iDevice itself.
The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air is expensive, but its design is attractive, its sound quality is great, and its AirPlay features are handy. In short, it's a very cool piece of kit, and its extra features make it notably better than the first Zeppelin. If you're willing to blow £500 on a speaker for your iPhone, iPad or iPod, the Zeppelin Air is the best option out there.
Edited by Charles Kloet