Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin review: a thoroughly modern Alexa speaker

We test the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin to see whether its audio could be as striking as its design

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin
(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)
Livingetc Verdict

The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin is a striking smart speaker with excellent audio, and it will certainly make a visual statement in the home. However, we think just as many people will be put off by its size and heft.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fantastic audio

  • +

    Unique design

  • +

    Built-in Alexa

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Very hard to find a good spot for it

  • -

    Lack of options will frustrate some

  • -

    Expensive

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Though smart speakers have taken the world by storm over the last decade or so, it's equally true that the design of speakers from the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple have all stayed relatively safe in the design department. This makes sense since those own-brand devices need to appeal to as many people as possible, and it has also left space for other companies to put more of a focus on aesthetics.

The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin is one of the most visually distinctive Alexa speakers to come out in recent years, building off the brand's previous blimp-shaped offerings and adding a modern spin. We tested the speaker to see whether the audio quality and Alexa integration worked well in the home.

Keep reading to see our in-depth thoughts, and head over to our guide to the best Alexa speakers around to see how the Zeppelin compares to the competition.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin: Key info

  • Smart?: Alexa built-in
  • Streaming: AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect
  • Multi-room audio?: Yes
  • Finishes: Midnight Grey (Black), Pearl Grey (Light Grey)
  • Dimensions: H8.2 x W25.6 x D7.5in
  • Weight: 16.1lbs

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

How does the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin look in the home?

If you're reading this review, then it's likely you're already tempted by the unique design of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin. There have been multiple generations of the design from B&W, but the latest has been tweaked to look even more sleek and modern. For example, the blue light on the base gives the effect (from a distance, while squinting) that the Zeppelin is floating in mid-air, and the stand slightly repositions the main body compared to older versions.

The bulk of the speaker is covered with fabric, while the back is matte plastic, with the controls found near the top. Despite the striking shape, it's a relatively simple design that, once you've found a place for it, shouldn't look too distracting or clash with any styles or color schemes in your home.

But the size may be a problem, and we found it very difficult to find somewhere that could house such a large device. Due to this issue, we ended up testing it on our TV stand in front of the screen, but this meant that we couldn't use both at the same time. We would recommend that you clear a dedicated space before investing.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

How easy is the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin to set up?

Due to a lack of settings and physical controls on the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin, the setup is very simple. Simply plug in the power cable and attach it to the port at the back of the speaker, and it should spring to life. Then download the B&W app and allow it to search for the Zeppelin. If you have more than one device from the brand, you can organize them into spaces.

Straight away, you can use the device as a Bluetooth speaker, and we were immediately able to connect our music via Spotify Connect. It also works with Roon, which will please the hardcore music fans among us. To use the built-in Alexa, you will need an existing Amazon account. Simply log in through the app, and your Zeppelin will become a smart speaker.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin viewed from behind

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

How does the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin perform?

The most striking thing about the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin outside of its appearance is the audio. Clear and weighty, we were unable to find a genre of music that didn't sound fantastic. Whether it was classic rock, Taylor Swift's pop-iest offerings, or Noah Cyrus' quiet and folksy new album, it would have been easy to just stop what we were doing and experience our favorite tunes all over again.

Alexa also works very well, picking up our voice from the hallway outside my lounge with no problem.

Despite an excellent performance where it arguably counts most, the Zeppelin will likely frustrate those who want to be able to use analog controls to guide their tech. The speaker is similar to Bower & Wilkins Panorama 3 soundbar in that it expects people to use the app for almost everything. Physical controls are limited to volume, play/pause, and an Alexa button that, when pressed, turns the microphone on or off.

The company has opted for simplicity, no doubt hoping to entice those who aren't interested in the plethora of settings and options that can often come with high-end audio products. Unfortunately, it may have the opposite effect.

Would we recommend the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin?

We have no hesitation in recommending the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin as a home speaker. The in-built Alexa is a fantastic extra that makes this one of the most attractive and best smart speakers we've tested. This is the solution if you're not keen on Amazon's own designs. Our big complaints are the size and heft of the speaker, which, admittedly, maybe a plus for some people, and the vagueness of the controls. If you don't have a streaming music account, you won't get much out of the Zeppelin. Still, taking into account these grumbles, if you have the space, this is a good modern speaker that would make a great addition to your home.

About this review

Reviews on Livingetc are based on hands-on experience with the products we're writing about. We test everything in a real home environment to ensure our thoughts are authentic and our recommendations are as honest and relevant as possible. The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin was kindly provided to us for review purposes and tested over several weeks in the writer's home. For more about our review process, head over to our page on how we create buying guides.