Most helpful critical review
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing if you love the original Zeppelin, otherwise still impressive.
on November 18, 2009
I've been looking forward to this product since its introduction more than a month ago. I loved the original Zeppelin, but was excited about the smaller form factor and a USB digital connection in the Zeppelin Mini. Call me naive, I was actually hoping that the sound quality would be quite comparable to that of the original Zeppelin. As the B&W's website says:
"With Zeppelin Mini, you get everything you love about Zeppelin - advanced acoustic technology, intelligent design, elegant connectivity - in a streamlined, compact sound dock package that's perfect for desktops and bedside tables. "
But I was let down; the two speakers produce completely different sound. Pop music (I tried out Rhianna and Britney Spears) sounded okay due to the typically louder treble and bass in the recording, although when played louder it sounded clearly distorted and hollow; classical symphonies (I tried out Brahms' Symphony #4 and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto #1) sounded disappointing - the entire bass section cannot be heard until the volume is cranked up really high!; classical solo and chamber music (I played Vivaldi's Four Season - Winter, 2.Largo) turned out to be surprisingly really good and in my opinion the best genre for this speaker. After turning on Bass enhancer on my iPod EQ setting (unlike the original Z, the Mini does not have an external bass/treble control), the bass can be heard more but is too obviously distorted - cracking sound can be heard at times.
The bass sounded more full when positioned closer to me. B&W claims that the introduction of a flowport (absent in the original Zeppelin) is designed to amplify the bass; I found the outcome to be nothing like that of the original Zeppelin. I also expect the bass to be thicker if the speaker is placed against a wall or a corner (instead of in the middle of a table at the Apple store)
With the addition of USB connectivity, I was originally very excited about the idea of directly syncing my iPod to iTunes, controlling iTunes using a remote, and most importantly, the capability of bypassing analog signal processing on a computer to the speaker. However, given the significantly compromised quality of sound (esp. lack of bass), the idea of producing better quality analog signal that would only be greatly sacrificed in bass production seems meaningless.
Nevertheless, I was impressed with the design of the Mini. The speaker is much smaller than I'd envisioned based on the gallery (and after checking out the sound quality was I wished it was bigger). The Mini is light but feels very solid when carried around. The design is much more classy than other iPod speakers: the chrome bowl mirror matches the back of the original iPod (if you still own one); when firmly attached to the docking arm, it can be elegantly turned 90 degrees for cover flow (isn't that the only reason to buy an iPod touch/iPhone?); controlling the iPod has never been easier with the inventive protruded docking arm design (same as the original Z). Most impressive to me, the enclosure of black cloth over the speaker (as opposed to the colder, more industrial wire mesh used in Bose and other iPod speakers) stands out among the crowd with exquisiteness.
If I were to choose a small iPod speaker based on what looks best for my apartment, I would definitely go with the Mini. As for sound quality, it sounded very impressive for classical chamber music, good enough for pop, but definitely not satisfying for classical symphonies. However, if you are certain that any larger speaker (e.g. the original Z) cannot be considered, it is quite a good choice. (And at this price I would choose it over Bose any day - there, I said it).