bowers & wilkins

Review: The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 Airplay Speaker Is Bowm-Chicka-Wow-Wow

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Short Version:

The Z2 wireless Airplay speaker from Bowers & Wilkins is a perfectly suitable option for those of us looking for a sightly, powerful, and compact speaker system. Anyone who’s already invested in Bowers & Wilkins systems before, like the Zeppelin Air or the A line should be especially considerate of the sexy little Z2, as it will fit in seamlessly with your current set-up in a relatively quieter room or space like a bedroom or bathroom.

Features:

  • Airplay
  • Flexible Lightning Dock
  • Black and White options
  • 2x 3.5-inch full range drivers
  • 20 watt-per-channel stereo amplifier
  • Price: $399
  • Availability: April for black, June for white

Pros:

  • Flexible dock keeps iPhone safe
  • Sleek, minimalist design
  • Powerful, crisp audio
  • Easy peasy setup

Cons:

  • Same remote as older generation B&W models
  • Doesn’t have the same recognizable design as the Zeppelin, if that’s what you’re into

Long Version:

The B&W Z2 is as easy on the eyes as it is on the ears. The dock sinks below the upper ridge of the round, compact speaker making it somewhat invisible from most angles. The rounded shape turns both drivers out to fill up the room, and it surprisingly fits a lot of power into a very smal package.

The whole thing is no more than about 7-inches tall, a foot wide, and four inches deep, and the only thing you might notice is a small LED light on the bottom right of the device to signify pairing, on and off, etc.

The Lightning dock is built onto a hinge so it bends as you insert and remove your iPhone 5. Of course, this excludes anyone without an iPhone 5 or new generation iPods from docking, since the 30-pin isn’t compatible and iPads are too wide.

Setup is a breeze. Just download the Bowers & Wilkins Airplay Setup app and follow the handful of easy steps. Just be ready to have your wifi network info at the ready.

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When you’re done, you’ll be able to throw music from your phone to the Z2 (or from Z2 bedroom to Z2 kitchen or Zeppelin Air Living room or A5 bathroom or whatever combination you can afford) and achieve a much richer, fuller experience that follows you around your house and not the other way around.

Of course, not everything is perfect. If you’re putting extra strain on your Wifi network while streaming to the Z2, especially if that extra strain is coming from the same device that’s streaming, there are bound to be a few drops or off moments. However, I’ve found the Z2 to be more reliable than the A7 I tested a few months ago, so there’s progress being made.

On a brighter note, the Z2 offers a surprisingly excellent listening experience given its size. Whether it was to entertain at a loud party or have something pleasing on in the background, the Z2 always sounded great and had a deep but clear bass. It’s the cheapest offering to date from a company that’s been a pack leader in the wireless iOS audio world. And it lives up to its brand name.

The remote isn’t changed at all from the A7 or original Zeppelin systems, which is annoying if only because it seems stagnant for a company that always seems to be cognizant of the maxim: “Iterate, iterate, iterate.”

All in all, it’s a solid little speaker for a fair price, and worth some serious consideration from audiophile iPhone 5 owners and B&W loyalists.

To learn more about the Z2 and it’s companion the Zeppelin Air, check out the video below, or feel free to read up the all-wireless A7 from B&W in our review right here.