Bowers Wilkins has been making excellent speakers in the United Kingdom for nearly half a century. The company’s studio monitors sit atop the mixing desks at world-famous studios like Abbey Road, and its free-standing home stereo speakers have long been among the first choice for hi-fi nuts looking to upgrade from their Polk Audios or KLH Thirty Twos.
But most North Americans only became aware of the venerable speaker company when the iPod showed up. Bowers Wilkins made the first really awesome-sounding iPod dock, the Zeppelin. The oblong doobie sat on shelves at Apple Stores, drawing the eyes and ears of passersby like a big, black, elliptical showpiece. The Zeppelin Air, which saw a slight speaker redesign and the addition of AirPlay compatibility, followed in 2011. The $600 price tag, while justified given the Zeppelin Air’s power and sound quality, was just too high for most people to consider spending on a dock.
Here’s something less expensive but still high quality: the Z2. Bowers Wilkins has gone with a subtler design for its latest AirPlay speaker, moving on from the Brancusian whimsy of the Zeppelin and arriving at something more stark and universally appealing. The Z2 has a pair of forward-facing 3.5-inch drivers, powered by discrete 20-watt Class D amplifiers. There’s a dimpled bass