Bowers & Wilkins’s Z2 may not be their Zeppelin Air model, but for nearly half the price you get one fine Airplay / iPhone 5 docking station that seriously impresses for its nimble size.
To that effect, the Z2 is small in size but delivers big in sound. This dock fills a room with a rich balanced listening experience. The music emanating out of it is crisp and clear – and that applies to when either an iPhone is docked or an iOS device is streaming to it over Airplay. Furthermore, the overall footprint of the Z2 is minimal and easily fits into any surrounding. So whether placed in a home or office – the Z2 is can easily be heard without having to be seen.
The Z2 packs in the latest class D amplifiers, along with Bowers & Wilkins proprietary Digital Signal Processing and a low-noise power supply for a clean, clear audio signal that fills rooms without any rattle or hum. The company has also brought down their Flowport technology to the Z2. Flowport is a design feature found on their more expensive top-range speakers, so that the dimples around the port on the rear effectively ensure a cleaner, clearer, richer bass response.
Not that the Z2 is hard on the eyes, its clean lines and simple black finish make it similar with the common style of many wireless speaker systems on the market today. However, the major difference for this speaker is the fact that it feels as good as it looks. While other ‘black’ wireless speaker docks often sport a cheap plasticity look, the Z2 is rugged yet refined for all different types of purveyors of sound, and its quality materials stand out amongst its peers.
And while many companies might be moving away from the traditional iPhone/iPod speaker dock form-factor with a dedicated connector, Bowers & Wilkins hasn’t completely shied away from it. It’s nice to have the Lightning connector readily accessible for easy docking – allowing for streaming of music via multiple avenues. The Lightning connector works with iPhone 5, iPod touch (5th generation) and iPod nano (7th generation). Notably, we also have had no problem keeping our iPhone 5′s case on while the iPhone 5 is docked in the Z2.
But unfortunately, while the experience of streaming your music via Airplay is the main attraction for the Z2, it isn’t as seamless as we would have hoped for. Included in the box are no instructions what-so-ever on how to setup the Airplay functionality. Instead we had to go to the product website to begin the process of getting setup which begins with downloading the Z2 control App. However, once the App is downloaded on your iOS device – you can easily program the Airplay functionality to work. After a few clicks the Airplay is connected and you are ready to go. The App is intuitive and gives you the option of naming the speaker, so if you stream to multiple devices in your home, you know exactly which one the Z2 is.
Bowers & Wilkins Z2 is leading the pack in the crowded compact iPhone 5 / iOS device speaker market. It offers a warm and inviting listening experience, and while the sonics are balanced, the bass is very impressive for such a small speaker too. Furthermore, its slim and black design doesn’t impose on a room, but it actually enhances it, while the small footprint keeps it out of sight. The Z2 is a small treasure hiding in the shadows. So much so that you’ll fool people into thinking that there is a larger speaker hidden somewhere in the room. Would it have been nice for it to also have some sort of bluetooth connectivity for music streaming from other devices – sure. But for now, this is an iOS exclusive system and we are fine with that . The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 retails for $399.99, and it’s also available in a choice of white or black. Granted, you can easily find a similarly sized iPhone 5 dock for less then the cost of the Z2, but we highly recommend shelling out the extra cash for the amazing audio experience you’ll get from the Z2.
The Good: Sounds and looks amazing. Balanced and rich with a warm bass pulls all of the sonics together. Audio is able to get loud without audio getting distorted. Design aesthetic flows throughout the system down to the included remote.
The Bad: Top side attracts dust easily. No Airplay set-up instructions in the box.