This newest version of the iconic Zeppelin line of iDevice speakers from Bowers & Wilkins adds wireless streaming. The Zeppelin Air includes Apple’s AirPlay technology, so you can play music from iTunes on your PC or Mac as well as any iDevice – iPod, iPod touch, iPhone or iPad, as long as it is running iOS 4.2 or later. You can also connect your Apple device directly to the speaker. There is an Ethernet port on the back too in case your wireless connection goes down.
The original Zeppelin was renowned for its rich, deep sound, with the bass coming through particularly strongly, and this one continues that tradition. It looks pretty impressive too, but is pricey – units start at around £500.
This unit begins at around £100 and features a radio built in, but disappointingly it’s not digital so the choice of radio stations is quite small. One rather impressive feature is that it has two docking points, so two iDevices can be charged at the same time while one of them plays. The sound is surprisingly impressive for such a small speaker set (326x135x130mm) and it’s light, weighing 1.6kg without batteries.
Coming in at a palatable £50, the Pure-Fi Express Plus from Logitech features omnidirectional speakers, so sound is pumped out from the front and back, meaning the music is clear even if you’re behind the speakers. As is often the case with lower-end speakers, you do get a bit of distortion if playing music at top volume, but it still performs better than most of the competition at this price point.
How excited can you get about a cube-shaped speaker dock? Very, in the case of the Arcam rCube. It’s small, taking up less physical space than a football, and weighs around 5kg. The lip on top opens up to reveal a handle, while according to the makers the unit’s speakers are placed to provide the same clarity of sound – which is very impressive for such a small product – no matter where you are in relation to the rCube or whether you are listening to music at top volume or at a whisper.
Like the Zeppelin Air the rCube can be used to stream music wirelessly (although you will need a wireless dongle for that, at additional cost) and can also be hooked up to a TV, making it a perfect accompaniment in your living room. It has something else in common with the Zeppelin Air… prices start at £500.
Roberts Sound MP-53
Another iPod dock/radio player combination, this Roberts effort just trumps the JVC speaker because the radio is digital and it adds a CD player as well, giving this a real living room hi-fi feel. The CD playback features WMA capabilities and the device is also equipped with a USB and SD card slot to record music from the CD or radio. The alarm functionality can wake you up with a buzzer, the radio or music from your iPod, CD, SD card or USB memory device.
The sound is impressive (which you would expect from a device costing around £250) and it scores highly in the looks department as well. It has a clear blue LCD panel on the front and the volume dial also has a fetching blue ring around it. The rest of the Roberts Sound MP-53 is in a high-gloss piano-black finish.