Help! My Zeppelin Has Developed a Fault!

5th May 2010

My B&W Zeppelin’s strange noise wasn’t going to go away by itself. Some constructive testing was required, along with some research on the B&W website. When an iPod Touch or iPhone was connected, and the unit switched on, it would make a noise best described as a racing engine idling. A rough hum, higher than a mains hum, with occasional changes in pitch. Then the dreaded flashing red light of trouble. It wasn”t for talking over the USB interface to my Windows 7 x64 laptop, and a thorough clean of everything did not help. Sound on the aux line was initially fine, but subsequently developed the hum and then the red light of trouble.

I dispatched an e-mail via the website contact form, detailing the above and including some other information. The time was 21:17 on 5th May.

6th May 2010

At 10:53, I received an e-mail from a named individual at B&W. The first sentence was an apology. The message contained clear explanation of how to proceed with returning the Zeppelin to B&W. Signed with a direct line phone number. I had a couple of actions from the e-mail, and phoned the next day.

7th May 2010

Almost zero wait time on the phone before speaking to someone who was properly fluent in English. I’m guessing located in the UK, but all I need is the fluency. We discussed the return process, and I mentioned that, yes, I had the poly ends that support the unit, but my box was black, not the brown to which she had referred. “Ah, you have the retail packaging. It’s not really suitable for transit. I’ll send you a box via DHL.”

10th May 2010

The box arrives, along with an e-mail telling me that the box is on its way. I packed the Zeppelin up.

11th May 2010

I called DHL. Lady was a bit dim-witted but helpful. The box was uplifted from my house the following day.

13th May 2010

An e-mail arrives, from the same person as on 10th May, telling me that they have the Zeppelin, but apologising for the estimated two week turnaround that was also the advice from the phone lady.

14th May 2010

Ian’s been on the e-mail again. Apologising again for the inconvenience. The Zeppelin is fixed, and winging its way back to me. I’m starting to miss the unit, but I’m really content with the progress so far.

18th May 2010

I spent an hour or so in a meeting discussing shifting a Storage Area Network from Edinburgh to Glasgow. (Don’t worry, this is relevant). One of the folk in the meeting is noted for becoming obsessed with particular details. He was orating at length about how the engineers booked for the move don’t wrap the kit in bags before packing it in polystyrene, so the little beads get into the kit, “and you never know when they”re going to clog a fan or something and the whole lot’s busted”.

The Zeppelin is back. Returned to me in the box B&W sent me to return it to them. Inside the poly ends. In a bag, inside the poly ends! Cleaned, and good as new.

I plugged in my Touch, and hit up some Psychopath by Hardknox (Link). It’s back, and sounding awesome.


The Zeppelin is hardcore. It’s top-notch. It’s also effing expensive. There are people who will put you in a backwards-facing jacket for dropping four hundred on an iPod dock, but then these are not people whose iPod is populated with lossless-format tunes. The fact is that the Zeppelin is perfect for the conservatory, where it’s stylish and unobtrusive, right to the moment that it can fill the entire street with sound.

The remarkable thing about this episode is the way in which B&W managed it. Their customer service was beyond awesome from start to finish. There was not a weak link in the chain, and the unit was back to me within two weeks. Fixed, and cleaned. I tweeted about the start of the incident and quickly had a response. I’m more impressed than I can express, and to me it justifies a continuance of our stance that all operational speakers in our house are B&Ws. I just have two remaining hopes:

  1. That we never have to return the in-walls we’re planning on installing later in the year, and
  2. That I had the space and the money for a set of the 800-series diamonds.

Thanks B&W.