Classic British speaker brand Bowers & Wilkins has been wowing hi-fi enthusiasts with superb loudspeakers for over half a century. Recently, the venerable British audio company has moved into the field of wireless speakers and headphones in a market that’s beginning to look very crowded.
Bowers & Wilkins has just launched the PX7 S2, its latest wireless headphones with ANC (active noise canceling) and. I’ve managed to get my hands on a pair for review. These new headphones are the successor to the original PX7, launched a year or two back. The original PX7 were well received, but these new headphones address some of the issues with the original model.
It’s fair to say that the market leader in wireless ANC headphones right now is Sony. The company’s latest WH-1000XM5 headphones have superbly supple earpads and they feel incredibly light to wear. Moreover, the ANC technology used by Sony is second to none. It’s a brave competitor that challenges the market leader, but if anyone is going to give Sony a run for its money, it will be Bowers & Wilkins with these new PX7 S2 headphones.
The difference between the PX7 S2 and the previous model is instantly noticeable. These headphones are available in three slick new finishes: grey, blue and black. The all-new construction looks and feels much better, plus the headphones have been designed to be far more comfortable to wear, especially on extended listening sessions.
The shape of the PX7 S2 is slimmer than the original version and the weight has been reduced to 307g. They feel even lighter thanks to clever engineering with the headband that has reduced the clamping pressure between the ears. Wearing the PX7 S2 is a much closer experience to wearing a pair of Sony WH-1000XM5. The luxurious earpads have a buttery soft covering and they’re stuffed with improved memory foam to cushion the listener’s ears.
As you might expect from Bowers & Wilkins, the PX7 S2 have been designed for discerning audiophiles and it’s here where Bowers & Wilkins scores over the competition. There are four ANC microphones for sampling unwanted sounds and the engineers have refined the ANC performance with new technology that shuts out unwanted noise without degrading the audio quality.
An array of four high-performance microphones is used for the ANC function. Two microphones measure the output of the PX7 S2’s 43mm custom drivers, while two capture ambient noise from the outside world. Two other noise-canceling microphones pick up the user’s voice for phone calls and Zoom meetings. Careful positioning and angling of the microphones improve the performance of the headphones, even in the noisiest environments.
The PX7 S2’s ANC quality is excellent and easily up there with Sony headphones. I’d be happy to take them on a long-haul flight because they cancel out nearly all unwanted sounds and they feel very comfortable. There are three ANC modes available: Off, On and Transparency. The Transparency mode is perfect for hearing what is happening around the user and it’s a great way to listen out for travel announcements or any potential danger. Most importantly, the ANC function doesn’t impair the music; audiophiles will love these headphones.
Bowers & Wilkins has decided not to use swiping or touch-sensitive controls unlike many headphone brands. Instead, the PX7 S2 headphones use traditional clickable buttons. On the right-hand earcup, there’s a cluster of three buttons that can adjust volume levels, skip tracks or pause music. Next to the cluster of buttons is a power slider that also works as a pairing button to establish a Bluetooth wireless connection with the source device. The controls are easy to use and I prefer them to touch-sensitive or swiping controls which can be too easy to trigger accidentally. The left earcup also has a single button for cycling through the three available ANC modes.
The PX7 S2 headphones are powered by a lithium polymer rechargeable battery that can provide up to 30 hours of listening time from a single charge. That’s more than enough juice for a transatlantic return flight. If the user forgets to charge up the headphones, a quick 15-minute burst charge will furnish a reasonable 7 hours of playing time. It’s an excellent feature for anyone who is about to leave for work and realizes there’s no power left in their headphones.
To ensure the wireless sound of the PX7 S2 is second to none, even when using ANC, Bowers & Wilkins has turned to Qualcomm for the latest lossless audio chipset. The headphones support Qualcomm’s latest aptX Adaptive audio codec, which can deliver 24-bit, lossless audio with compatible sources. And thanks to support for Apple’s AAC codec, those of us using Apple iOS devices haven’t been forgotten. AAC isn’t a lossless codec, but it is a high-quality one. Bowers & Wilkins has used the latest Bluetooth 5.2 version and supports a range of Bluetooth profiles for high-quality phone calls over Bluetooth.
Bowers & Wilkins has developed an all-new acoustic platform for delivering high-resolution audiophile sound. The custom-designed 43mm bio-cellulose driver units have been designed especially for headphone listening so that the headphones sound more like loudspeakers. The result is a uniquely compelling sound with a wonderfully tight bass that’s warm and rhythmic but without being syrupy.
The great bass response on the PX7 S2 provides an excellent foundation for the midrange, which is pitch perfect thanks to well-balanced tuning that projects vocals with superb clarity. Likewise, the treble frequencies are sweet and sharp enough to bring the soundstage into focus with accuracy and clarity, particularly when it comes to electric guitars or the crash of cymbals. There’s nothing I’d change about the sound of the PX7 S2, but if you want to tweak things, the Bowers & Wilkins Music app has great tone controls for finessing the sound.
The Music app is a work in progress that promises to be a great companion to the PX7 S2 headphones. Eventually, you will be able to use the app to stream music directly to the headphones, but, in the meantime, it can be used to update the headphones’ firmware. The app also displays the remaining battery charge and controls for EQ adjustment to shape the sound to the user’s preferences.
Verdict: Bowers & Wilkins has done a brilliant job of making the PX7 S2 the headphones that the original PX7 very nearly were. The comfort levels are much improved and the finish of the headphones is slick with a choice of three elegant colors. Regarding the ANC function, I think the PX7 S2 headphones are up there with Sony. That said, there’s no adaptive ANC, but these headphones effectively filter out most unwanted sounds and they do it without compromising the quality of the music. In choosing Qualcomm’s latest Bluetooth chipset, the PX7 S2 can provide lossless music without wires and with stunning sound quality. The distortion levels are low, so listening to the PX7 S2 for long periods is possible without developing a headache. Bowers & Wilkins has done a great job with the PX7 S2 and audiophiles will love the sound. Highly Recommended.
Pricing & Availability: The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 are now available adn cost $399 / £379 / €429 from the Bowers & Wilkins website and select dealers.
More info: www.bowerswilkins.com
- Wearing style: Over the ears (circumaural).
- Bluetooth: Version 5.2.
- Codecs: aptX Adaptive / aptX HD / aptX / AAC / SBC.
- Bluetooth profiles: A2DP / AVRCP / HFP / HSP / BLE GATT.
- Drive units: 2 x 43.6mm dynamic full range bio-cellulose driver
- Microphones: 4 x ANC / 2 x telephony.
- Distortion: <0.1% (1kHz/10mW)
- Battery type: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer
- Battery life: 30 hours playback
- Charge time: 2 hours.
- Inputs: Bluetooth, USB-C Audio
- Accessories: 1.2m USB-C-to-3.5mm stereo jack audio cable / 1.2m USB-C cable / carry case.
- Dimensions (carry case): 89 x 63 x 233mm (WxDxH)
- Weight: 307g (without carry case)