I am a confessed critic of wireless noise-canceling headphones, and many boxes need to be ticked. So let’s see how the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 gets on. So Bowers & Wilkins released these headphones in June 2022 with a retail price of $379 as the replacement of the original PX 7S released in 2019.
PX7 S2 promises an updated slim-down design, new drive units in the ear cups, upgraded microphones, enhanced ANC, active noise cancellation, and new materials that should offer upgraded comfort. So all sounds pretty promising then, but we all know marketing teams can do a great job promoting new releases, and they need to live up to the hype.
Plus, there is one curve ball that Bowers & Wilkins has thrown out there, which I’ll return to at the end of this review. I own a pair of the original PX 7S, and at the time of their release, I loved the sound of them.
And while I still rate the sound quality, and they’re up there with the better-sounding headphones that I own, the design and comfort, while good, could be better.
Unboxing Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
So first things first, I love the packaging. There’s a premium feel to Bowers & Wilkins that you can’t deny. The box feels really hard-wearing, so that’ll be great for protecting your headphones if you chuck them in a bag. The lining in the case feels nice, and that’s where the cables are, so they’re neatly tucked away, and it’s magnetic, too, so you’re not ever going to lose it.
We’ve got the blue and gold finish, which is new for PX7 S2, and a light gray option, and you can still get the classic black if you are a fan of that. Again, the packaging screams premium. They looked good in the released promo pictures but holding them, the overall built quality feels excellent, and the button’s materials also feel high-end.
Design of Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
Now speaking of buttons, we’ve got a power and pairing switch. We’ve got a multi-functioning button for playback, so it’s just one press for playback, twice to skip track, three times to go back, and then call management. So you can press to answer or end a call. You’ve also got volume buttons, and the multi-function button in the middle is textured, so you can tell what’s what.
Then, a quick action button on the left ear cup will cycle through ANC and pass through and off modes. You can change that button in the app to summon your voice assistant, but swap is only a little popular. I wish they added touch control, but they’ve decided to stick with buttons on this design.
I know that’s down to personal preference, but touch would’ve been my preferred choice. You’ve got a USB-C port, which you can use for both chargings and for passing high-res audio through the wired connection, which you only get on some headphones. And this is a handy option for some of you.
I definitely much prefer this model to the older models. These are a nice upgrade in design, and they have done away with the carbon fiber arms. Other parts are plastic composite, but they’re really solid. They definitely don’t feel plasticky at all. You’ve also got the accents with the aluminum in gold on this model and the classic big statement logo here in true B&W style. I don’t mind it, but some of you would prefer it to be more subtle, but not a problem.
This upgraded design feels more modern, and they slim down the profile dropping three centimeters off the dimension of the new PX7 S2. But the ear cups are now improved to memory foam, and they can swivel in either direction, which means they sit better around your neck. Still no luck with foldable ear cups, which means the case is slightly larger and takes up more space in your backpack.
They offer a better seal than the previous model and don’t feel like putting as much pressure on my head and ears. They also have reworked the design to distribute the clamping force better. So that will improve the seal for audio performance but also take a bit of pressure off your head.
Comfort-wise, I’d be happy wearing these for longer, and the redesign of the drivers within the ear cups, which I’ll explain in the sound section, has another benefit: there’s more depth in the ear cups. So this means you’re less likely to get sweaty ears, which will help keep your ears cooler for longer.
Performance Test Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
For the past weeks using this, I’ve definitely enjoyed testing these out. They feel familiar, but they’ve got some nice upgrades to make me enjoy using them. Firstly, the ConnectUp in the Bowers & Wilkins music app is the same app you’d use for the latest version of the Zeppelin or Panorama 3. This feature is a first for Bowers & Wilkins headphones. You usually have to use a separate Bowers & Wilkins headphone app.
But they’ve decided to bring the PX7 S2 into this music app. Visually, I like the app. It looks nice, and it’s just laid out well. You can use the app to tweak the EQ, adjust noise cancellation modes, wear sensors, and show which device you’re connected to. Bowers and Wilkins have also said you will be able to stream directly from the music app as you do with the Zeppelin, for example, which will be interesting to see how this performs.
One nice feature is that the headphones will remember the sound setting that you choose in the app. So even if you connect via a different device, you still get the EQ preferences that you’ve set. Bear in mind, you don’t get super extensive EQs, it’s a very simple bass and treble slider option, which will be a bit of a shame for some of you, but you will find it in my sound quality section that’s not been as much of an issue for me as I first thought.
Sound Quality Bowers and Wilkins PX7 S2
They’ve had a solid foundation to build on from the originals, but there is still a significant step up with the PX7 S2. They’re the best we’ve tested in this price range, and overall the separation and clarity have been improved, and the bass has leveled up. It steers clear of being boomy. It’s very controlled, yet it does sound deep as well. I’m still looking for frequency measurements from Bowers and Wilkins, but every genre we’ve tested did sound great, from very bass-heavy dance music to classical.
It was all strong, which is why I’m not too bothered that I can’t adjust the EQ all that much, and everything about the way the sound has Bowers & Wilkins DNA running through it, which for me, is a good thing. I like their sound signature, and these are, without a doubt, the best-sounding wireless headphones Bowers and Wilkins have made to date.
With these new headphones, we’ve got a slightly smaller drive unit, down to 40 millimeters from 43.7 millimeters in the originals. Although the drivers are revised custom 40 millimeters drivers with a low distortion bio-cellulose diaphragm, which sounds like a lot of jargon, real-world testing means you should get a more refined audio performance.
Technology on Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
As I mentioned earlier, the drive units have also been angled so that they direct the sound directly into your ear. It is clever tech for this price point. It’s typically found in audiophile-quality headphones at a much higher price. Their design will also offer a more natural sound stage as the angle driver design keeps them at a consistent distance from your ear.
Some other clever technology is going on internally, including updated magnets to produce new cones. So without getting too into the nitty-gritty, what you can expect from these headphones is better details and resolution, a smoother high-frequency curve, and reduced distortion.
You do have a few options for listening with these headphones. So firstly, you have the standard Bluetooth, which is Bluetooth 5.0. I’ve tested connecting these to my iPhone and MacBook and easily swapped between the two. There are no issues so far, and connecting them has been quick and seamless; for me, a multi-point connection is a must. So big tick in the box for the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2.
You also have support for multiple codecs, so we’ve got SBC, AAC, APTX, APTX HD, and APTX Adaptive. There’s yet to be any support for the high-end LDAC-codec so that you won’t get the highest possible bitrate out of audio streams over Bluetooth, and we would’ve liked to have seen Bluetooth 5.2 at this price.
That being said, they can handle up to 24-bit audio, but for these headphones to work, you must pair them with a high res streaming service that supports this spec and a phone that offers the Apex HD or Adaptive Codex. Unfortunately, this does rule Apple devices out.
Active Noice Cancellation for Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
So onto ANC, which is a major selling point of these headphones. We’ve got a few improvements with a tweaked DSP to counteract the external noise and a new microphone pattern. So you’ve got four microphones out of the six dedicated to noise canceling, and then you’ve got a dual voice calibrated mic system, which should be able to pick up your voice better. On the whole, there is a step up in this department from the originals.
There’s no notable hissing noise when the ANC is on and working, which I cannot stand. We’ve tested them out in the office, outside, by a busy road, and on the whole, they perform better than the originals. These performed well in indoor spaces but not to the same standard when we were out and about.
With things like wind noise, I initially thought that the Bose 700 and the Sony XM5s were stronger in noise cancellation. But I need to do more testing, and I’ll share my thoughts on that in our upcoming comparison article.
You’ve got the different modes you switch between in the app. Uh, noise cancellation on pass-through or noise cancellation off. On the previous model, you could select the level of noise cancellation, but there isn’t that option on the PX7 S2. One handy feature is that you can tap the button on the left ear to shuffle through the different modes, so you don’t need to select it in the app. It will also indicate which mode you’re on with different beeps.
Call Quality on Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
Call quality is also essential for me on a pair of headphones, so if these are going to be a good fit for me, then I’d be using them a lot for calls while working. And from our testing, this is one area where this shine. I called someone from the office, and they didn’t realize I was using headphones and said the core quality was the same as if I was speaking on my phone.
They perform better indoors than outdoors, but there are no significant issues, and overall, I’m pleased with how PX7 S2 performed in this area.
Battery Life on Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
They have more improvements on the battery as well. They’ve dropped the charge time down on the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 from three hours to two, which is pretty good.
And you get 30 hours battery with ANC on, which is strong and means these can quite easily be used for working and traveling. You’ve also got a quick charge feature where a quick 15 minutes charge will give you an additional seven hours of battery, which is very decent.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 Versus Sony XM5
We have already received some questions on how these compare with the new Sony XM5. Well, I’ve been using the Sony XM5 daily since they launched, and so far, I love them. But we need to have a separate comparison article to cover thoroughly, which I would buy if I were torn between the two models.
But my initial thoughts from testing are, firstly, the PX7 S2 has the edge in terms of premium design quality. While the Sony XM5 is a step up from previous models, they are still a bit more plastic and could be more aesthetically pleasing for me. However, they are more lightweight due to the materials used and are probably the comfier option.
Now there are a few tests that I want to carry out, so I’ll be sure to include all that in our upcoming comparison.
My Verdict on Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
So for me, Bowers and Wilkins have taken a popular headphone and made it even better. They offer the build and sound quality that Bowers and Wilkins became famous for. And while Bowers has released some excellent products over the years, these are a step up from recent. In contrast, I can’t put my finger on why Bowers is back in the game stronger than ever with these headphones.
Truthfully, these might be the best wireless headphones we’ve tested under the $400 mark for build and sound. They have also made them more comfortable, something I’ve criticized in the past. But they are not as comfortable as other options out there. Things to note if you consider these are that these aren’t the most feature-rich headphones out there.
What they have got, they do well, and it might be enough for lots of you, but they are missing a 3.5-millimeter jack. For example, although you are supplied with a USB to 3.5 mil cable, some might be slightly disappointed. They’re also relatively portable. They also don’t have touch capacity.
Again, that’ll be a pro for some and a con for others, and you might find better noise cancellation on other models. Now that curve ball that I mentioned earlier. Bowers and Wilkins have also teased an upcoming release of a new flagship pair of headphones, the PX8, later this year, which is expected to retail at $499. The company has stated that there’ll be a no-holds-barred Wireless ANC model and the most advanced headphone to date.
This sounds exciting, but I’m sure some of you have the same thought. Should I hold off on the PX7 S2 and wait for something better? You need to consider your budget and what you need if you have a maximum budget of $400, and these PX7 S2 tick the right boxes for you.
Then there’s your answer. But if you’ve got a bit of room to play with and could push to the $500 mark, then you may want to hold off on that price point; of course, it puts the PX8 in the same territory as the Apple AirPods Max and with the rumored AirPods Max V2 on the way. That’s one comparison I really can’t wait for later this year.
For now, though, what are your thoughts on the PX7 S2? Let us know in the discussion below. Thanks for reading, guys, and I’ll catch you next time.