At first glance, Bowers & Wilkins' PX7 are an excellent set of intuitive, noise cancelling headphones. It'll be interesting to hear how well the adaptive ANC works in different environments once we get our hands on a review sample.
- Review Price: £349
- Black and grey finishes
- Four levels of active noise cancellation
- Adaptive noise cancellation
- 30 hours of battery
Bowers & Wilkins recently revealed its latest additions to its PX range, and sitting at the top is the Bowers & Wilkins PX7. The new headphones features four levels of active noise cancellation, including an adaptive auto mode that adjusts the levels of ambient noise to fit your environment.
With 30 hours of battery, a new Qualcomm codec and a flexible carbon fibre frame, could these wireless headphones present a challenge for top spot in the wireless headphone market?
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 design – Conceived to stand up to everyday use
The PX7 headphones are designed with everyday use in mind and that’s reflected in every step of their design.
The arms are molded out of a carbon fibre plastic composite which B&W claims makes them as strong as a more traditional steel or aluminium frame. This material allows them to be incredibly light and flexible while still standing up to the wear and tear that comes with everyday use.
While the frame is easy to bend by hand, it feels a little less forgiving on the ears. The headphones are by no means uncomfortable, but after getting to experience the weightlessness of the in-ear PI3, these over-ear headphones did feel quite snug.
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Luckily, the memory foam earpads are as soft as they look, with the foam used to offer comfort and reinforce noise cancellation while still being able to bounce back to their original shape when the headphones aren’t in use.
Bluetooth, ANC and play/pause and volume control buttons frame the outer edge of the earcups. The buttons and switches feel a little more old school than the touch controls on some of B&W’s competitors.
The tap to play and swipe to skip options on the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, for example, feel modern and intuitive to use. The physical buttons on the PX7 don’t feel as smooth but they are very easy to navigate the first time you pick them up which is a nice surprise on such a feature-packed set of headphones.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 sound – A promisingly large and engaging soundstage
A big selling point for the PX7 performance-wise is their distinct stereo image. Bowers & Wilkins particularly enjoyed showing off a recording of Annabelle by Macy Gray captured in a decommissioned Brooklyn church, and it’s easy to see why. It wasn’t hard to identify the guitar on the left, the footsteps in the distance and Gray herself front and centre when the vocals chime in.
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You really do get a good sense of where everything lies in the room. The soundstage is large and the dynamics punchy, inviting the music to paint an incredibly vivid and captivating picture.
The ANC also doesn’t affect the sound quality the way it can with budget headphones. The TaoTronics SoundSurge 46, for example, felt like they lost some clarity and dynamism with the noise cancelling feature switched off, but the PX7 sound perfectly clear with and without ANC and that’s a really nice bonus.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 features – Adaptive noise-cancellation works well
A clear standout feature for the PX7 is adaptive noise cancellation, made possible by Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec.
In all, there are four levels of ANC (if you count no active noise cancellation at all): Off, Low, Auto mode and High. Low is the lowest level of noise cancelling available, aside from off, but its still pretty substantial.
I could just about make out the voices around me but they were muted enough that they didn’t disrupt the music. High ANC blocked out almost everything – loud speaking voices snuck through as very low murmurs but I couldn’t have tuned into what they were saying if I’d wanted to.
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Auto mode is designed to adapt and adjust to the environment you’re moving through and I happened to be in a very loud room, meaning that auto had the same effect as the high setting. It’s easy to see how this Auto mode could be useful in rapidly changing environments like taking off on a flight or turning onto a particularly crowded street.
Cycling through the four settings didn’t feel the most natural at first. I assumed that Auto would follow Low and High, almost like an additional feature. In hindsight though, it does make sense for Auto mode to live between High and Low, with the noise cancellation levels fluctuating between the two.
Another feature that stood out was the button on the left earcup that temporarily pauses whatever you’re listening to so you can listen to what’s happening around you – particularly useful for train announcements or if you’re order a coffee. Automatic playing and pause when you put on and take off the headphones was also impressive.
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The light grey hard shell carry case looks really beautiful and – along with the 30 hour battery life – sets the PX7 up to be a great set to travel with. That being said, the over-ears are the most bulky in the range, so if you’re specifically looking for something to travel with, the PX5 on-ears with their fold flat case, or even the entry-level PI3 earphones, might be more your speed.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 – Early Verdict
At first glance, Bowers & Wilkins’ PX7 are an excellent set of intuitive, noise cancelling headphones. One feature I felt I didn’t have time to properly explore was the adaptive noise cancellation.
It would be interesting to try the ANC auto mode in different environments, each with varying volume levels, to conclude whether the PX7 are worth the hefty £349 price tag.
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