With the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 has yet again produce a worthy headphone, with great sound and some excellent features. The ANC is good, if not as strong as other headphones and the weight may be troublesome for some, but nevertheless these are one of, if not the, finest-sounding wireless headphones at their price point.
- Big, textured sound
- 30 hour battery life
- Wear sensor technology
- Ambient pass-through mode
- ANC could be stronger
- Wireless can get choppy in busy areas
- Review Price: £349
- aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive audio
- Wear Detection sensor
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Weight: 310g
- Adaptive noise cancellation
- Space Grey and Silver finishes
- 30 hours of battery
Bowers & Wilkins have gained plenty of kudos for their headphones from the P5 to P9 Signature and the original PX. As part of its recent refresh of the PX series, it’s introduced four new headphones in the PI3, PI4, PX5 and PX7.
Sitting at the top are the PX7 wireless over-ears, which set their stall out as headphones for the music purist, packed to the rafters with technology and showcasing B&W’s taste in design.
However, the landscape has changed since the PX, with competition more fierce than ever as Bose, Sennheiser and Sony have all brought new efforts to the market.
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Bowers & Wilkins PX7 sound – Another sterling effort from B&W
B&W have produced another corker in the PX7. I’d be inclined to say that they’re the finest-sounding pair of wireless noise-cancellers at the £350 mark.
Starting off with Steve Wonder’s Lately and it’s a sumptuous listen. The emotion from Wonder’s voice is communicated with such feeling and intimacy that you’ll want to go back and listen to it again.
The sense of space is impressive considering the closed-backed design. You can place where instruments are in the soundstage, the organisation of which gives the performance a sense of flair. No instrument feels out of place, with the feeling is everything is where it should be for a cohesive and engaging performance.
Their character is smooth and mellow, one that’s more warm than neutral, but even so it’s still a fairly balanced performer across the frequency range. Bass is malleable and provides a song such as The Pharcyde’s Runnin’ (TIDAL) a firm foundation to work with.
The detail drawn out from music is good, and knitted together with an impressive sense of timing. The PX7 are fairly forgiving too, taking lower-quality files and making perfectly acceptable to listen to, but you ought to feed them the highest music quality to reap the best results.
Dynamically they’re almost effortless, with highs and lows expertly doled out. A play of Forge from Alan Silvestri’s Avengers: Infinity War soundtrack and the way in which the PX7 adapt to the shifts in tempo helps to communicate the urgency and suspense of that track.
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But what really becomes evident is the texture of the music. Not only does everything sound as if it is where it should be, that extends to every note of the instruments sounding as intended.
If I had to find a fault, I’d say that their more melodic, spacious character leaves there’s them with a shortage of power and attack compare to some other headphones at the same price.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 design – Big than most, but comfortable enough and physical controls are welcome
It cannot be understated how big the PX7s are.
That’s likely down to the two 43.6mm drivers, the largest in the B&W’s headphone range. Along with the wear sensor technology and ANC, the headphones weigh 310g. That’s more than the Bose NC 700 (250g); Sony WH-1000XM3 (255g) and Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (305g).
So despite being big – producing the unwanted ‘Mickey Mouse’ effect – they’re comfortable to wear. The fit is snug, with a clamping force that’s not too tight and the natural noise isolation of the earcups is effective. For smaller heads I could imagine the size being a problem, but they don’t weigh you down or overheat your ears.
The size and weight does become a factor for prolonged listening sessions. The PX7 pinch around the lower ear area during extended use, which may mean shorter bursts are better for some.
The frame is made out of a woven carbon fibre composite that according to B&W is as strong as a more traditional steel or aluminium frame, meaning they should be able to withstand a bit of punishment.
While they’re not as svelte as the original PXs, they’re a fetching pair that come in Silver and Space Gray finishes of which the latter, I’d say, is the better look.
The earcups swivel, but don’t fold inwards. If you’re taking them off then it’s straight into a rucksack or the accompanying storage case. The headband can be adjusted to fit different sized heads.
B&W has stuck with tried and tested physical buttons for the PX7. On the right-hand side are buttons for power, which also doubles up as the switch for Bluetooth pairing.
Beneath that is volume up button, followed by the stop/start/skip (tap twice to go forward, tap thrice to go back) and then the volume down button. There’s also a USB-C and 3.5mm connection. On the left earcup is a solitary button for toggling through the noise-cancellation modes.
I don’t dislike touch controls, but missed swipes or taps can and often happen. That said, even after a few weeks of use, I still find that I run my thumb down the buttons before pressing, which slows the process a little. The assurance with physical buttons is that they work every time, so it’s a question of which interface you prefer.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 features – Improvement rather than innovation
Not one to rest on their laurels, B&W have conjured up a few improvements on the features side.
B&W’s wear detection sensor returns, although a few changes have been made. The PX7 don’t power up by themselves like the PX and need to be turned on manually.
Lift up an earpad and playback stops; place it back down and the music starts again like magic. Leave them unattended for long enough and they’ll go into standby; put them back on your head and they’ll come back to life. It’s a nifty piece of tech that consistently works.
Battery life has been boosted from the PX’s 22 hours to 30. That’s with listening levels set to ‘average’, of course, but it means you won’t need to charge these as often. A fifteen minute charge props battery life up by five hours.
Noise cancellation modes have also been tweaked. Flight/City/Office modes have been replaced by Low/Auto/High. Low is the same as City, offering awareness of what’s nearby. Auto is Adaptive NC, which changes the NC levels to suit your environment. High is for noisy environments, fulfilling the same role as Flight mode.
New is Ambient Pass-Through, which lets you control the sound that, well, passes through. This can be adjusted via a slider in the B&W Headphones app.
Nudging the slider down blocks out sound completely, while moving it to the top lets all sounds through. Nudging it to the middle offers a balance between the two. It’s very effective, responsive and useful, especially if you’re having a conversation and are too lazy to take the PX7s off.
The Headphones app is a simple affair with options for noise cancelling and Ambient pass-through mode. If the headphones require an update, you’ll receive a prompt in the app.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 ANC and wireless – Good, but still falls short of the best in the market
Like the PX, the PX7 are adept at shutting out constant sounds, but there are aspects that aren’t as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Office sounds, ambient noises, even passing vehicles dissipate into the background once you switch them on, but voices are still an issue. On more than one occasion I could hear the natter of others during a commute, and even turning up the volume couldn’t quite eliminate it.
It’s also ill at ease with wind rushing by. Using them on the Jubilee line and they weren’t as effective at reducing the whistling noise of air as the tube speeds through the tunnel. There is at least no perceptible whine when noise-cancellation is engaged, or any change in the audio, but they’re not as proficient as the WH-1000XM3.
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The PX7 is compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 and supports aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive audio – the first pair of headphones to do so – alongside AAC and SBC codecs. Bluetooth 5.0 allows for connection to two devices simultaneously, which led to notifications of reconnecting and disconnecting whenever I walked in and out of range. A recent update means that one device is now treated as the default.
Using the headphones at a busy train terminal and the wireless performance was middling at times. The disconnections aren’t unexpected, but the extent to which the connection become choppy raised Carlo Ancelotti-esque eyebrows. With aptX Adaptive audio onboard, I would have thought this aspect would be more resolute.
Should you buy the Bowers & Wilkins PX7?
The audio performance of the PX7 are fabulous, but there are two mitigating factors against it, or perhaps just the one.
At £349 they’re not particularly cheap and you can get better noise-cancellation for much cheaper in the Sony WH-1000XM3, which at the time of this review being published were less than £250 with the WH-1000XM4 not far off.
If you like the style, great sound and useful features, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 fits the bill.