STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ ultra-transparent, ultimately fine resolution
+ powerful deep bass, rich groove
+ wide ambience
+ natural noise cancelling
- a bit exaggerated bass in acoustic music
- mids a bit pale, could be more colorful
Sound: tonal balance / transparency8.8
Sound: Bass / Dynamics9.3
Ease-of-use / Connectivity9.3
Price / Performance9.1
Looking at the recent campaigns for their high end speaker series 800 D4 series, one might come to the conclusion that British manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins is a bit stuck in the conservative hi-fi world. That is quite far from reality as the latest Zeppelin Gen 4 already has proven when we reviewed it. Bowers obviously is merging audiophile sound and modern connectivity at ease. The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 on-ear headphones being another example of how to transfer audiophile virtues into the wireless world.
It is the second generation of what was regarded to be a popular but not entirely uncontroversial product. So Bowers & Wilkins R&D appears to have rethought the PX7 from the ground up. Just taking a look at the technical specs like the whopping 37 hours of battery life, but no less in regards of ease-of-use, it is quite a statement to be leader of the class again. Although it is marketed primarely as a set of wireless headphones, many might find the wired digital connection for hires bitstreams more audiophile.
On the cutting edge of tech
You immediately notice Bowers´ high standard as soon as you unpack the set. Whether it’s the woven fabric of headband and the earcups, the top-grade aluminium finish or the soft synthetic leather, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 is a true luxury product all around. Besides gray and black, they also offer a blue variant with some sprinkles of gold finish. The overall design appeared to being kind of a surprise these days as many competitors such as Sony or Sennheiser are hearding into the different direction: focussing on decent design, standard colors and comparably simple materials.
British brand Bowers & Wilkins seem to follow a top-notch strategy for their electronic parts likewise: Quality and ease-of-use clearly take precedence over gimmicks and a bunch of useless features. Thus, you have only three modes to operate the noise-cancelling: On, off or voice-through. However, it is promised to adapt perfectly to the environment acoustically by means of an array of four mics.
Latest Bluetooth and lots of hires
Bluetooth is offered as version 5.2, and you can intuitively bring it to pairing mode by using the slider of the on/off switch. Besides the standard codecs, AAC (popular among iPhone and Mac users) and the full variety of aptX for devices equipped with Qualcomm chips is available: aptX, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD.
In addition to wireless playback, many audiophiles might want to rely on either the digital or analogue outputs of their precious devices. Connecting it via USB-C, the PX7 S2 is handling hires bitstreams to quite remarkable resolution. An additional adaptor is included for the classic analogue connection using a 3.5 mm jack; Unlike many competitors, the latter does not include a fully passive mode but lets music be processed by the internal ADC.
Let us talk about the transducers as they define how good hearphone sactually reproduce. One 40 mm driver per side offering a diapragm made of biocellulose seems to be fully appropriate. The large drivers are positioned in the center of each earcup, but are clearly beveled pointing from a more frontal position towards the auricle. This is promised to create a more “natural” angle and thus better room imaging.
How to use it
Controlling the standard set of functions via four keys on the right side is mostly self-explanatory. Just for skipping you have to remember what double and triple clicks actually mean to the PX7.
Using more advanced functions such as making calls, require to read the manual in advance. Once you remember all the combinations that are assigned multiple times, you can effortlessly master more complicated functions like toggling, muting and conference calls.
A single LED serves as a main feedback channel to the user. However, it does not just indicate the pairing status, but also changes its colour according to battery status. Once you get used to it, it is a really handy feature.
Lots of diversity, but a quite minimalistic app
The Bowers & Wilkins Music App, which we already know from the Zeppelin Gen 4, is also in charge of the PX7 S2. However, this is really limited to some adjustments. Its complex streaming and multi-room architecture remain deactivated when handling Bluetooth headphones such as the PX7 S2.
So in the end of the day i was the small differences that made the PX7 S2 superior: The left button can be assigned to various functions, such as activating the voice assistant of your choice. Or individualizing the auto-pause function which is sensor-controlled. For example, the music is either pausing the moment you lift on of the earcpus, or only in cases you are completely taking off your Bowers & Wilkins.
The app is less flexible when it comes to the sound tuning: There is no multiband EQ, but controls for treble and bass.
Is it comfortable?
Putting on the PX7 S2 is truly a pleasure: The over-ear pads leave enough of space, you do not feel any annoying pressure at all despite the slightly increased weight. The headphones take a stable position and surround your auricles quite ergonomically, provided they are not king-size. The pads are given the impression of sealing everything tight without creating a feeling of uncomfortable isolation or vacuum.
If you activate noise-cancelling, it is even more of relaxation: very efficient, perhaps not quite as radically isolating in the low frequency range, and creates a meditative but natural feeling of silence. However, if you wear the PX7 S2 for a longer period of time, you will notice the airtight seal due to the synthetic leather padding. This might result in a feeling of slightly increased temperature at the ear cups, but we would only call that annoying in hot environments.
We still noticed a somewhat inexplicable phenomenon: The noise cancelling usually remained completely unnoticed and unimpressed by any external influence. However, if you accidentally press on the headphones from either side, you might notice some diaphragm pops becoming audible, resulting in very a moment of distortions. So . hands off while listening!
This is how the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 actually sounds
Bowers & Wilkins hefty loudspeakers above all the 800-D4 models, enjoy a high reputation among audiophiles, especially for their ultimately detailed resolution of the diamond dome. It is quite easy to recognize this ´signature sound´ in the PX7 S2 as well. Maybe it is even stronger in that one compared with the Zeppelin Gen 4 we recently reviewed. Regardless the genre of music the revelation of finest details, the ultra-transparency in the treble and brilliant resolution deserves one word: top-of-the-line. No matter how complex the music is, how demanding voices sound: The Bowers & Wilkins conjures up a poignant show of airiness and holographic detailing. They elicit every delicate breath and otherwise imperceptible sibilant from closely recorded female voices. This never becomes unclean or sibilant, but sometimes results in a dominance of the sibilant range.
The aforementioned applies also to the bass, whenever music gets kind of groovy: drums, electric bass guitars and synth beats hammer with force, equally offering speed and richness. Bass drums kick believably powerful and conjure a grin on all listeners’ faces with every beat from funk to techno.
With less defined low tones, such as classical music, this is not always convincing. At times, everything appears to enlarge in the lower range like a cinema soundtrack. So are you dealing with double bass tremolos and organs or just rumbling movie sounds like that of a T-Rex or tank column approaching? Reducing the bass level via app might reduce this effect to the point where it is no longer annoying. Then, however, the bass might loose a bit of its juiciness and authority.
Show business first
So – better lean back and enjoy the big show. We did not come across any headphones that could conjure up such wide, distant and plausible ambience. Voices sometimes seem to stand as far away from the listener as they do with stereo speakers, and we can also sense the room´s reverb not matter it is a jazz club or a cathedral. Truly impressive.
However, all these stunning virtues of any audiophile demo might have side effect: In the mids, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 remains a bit pale. We would not go so far to call it discoloured, but the notes of male voices, lower strings, lush electric guitar riffs and warm woodwinds simply lack some warmth as well as assertiveness against this sustained firework of bass and brilliant overtones.
Thus, after long listening sessions, the PX7 S2 left an impression like a visit to the best HiFi dealer: You are lastingly impressed by the audiophile show and initially think that you have never heard anything better. However, with prolonged listening and a wide selection of music genres, a certain fatigue cannot be denied. And the realization remains that a great sound show sometimes is just a show.
Alternatives to the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2
The PX7 S2 is one of the more expensive models in a highly competitive segment. In terms of craftmanship, it clearly justifies the premium compared to for example the Sony WH-1000 XM4 / XM5 as well as Sennheiser´s Momentum 4 Wireless (review coming soon on STEREO GUIDE). Soundquality-wise, it’s one of the most audiophile, high-resolution, and impressive Bluetooth on-ear-headphones around. However, especially for acoustically recorded music, a more neutral and decent alternative with less showmanship, like the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, might be your choice on the long run. Our advice: Listen yourself, and with all music genres that you would ever listen yourself!
Specifications B&W PX7 S2
- Retail price: 430 dollars/pounds/euros
- Type: Over Ear
- Transducer: Dynamic
- Weight: 305 g
- Special features: Noise-cancelling, app control
- More at: bowerswilkins.com