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Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review: One of the best listening experiences you can get

We take the British brand’s fantastic flagship headphones for a test listen

David RS Taylor
Monday 01 November 2021 16:56
<p>B&W has a long history of premium sound research and development, providing the loudspeakers for Abbey Road Studios</p>

B&W has a long history of premium sound research and development, providing the loudspeakers for Abbey Road Studios

A good set of headphones is one of life’s greatest luxuries. Find the right pair, and you’re in for years of happy listening. Go for the wrong option and you’ll ruefully watch other commuters/café readers/international DJs enjoying their own pair of perfect cans, while you listen to the pair that are fine, but have that annoying little click whenever your wireless connection drops.

Luckily, it’s difficult to go wrong at the top end of the wireless headphone market. Brands like Sony, Bose, Sennheiser and Apple all produce quality headphones that provide very little to moan about, so much so that they’ve remained top of the list for years.

But one brand that has aimed to break into this exclusive club is British audio manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins. B&W has a long history of premium sound research and development, from providing the loudspeakers for Abbey Road Studios to building the BBC’s studio monitors; we also recently awarded the brand’s 606 S2 anniversary edition speakers the title of best bookshelf speakers.

B&W’s engineers, then, know a good sound when they hear it. The brand’s previous headphones, the PX, entered the market with strong reviews and a band of passionate devotees. The same has happened with the PX7s, with a near-perfect reputation from those who love the B&W sound signature. However, do the PX7s deserve a wider audience and a position at the top table among its other premium rivals?

How we tested

We put the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 headphones through the same exacting tests we have for every premium set of headphones. We focus on soundscape – is there a balance to the audio, or does the bass, for example, overpower treble? Next is the ease of use, from connectivity issues, to battery life, to fit and style. Finally, if included, we look at noise cancellation performance, testing versatility, consistency and strength.

Read more:

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Buy now £249, Richersounds.com

Rating: 9/10

  • Noise cancellation: Adaptive ANC
  • Weight: 310g
  • Battery life: 30 hours with ANC, with 5 hours from 15-minute charge
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX Adaptive, 3.5mm jack, USB-C audio, multiple device connectivity

Design

It’s quite hard to bring anything novel to the headphone market, but B&W has managed to create a refreshing pair of headphones that will give any high-end rival a run for their money. The brushed metal finish where the headband meets the cups is a simple and effective way of elevating the PX7s’ look to a premium aesthetic. In fact, they’re probably the smartest-looking headphones among the high-end group, the tailored suit to the shirt-and-chinos Sony and Bose.

The fit is snug without drifting into the oppressively-tight territory, offering a good level of passive noise cancellation while remaining comfortable to wear for long periods. Even an always-too-warm reviewer can manage a couple of hours of listening without much trouble. The carbon fibre composite body also shaves off some extra weight, making the PX7s barely noticeable on the neck, even after prolonged use.

One slight gripe is that the ear cups don’t collapse into the headband, meaning that the headphones take up much more real estate in your bag than some of their rivals. Whether a deliberate design choice or an oversight, it’s something that B&W might rethink when the time comes to upgrade the PX7s. However, the carry case is a sophisticated beauty, and the sturdy carbon fibre arms could definitely take a battering in your bag regardless. They’re a pleasure to use.

Read more: Beoplay EQ review –Stylish with premium audio quality

The battery has an impressive 30-hour life, putting it among the battery-friendly big boys on the market, with a 15-minute quick charge boosting your listening time by an extra five hours. B&W’s partner app is decent enough, letting you control noise cancellation, connections and voice prompt for the supported Amazon and Google voice assistants. One pleasing extra is a list of soundscapes, from gently-crashing waves to a crackling evening fire, to rustling leaves on a windy autumnal afternoon. If you’re anything like us, this will be like manna from heaven for your concentration levels.

Sound

The buzzword here is “balanced”. Everything is nicely tuned, dealing with complicated tracks easily, especially when it comes to pairing treble with bass. There’s little wonder: the PX7s’ drivers were developed and engineered by the team behind the 800 series loudspeakers that have pride of place in Abbey Road Studios. We can see that the standard audio set-up might be a little bass-y for some listeners, but it’s a characterful sound signature that produces warmth through every track. The bass is also offset by the elite clarity B&W’s engineers have managed to pull out of trebles: in bombastic tracks such as Bear Garden’s ‘Electric Butterfly’, lighter piano riffs easily break through booming wind instrumentals and drum solos. This extends to spoken word and podcasts, too – sibilance is faithfully reproduced and tone is as natural as we’ve heard.

We had no issues with connectivity, the headphones pairing almost immediately and sticking resolutely to our various devices’ Bluetooth signals. This is thanks in the main to Qualcomm’s aptX adaptive Bluetooth inside the PX7s producing practically instantaneous sound with very little risk of dropping out. You can also connect to a second device concurrently, making swapping between, for instance, your computer and smartphone a breeze. Full marks from us.

Read more: Beats powerbeats pro review: Apple’s fitness-focused earbuds

The active noise cancellation (ANC) does exactly what it’s designed for, sucking out all lower register sound and an admirably large range of treble sound, leaving you with a vacuum-pack bubble that lets you enjoy your audio without the vast majority of external interruption. There are three noise-cancelling settings: the “auto” setting offers extra versatility, adapting to your external environment well to give you the best noise cancellation for the location. The PX7s perform strongly in buzzing settings, such as a café – if you’re in the mood to write the next Great British Novel on your day off, Bowers & Wilkins has your back.

The verdict: Bowers & Wilkins PX7

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 headphones are among the very best wireless headphones you can buy. They look brilliant, sound pristine and fit snugly, for one of the best listening experiences you can currently get. They’re easy to get going, their battery can handle more than a full day of continuous usage, and their noise cancellation is exceptional. While they’re certainly a pricy purchase, the PX7s are a considered and sophisticated pair of headphones that blow many rivals out of the water, and more than deserve to be part of the conversation.

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Looking for ANC? Read our review of the best noise-cancelling headphones for an immersive listening experience

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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