The $699 headphones sound fantastic, but they are weaknesses in other aspects.
Bowers & Wilkins made it apparent that it already had a more premium offering that was almost ready for prime time when it unveiled its Px7 S2 headphones last year. The Px8 was delivered three months later. Although the Px8 looks similar to its predecessor, Bowers & Wilkins used more opulent materials to create these headphones and managed to enhance the already excellent sound quality. But the price of the improvements is high: the Px8 costs $699, which is $300 more than the Px7 S2.
The Px8 first resembles the Px7 S2 Bowers & Wilkins unveiled the previous year almost exactly. Yet when you look closely, you can see the differences. The Px8 has a slightly more upscale appearance thanks to the replacement of the woven fabric on the headband and ear cups with soft leather. The company’s wordmark, which is located on the outermost panel of the earcups, is now metal rather than plastic. Also, the cast aluminum headband slider and arms add to the luxury appearance.
The difference in materials is probably (at least largely) to blame for the Px8’s 13-gram weight increase over the Px7 S2 in comparison. Memory foam ear cushions keep things comfortable, but if you compare them side by side, you can feel the added weight. Because of this, I give the S2 a slight advantage if you require something to wear for a number of hours at a time. I started to notice the extra weight and the rings around the ear cups after a flight from Vegas to Atlanta this month.
The Px8’s on-board controls are still physical buttons and are situated exactly where they were on the Px7 S2. A power/pairing slider is located to the right of three volume, playback, and call buttons. Over on the left side, a single control toggles between active noise cancellation (ANC), transparency mode and both off. Even while some businesses have abandoned buttons in favor of touch panels, those aren’t always trustworthy, but what Bowers & Wilkins provides here unquestionably accomplishes the task.
Like with the Px8’s predecessors, the Bowers & Wilkins Music app offers you access to all of the device’s settings. There is a current battery status indicator and a noise mode selection on the main screen (ANC, Pass-through and off). Since the Px8 supports multipoint Bluetooth with two devices, connections can also be managed here. Also included on that first screen are media controls (if you link compatible services), tone settings, a quick start guide, and product support.
The battery life percentage and noise mode (or environmental control, as the business refers to it) are clearly shown once more as you delve deeper into the options section. There are also sliders for the treble and bass that allow for very simple EQ adjustments. There are only these two variables left for you to modify as the manufacturer hasn’t provided any presets. Just above the choice to reassign the Quick Action button on the left earcup, the ability to manage connections is duplicated in this location as well. It alternates between sound modes by default. But if you’d like, you may command it to call a voice assistant.
The last two notable items have to do with power management. The first feature provided by Bowers & Wilkins is an automated standby mode that switches to a low power mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. You have the option to turn it off. The wear sensor for automatic pausing can be turned on or off as the second tool. The manufacturer claims that when you lift one earcup, the music should pause, however that isn’t always the case. Bowers & Wilkins has three sensitivity settings (low, medium, and high) to assist you fine-tune it, but none of them fix the Px8’s long pause when you lift an ear cup or take them off your head, just like the Px7 S2. This still needs some improvement so that if nothing else, audio resumes more quickly after a pause.
Sound quality is one significant area where the Px8 and Px7 S2 diverge. The former has two identical-sized carbon units, whilst the latter has two 40mm bio cellulose drives. I’ll admit that I don’t know enough about headphone design to be able to tell you which is technically superior, but I do know that the Px8 sounds amazing. Although the Px7 S2 already had excellent audio quality, Bowers & Wilkins manages to improve upon it with this model.
There’s a warmth to the sound profile that beckons you to sit and listen a while, no matter the genre. Even the most disorganized metal is kept in perfect order by the audio’s almost incredible clarity, which lets you distinguish individual instruments. And in the example of Under oath’s Voyeurs’, the supporting synth is clear to hear even when it is quite subdued or playing behind the complete band’s intense performance. It’s astounding how much detail the Px8 brings to bluegrass and jazz tunes, giving you the impression that you were present when Béla Fleck recorded My Bluegrass Heart. Not only are there fiddle, mandolin, bass, guitar, and banjo. When they encircle you, you can hear the subtlety in each one’s tone.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones review
And it goes beyond the specificity and clarity. Hip-hop and bass-heavy electronic music both sound great on the Px8. These headphones provide access to low-end that rivals some of the greatest when a tune calls for it. The kick drum, drum machine, and bass line all have subtlety, just like everything else. That holds true regardless of the music, whether it’s the RTJ4’s loud beats or Sylvan Esso’s No Rules Sandy’s complex synthesizer work.
The Px8 performs admirably in terms of active noise cancelling. These headphones are adequate in almost all situations, even those on airplanes, even if they aren’t noticeably superior than the Px7 S2. Bose and Sony are able to block out more noise with their respective WH-1000XM5 and Quiet Comfort 45 headphones, but Bowers & Wilkins didn’t skimp on quality. There’s some solid ANC performance, it’s just not the absolute greatest.
Two of the six on-board microphones were repositioned and brought closer together, according to Bowers & Wilkins, to enhance voice quality. These modifications, according to the business, should help lessen wind noise. Although the Px7 S2’s call audio was already good for the person on the other end, I felt a little shouty during voice and video conversations because there wasn’t a transparency mode that sounded natural. The pass-through audio on the Px8 is still good, but not spectacular, and doesn’t sound as natural as the Air Pods Max.
Nonetheless, the Px8 does a wonderful job of reducing background noise, so the headphones will assist the person on the other end in concentrating on your voice. Although you’ll still sound like you’re on speaker phone rather than having a good mike next to your face, the overall voice quality isn’t fantastic. Are they suitable for the majority of voice and video calls? Sure. Should you think about using these as your main tool if you frequently perform such tasks? Most likely not.
When it comes to the battery life of their headphones, Bowers & Wilkins has a history of making unfulfilled promises. On the Px8, the manufacturer consistently does far better than the reported figure. Similar to the Px7 S2, this model had 40% of its tank full after 30 hours, according to the manufacturer’s official rating. And yes, that includes using active noise cancellation for several days while also occasionally using the transparency mode for calls. The Px8 appears to be slightly more efficient than its more cheap sister – or possibly has a slightly bigger battery – as there remained 33 percent remaining after 30 hours on the Px7 S2.
A quick-charge feature that gives you seven hours of listening time in 15 minutes has been added by the company. Although I use the Px8 for a few hours each day, I only charge it once a week due to the well over 30 hours of ANC use that it offers. The battery life here compares well to the greatest noise-canceling headphones currently available.
The Px8 wireless noise-canceling headphones cost $699, making them the priciest I’ve tested. Even the most expensive model from Master & Dynamic is $100 cheaper (the MW75). You have to really dig what Bowers & Wilkins is putting down to dive in here. In other words, there are excellent alternatives that cost less, some of which have greater functionality. Actually, I’d argue the company’s own Px7 S2 is a better value at $399.
Although the Px7 S2 may not have the premium appearance of the Px8, it does feature superb sound quality, reliable ANC performance, and longer battery life than expected. The less expensive model sounds warm, crisp, and clear and is more pleasant to wear for extended periods of time. Besides the increase The Px7 S2 includes every additional feature you get on the Px8 – for a lot less money – while maintaining that high level of overall sound quality.
At this time, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 is still the best you can purchase, largely for the blend of music and noise-canceling performance, with a long list of handy extras on the side. The M5’s ability to change sound modes automatically based on your location or activity and the Speak-to-Chat feature, which pauses the music when you start speaking, are the two most prominent features. Simply told, no other firm packs in nearly as much as Sony does.
I start to have expectations when a pair of headphones costs $699. primarily that I can’t recommend them unless they are damn near flawless. The Px8 comes close to being as good as the company’s previous model and some of the competition in terms of sound quality, but falls short in other respects. Automatic pause is still in need of development, even with the sensitivity levels. Overall, it is considerably more pleasant to wear the Px7 S2 for extended periods of time. With their most expensive offering, Bowers & Wilkins excels, but there are still some jagged edges that need to be polished.