For wireless earphones with a higher level of luxury and premium features, Bowers & Wilkins is the place to be. The British hi-fi brand is renewing its TWS flagship with an S2 generation. This includes a case that doubles as a transmitter and a better battery life.
Over the past year, Bowers & Wilkins has wholly revamped its over-ear headphones. And even supplemented with a new top model, the Px8. Now it’s the turn of the British wireless earplugs or TWSs. The Pi7 S2 we’re looking at here is the new flagship at Bowers & Wilkins. The design may seem familiar, but something has changed in terms of technology and functionality. Among other things, the battery life is better, and that was necessary. Since the sound quality of the previous generation was already very good, we hope that no adjustments have been made in this area. Bowers & Wilkins positions the Pi7 S2 as a real luxury product – there is also a cheaper Pi5 S2 – and therefore asks 399 euros for the devices.
|Bluetooth 5.1 (SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive)
|3 x silicon tips, USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-C to jack cable, wireless charging, case as a transmitter
|2 grams per ear
Blue with gold
With large headphones, it is easier to add luxury. Some leather here, some metal there, and you end up with something more precious. This is a bit more difficult with small in-ears. After all, the devices must remain compact and light. Many people also want discreet earphones. After all, the idea is to leave TWSs in your ears, even if you chat with your colleagues. To make that possible, the Pi7 S2s have a transparency mode allowing voices. In the accompanying app, you can set how transparent this mode is, which is helpful in noisy open offices.
Despite the limitations associated with its small size, Bowers & Wilkins has managed to bring a specific class to the Pi7 S2. Thanks to the metallic-looking exterior, the devices look chicer than the fridge-white plastic ears that are the norm. There are three color versions with chic names: Satin Black, Canvas White, and Midnight Blue. The latter combines a dark blue with gold-colored accents – that has something royal, we think. The touch controls on the outside work fine (for once). The case is decorated in a matching color scheme and looks a bit neater than an average charging box.
Rich in features
You can’t get around the higher price of the Pi7 S2s. Since you already have excellent wireless in-ears for 150 euros (actual retail prices), Bowers & Wilkins has to pull out a lot to justify its 399 euros. It does this primarily by adding slightly more unique features. For example, the manufacturer offers a range of 25 meters, considerably more than the conventional ten meters that can be the maximum between your smartphone and earphones. It’s not just a bold claim; the Pi7 S2’s range is quite impressive. We notice this when we get coffee from our workspace one floor down in the kitchen. Most TWSs already give up when descending the stairs, and here we get to the coffee machine. If you often walk around an open office and still want to be able to make phone calls, for example,
Less unique – but very useful with a TWS – is the option to charge the case wirelessly. Thanks to a fast charging function, you can add two hours of listening with fifteen minutes on the charger. The charging case itself is good for 16 hours of extra autonomy. The earphones’ battery life is much better than with the first generation: 5 hours with noise canceling turned on.
In terms of technology, Bowers & Wilkins goes for good specifications. For example, the Pi7 S2 has three microphones per ear. One microphone is used for telephony, and the other for adaptive noise reduction. Support for better codecs is also excellent. If your mobile device supports it, the Bowers & Wilkins earphones connect using the aptX Adaptive codec. If you have an iPhone, AAC is used.
Compatible with laptops and on planes
Almost all laptops have Bluetooth, but most do not support audiophile codecs. You can connect the Pi7 S2 directly to your computer, but there is also a second option. Connecting the case to your computer via a USB cable will appear as an external audio solution in Windows or macOS. Send the sound to the case, and it will establish a Bluetooth connection with the earbuds using aptX Adaptive.
This works fine. We connected the case to our iMac and immediately heard the sound of a ‘The Rig’ episode on Amazon Video through the Pi7 S2 units. Even more convenient is that you can open the Music app on your smartphone at the same time to change settings. For example, while listening to the audio on your computer, you can switch on the noise canceling or adjust the transparency level.
The function is also helpful if you take a long flight. A USB to-jack cable is included in the box. You can plug this into the headphone output of an in-flight media system to get better sound when watching a movie. Much better than the shoddy headphones you’ll get from the airline.
Bowers & Wilkins Music app
Like most Bowers & Wilkins products these days, you set up the Pi7 S2 with the Bowers & Wilkins Music app. It serves the Formation multi-room products and the many heads devices from the British. Depending on which device you connect, it adapts the interface. We soon notice that the manufacturer sticks to its strategy of offering ‘better’ functions but keeping the operation simple. Compared to Sony’s headphone app, this is a quieter experience with a limited number of controls. It is helpful that you can determine the priority of Bluetooth connections.
Bowers & Wilkins does put a lot of effort into what exactly is the function of these earphones: listening to music. If you connect the Music app to the Deezer, Qobuz, or Tidal streaming service, you will have a rich music experience, with your playlists and playlists curated by the British brand. You can also listen to Internet radio via TuneIn; you will find all the national channels of Belgium and the Netherlands (and much more). The app also has a link to Soundcloud.
If you are married to Apple Music or Spotify, this is of little use to you. Then you use the trusted app of your favorite service. But it is a nice extra.
Two drivers better than one
With more expensive, wired in-ears, it is more common that there is more than one driver in each device. Some IEMs even tick down to 18 pieces – per ear! Bowers & Wilkins doesn’t go that far, but they supplement the significant driver in every Pi7 S2 with a second one that provides higher frequencies. They are also individually reinforced. You don’t often see that with wireless caps. Do the Pi7 S2s sound better, thanks to those double drivers? You don’t have that guarantee.
When you apply the Pi7 S2 correctly, much ambient noise disappears. In terms of passive isolation, they already do well. That means that the active noise canceling has to get rid of less. This combination produces a good result in our test video of a train ride. A lot of noise is cut out in the On position, more than enough to consume your media without fatigue. Interestingly enough, the Auto mode is slightly different. It passes slightly lower frequencies but is relatively attenuated. So a little more noise… but in a natural way that we did not find unpleasant. By the way, after a few minutes, we heard the NC increase until it finally approached the On state. In other situations, such as a hair dryer being used nearby and a loud TV, the noise reduction also performed very decently.
As mentioned, the first Pi7 was a high flyer regarding sound quality. It offered something different from the mainstream earphones, offering a tuning that leaned towards the Bowers & Wilkins house sound (albeit with a little more bass presence, perhaps because this is nice for listening on the go). Although we cannot compare 1-to-1 because the old test products were returned to the manufacturer, we can compare them with the old Pi5– which also shared good sound quality. The conclusion is quick that the Pi7 S2 offers more of the same. Listening to the contrary pop on Samia’s ‘The Baby,’ we get beautiful vocals against a detailed, large-scale background. The first track, ‘Pool,’ is airy, as if sung in a spacious room. Bowers & Wilkins translate that spatial character well, which is not always possible with cheaper wireless in-ears. That good cover is also a plus when we look at a piece of ‘No Time To Die’ later. It is not surrounded, of course, but the damp atmosphere of a misty forest in Norway, where 007 offers resistance to a series of pursuers, is excellently conveyed.
The Pi7 S2 has a cleaner character, although the Bowers & Wilkins preference for more treble detail remains. But applied with a gentle hand. The smashing encounter between hip-hop and world music on ‘The Pope’ by Ibrahim Maalouf and D Smoke shows a more natural trumpet, with underlying beats that appear powerful and complete but not distorting. And that is something that you notice in the expertise of an authentic hi-fi brand.
The Pi7 S2 costs quite a lot. You can safely call them expensive, but you get wireless ears that perform at a high level. In terms of sound quality, they are among the best, thanks to the pure basses and spaciousness, among other things. The latter not only makes music sound more exciting but also makes for more relaxed listening sessions. The noise canceling is perfect but not class-leading. The possibility of using the case as a Bluetooth transmitter is very clever. It allows you to listen with noise canceling when this was impossible.
- Case as transmitter
- aptX Adaptive support
- Excellent range
- Authentic sound, excellent sound quality
- Higher price