Last summer Bowers & Wilkins announced the new PX series of headphones. The top model is the PX7, equipped with active noise canceling and premium materials. Officially it is not a successor to the two-year-old PX, but in this review we put the two headphones opposite each other.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7
Bowers & Wilkins is fully committed to wireless headphones, with the introduction of but no less than four new models. All models naturally developed for the best possible audio performance, premium design and maximum comfort. The top model is the PX7, an over-ear headphone.
The new PX7 is one of the first commercially available aptX Adaptive sync devices. This technology, developed by Qualcomm, enables high resolution wireless streaming quality of 24/48-bit via Bluetooth. The technology also makes it possible to play audio without delay (compared to images). In addition, the headphones offer Active Noise Canceling (ANC) with a sampling rate of 16 times to enable the best performance without loss of audio quality. Active Noise Canceling is available in various steps (high to low and off) to filter out disturbing background noise in an airplane, train or other busy environment. Six microphones are used for this.
The PX7 headphones have a 43mm driver and come with large ear cups, which means we can call it an over-ear headphone. The headphones are equipped with high-quality materials, including a nanocoating that makes the dust resistant to dirt and splashed water, and a combination of carbon fiber and plastic, which makes the headphones feel light but also robust. The PX7 is approximately 30 grams lighter than its predecessor, the PX Wireless. The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 has a suggested retail price of 399 euros.
Design and comfort
When we look at the design, we immediately see that we are dealing with a Bowers & Wilkins headset. At first glance, the device looks a lot like the original PX, with the silver logo on the sides on the ear cups and a similar structure of the fabric. The PX7 has a bit more streamlined curves than its predecessor and the cables are concealed this time, but the difference is mainly in the materials used. The PX7 has a fabric finish while the original PX uses more plastic (at least that is how it feels). A somewhat harder material but also a material with a somewhat more robust and luxurious appearance. Certainly the gold-colored variant of the PX looks, in our view, a bit more luxurious. And despite the fact that Bowers & Wilkins promises that the PX7 does not get dirty quickly due to a special coating, you are automatically more careful due to the fabric finish. After all, it looks and feels a bit more vulnerable. The appearance is of course a matter of taste and not something that influences the use, but the eye also wants something, and our eye prefers the golden PX. That does not mean that the PX7 is still a model with a premium look and finish in the market for headphones.
That said, the PX7 has several design advantages. The headphone is a lot lighter than its predecessor thanks to the use of carbon fiber and plastic, and you notice that immediately. The headphones are much more comfortable on the head, the ear cups are larger and therefore more comfortable to place over the ears, there is also more room in the ear cup so that your ear does not touch the inside, and the headband presses less on your skull. The ear cups provide a tight and comfortable closure of the outside world. The PX7 also looks slightly larger than its predecessor, in particular because the ear cups are slightly larger and the headband is slightly thicker. The PX7 is clearly much more focused on real comfort, and you notice that immediately. And not entirely unimportant; the PX7 now has the letters 'L' and 'R' in the ear cups, where the PX had them very small in the metal of the headband.
The PX7 comes standard with a hard case in which the headphones can be transported turn into. That is also the best option because you cannot really “fold” the PX7. You can turn the ear cups and therefore the headset fits in the case, which also has a compartment for the included cables. The case looks chic, has a nice fabric finish and offers enough protection for your premium headphones.
In terms of operation, not much changes have been made apart from what changed positions. You can still control the volume, pause or skip music (back and forward), take phone calls and turn the headphones on or off. And all of that through solid and clear physical buttons. The on / off button is actually a lot better now. A clear click indicates whether you have switched the headphones on or off, where you sometimes had to check whether the device was on or off with the PX through the spring-loaded slider. In addition, the PX offers, just like its predecessor, the possibility of having the headphones switch off automatically as soon as you remove it from your head via the wear sensor. You can set this in the app and that works great.
Talking about the app. Bowers & Wilkins has replaced the PX app for the new series with the Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app. This app looks a lot tighter and more modern than the PX app but contains no significant improvements in terms of functionality. In the app you can still adjust the noise reduction (from low to high) and with “Ambient pass-through” you can determine to what extent ambient noise is still audible. You can also manage the Bluetooth connections in the app, adjust the sensitivity of the wear sensor, turn spoken instructions on or off, update the firmware and adjust the name of the headset. The app works nice and smooth, connects directly to the PX7 and offers enough options to adjust the headphones to your own liking.
As mentioned, the PX7 offers spoken instructions. A clear female voice, for example, indicates when noise canceling is switched on or off, when the battery is low and when a Bluetooth connection is active. Handy.
Finally, the installation is a piece of cake. It is a matter of turning on the headphones, opening the app, searching for a new headset and confirming with the push of a button on the headset. It couldn't be simpler, and an account is not necessary. The Bluetooth connection is moreover stable and without artifacts or other problems.
The most important thing about headphones is of course the sound quality. Being able to enjoy your favorite music in a comfortable way, in the highest possible quality. And in this area the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 certainly does not disappoint. Moreover; now that we have experienced this model, we are more than happy to ignore the original PX.
First of all, we used the PX7 without Active Noise Canceling (ANC), since it achieves the purest display, and then it is immediately noticeable that these headphones have made significant strides in terms of clarity and transparency compared to the PX. When we switch the headphones on and off, the original PX comes across as fairly closed, flat and less detailed. The PX7 manages to put down music with a great deal of detail, the reproduction is very well balanced and overall the reproduction of these headphones is a lot calmer. The reproduction is also larger, with more distance from the ears and a more open sound image. Vocals are warm, clear and come to the fore, while instruments are positioned wide around. The PX was certainly not bad, but the difference is strikingly large, and the PX7 makes listening to music simply more comfortable. Extra attention has also been paid to the bass. These come forward with even more punch and flexibility, and sometimes perhaps a bit too far. If the option was there I would roll back the bass a little but that is a matter of taste and luckily it is never disturbing. The music is fuller, contains more dynamics and comes to life more. There is literally more music in the PX7 than in the PX, regardless of the music style you choose. And even without ANC you are sufficiently shut off from ambient noise, for example, to enjoy music purely on the street.
If we activate Active Noise Canceling, it is noticeable that this function has much less impact on the has audio playback than we expected. With the PX, the quality clearly dropped one step when ANC was activated, although it was still pleasant to listen to music. However, that step now seems to be much less drastic with the PX7. Yes, the difference is still audible, but the filtering is more accurate and the overall dynamics of the music remain largely intact. The balance between filtering out ambient noise and maintaining a high audio quality is better and ensures – in my case – that I activate ANC more often. Preferably at the lowest setting, but even at the highest setting, for example in the aircraft, the range remains large and the listening experience comfortable. must go when ANC is on, and that is about what we can expect in this market segment. That promise makes the PX7 certainly true and the chance is therefore small that you will end up with an empty battery. And if that does happen, then you can recharge a few hours ahead with 15 minutes.
If we add everything together, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is a clear step forward compared to of the PX Wireless. The PX7 sounds livelier, more open, more transparent and more balanced than its predecessor. In fact, this model outclassed its predecessor in all aspects of music reproduction. Also when it comes to comfort, we don't want to go back; the PX7 can be used for a long time without bothering you and fits perfectly around the ears and head. Add to that the use of premium materials and a sleek finish (although we still find the PX a bit nicer) and you have headphones for 399 euros that are among the best noise canceling headphones of the moment – or perhaps the best