Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2: High-End Headphones Have Sony in Their Sights
The second-gen PX7 S2 headphones at $399 feature a more comfortable fit along with improved sound quality, noise-canceling and voice-calling performance.
David CarnoyExecutive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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Several new premium noise-canceling headphones have been arriving in recent weeks, including Sony's WH-1000XM5 ($400, £380, AU$650), Master & Dynamic's MW75 ($599, £549 or roughly AU$970) and a teaser for Sennheiser's upcoming Momentum 4 Wireless. Now Bowers & Wilkins has joined the fray with its new PX7 S2 noise-canceling headphones, which are available for preorder now for $399 (£379, AU$599). It's also teasing its new flagship PX8 noise-canceling headphones, which will hit the market later this year for $549.
I've been playing around with an early review sample of the PX7 S2, which comes in three color options (gray, blue and black) and offers some significant improvements over the first-generation version of the headphones. Not only are the headphones more comfortable -- they tip the scales at 307 grams -- but they sound better and have better noise-canceling and voice-calling performance with improved noise reduction. I don't necessarily think they're a better option than the lighter and even more comfortable Sony WH-1000XM5. But the PX7 S2 certainly looks and feels luxurious, with its sturdy design.
Bowers & Wilkins says the PX7 S2 has all-new high-resolution drive units "angled within each earcup to deliver an incredibly immersive soundstage," a new active noise cancellation system, plus an upgraded microphone set up for "enhanced call quality."
The headphones are slightly more compact overall than their predecessors and also feature new, softer and thicker memory foam ear pads that provide a tight seal along with that improved comfort I was talking about. A hard carrying case is included along with USB-C and 3.5mm cable connections.
The PX7 S2 is powered by a Qualcomm chip and supports Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive audio streaming codec that allows for near-lossless streaming (up to 24-bit high-resolution sound) if you have a device that supports aptX Adaptive and are able to stream high-resolution audio files. Music services like Qobuz and Tidal offer streaming of high-resolution files.
Bowers & Wilkins has a new companion app for iOS and Android called Bowers & Wilkins Music. (I was using an early version of the app that was a little unstable.) With the app you can tweak the sound profile of the headphones with an adjustable EQ, monitor battery levels and activate or disengage the noise-canceling and transparency modes to let ambient sound in. Battery life is rated at up to 30 hours at moderate levels -- that's good -- and there's a quick charge feature that delivers seven hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge.
I need to spend a little more time with the headphones -- and more time comparing them to other models -- to deliver a final verdict. But suffice to say these deliver very good sound with a nice open soundstage, well-defined powerful bass, good detail and warm, natural-sounding mids. That's all stuff you'd expect in this price range. I'm not sure the sound quality rises significantly above that of the WH-1000XM5 and I think it falls a little short of the more expensive Master & Dynamic MW75, but the combination of strong sound quality, improved noise canceling (it's not quite there with the Sony's but it's good) and solid voice-calling performance should put the PX7 S2 on your shortlist for headphones in this price range.
While I haven't seen or listened to the PX8 yet, I imagine it will offer a little more depth and nuance to its sound quality. That model does have different drivers.
PX7 S2 key features
Slimmer profile with improved fit and new memory foam ear cups
All-new high-resolution drive units, angled within each ear cup
Upgraded six-microphone set-up for enhanced call quality
Bowers & Wilkins Music App for set-up and fine-tuning, plus Voice Assistant support
30 hours of battery life from a single charge (USB-C and 3.5mm cables included)