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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.

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 headphones
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2.
David Carnoy/CNET

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." 

bowers-wilkins-px7-s2-overhead

The headphones are more compact and comfortable.

David Carnoy/CNET

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.  

The new ear pads and angled drivers. 

David Carnoy/CNET

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.    

The headphones have physical control buttons like the original version.

David Carnoy/CNET

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)
  • Available in gray, blue and black
  • 307 grams without the carry case
  • Price: $399 (£379, AU$599)