You don’t purchase Bowers & Wilkins headphones out of practicality. The corporate’s newest over-ear pair, the $399 PX7 S2, isn’t going to be the default, apparent alternative for most individuals purchasing for noise-canceling headphones. However the place the British audio model seeks to separate itself from Sony, Bose, and different rivals is in craftsmanship and nailing the small particulars. These are headphones the place the elegant design is simply as a lot of a promoting level as sonic efficiency. With this new mannequin, Bowers & Wilkins is promising developments in consolation, noise cancellation, and even higher sound constancy. The corporate delivers on all of these fronts, even when there are nonetheless weaknesses elsewhere.

The PX7 S2 headphones look similar to the outgoing PX7s, with an general fashion that has stayed constant because the authentic PX wi-fi headphones from 2017. They appear premium and keep that method, warding off the smudges and fingerprints which might be widespread on rivals like Sony’s WH-1000XM5s. Bowers & Wilkins isn’t throwing in fancy supplies like carbon fiber this time; as a substitute, the main target is all on consolation. The non-folding PX7 S2s are barely smaller and lighter than the earlier mannequin and now sit nearer to your head. The replaceable ear cushions use reminiscence foam for higher prolonged consolation, and the leatherette headband didn’t trigger any aching or uninteresting ache on my giant head, even throughout prolonged listening classes. The headphones are available black, blue (with gold accents), or mild grey.

On the proper ear cup are the primary controls: a slider swap for energy leaves little doubt when the headphones are on or off, which I favor over simply urgent and holding a button. There are additionally devoted buttons for play / pause and quantity. On the left ear cup is a customizable button that, by default, toggles between ANC on, ANC off, and transparency mode. You’ll be able to remap this to activate your cellphone’s voice assistant if you want. The PX7 S2s assist Bluetooth multipoint and might pair with two units concurrently for added comfort.

I’ll take bodily controls over swipe gestures each time.

Bowers & Wilkins says the revamped 40-millimeter drivers and different acoustic upgrades have ratcheted up sound high quality in comparison with the PX7s with considerably much less harmonic distortion. The PX7 S2s assist a variety of Bluetooth codecs, together with aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, aptX, AAC, and SBC. Extra importantly, in addition they have “considerably angled drivers” that the corporate says ends in superior spatial placement, complete consistency, and stereo imaging. The drivers on the older PX7s had a a lot shallower angle, and Bowers & Wilkins appears assured that the S2s have restored a few of its audio magic and will wow anybody who may’ve been unenthused concerning the PX7s.

Vocals reduce via with wonderful readability, bass is deep and rumbly when obligatory, and the soundstage is impressively extensive and expansive for closed-back headphones. The PX7 S2s come throughout as large and emotive. They offer off a particular feeling when listening to them — virtually such as you’ve obtained a miniaturized pair of Bowers & Wilkins’ iconic full-size audio system wrapped round your ears.

For the primary time, the corporate provides you some management over the EQ and sound profile within the Bowers & Wilkins Music app for Android and iOS. However as a substitute of a variety of EQ sliders to play with, you may solely make primary changes to bass and treble. I by no means felt a necessity to regulate the out-of-box sound: they sound downright implausible as is. Listening to Muna’s new self-titled album, there was extra character and readability from these headphones than I obtained from Sony’s 1000XM5 or the Bose QC45s. Apple’s AirPods Max may nonetheless edge out Bowers & Wilkins in relation to element, nevertheless it’s very shut, and the PX7 S2s really feel extra punchy and full of life.

The case isn’t notably small, nevertheless it’s manageable.

Bowers & Wilkins features a common USB-C cable and likewise a USB-C-to-3.5mm cable.

For those who’d favor to pay attention wired, you may solely achieve this utilizing the USB-C port. Like Apple and the AirPod Max, Bowers & Wilkins has made the curious determination to completely remove the three.5mm enter on these headphones — although, not like Apple, it features a USB-C-to-3.5mm cable within the field. You’re nonetheless in a position to plug right into a headphone jack on numerous units that method; simply don’t go dropping the cable. It strikes me as untimely for $400 headphones to be ditching the three.5mm connector, and it feels a bit like corporations are studying the unsuitable classes from Apple. Most haven’t taken such a drastic step in the direction of all-digital audio, however possibly we’re about to see a pattern take maintain.

Explaining the transfer, Bowers & Wilkins instructed me “it’s merely that 3.5mm is a less-used enter in 2022” and famous the benefits of USB-C. The headphones will cost as you pay attention over a wired USB-C to C connection, for instance. And even when there had been a 3.5 enter, the PX7 S2s don’t assist passive audio; they want battery energy to work. “We’ve taken the view that for nearly all listeners at this time, wi-fi transmission is the most definitely use case,” the corporate instructed me. It additionally identified that it features a longer USB-C cable than most headphone makers to assist with totally different use circumstances.

The PX7 S2 headphones look much like their B&W predecessors.

Lively noise cancellation on the PX7 S2s has noticeably improved over the prior mannequin. I didn’t have an opportunity to check their flight chops, however they did a commendable job hushing metropolis noise whereas I used to be working exterior a espresso store. Bowers & Wilkins estimates that they reduce round 30dB of noise from the skin world, and that’s adequate for my use case. Even when the S2s nonetheless fall wanting best-in-class noise cancellation from Sony, Apple, and Bose, what’s right here is greater than serviceable and didn’t depart me upset contemplating the excessive sticker worth. The transparency mode is pleasant-sounding and does the trick, however nobody has come near matching simply how pure this function sounds on Apple’s AirPods Max.

Voice name efficiency continues to be merely satisfactory. Bowers & Wilkins repositioned among the microphones for higher vocal pickup and readability, however these aren’t headphones I’d need to use for a day filled with Zoom conferences. Battery life is unchanged from the PX7 at 30 hours, which stays completely aggressive. The headphones now cost sooner, juicing up from useless to one hundred pc in two hours as a substitute of the three hours it could take their predecessors. And for those who’re in a rush, a 15-minute top-off will get you many hours of playback time.

I’ve been fairly impressed by the PX7 S2s, a lot in order that I’d take them even over my trusty Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones. There are nonetheless legitimate causes to favor mainstream picks from Sony or Bose: they supply ethereal consolation and unmatched ANC. But when sound and substance are what you’re after, these headphones reveal that Bowers & Wilkins can nonetheless grasp with one of the best of them, with an additional sprint of class and class that you simply gained’t discover from most rivals going for mass enchantment.

Images by Chris Welch / The Verge

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