Sunday, June 16, 2024

B&W’s Px7 S2 Headphones Set a High Bar for Sound

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It’s one thing to pick a fight with the biggest kid in the playground. It’s quite another to attempt to do it on your own terms. But with its new Px7 S2 wireless over-ear headphones, Bowers & Wilkins has basically squared up to Sony and enquired as to whether or not the Japanese behemoth would like some. Bold? Reckless? A bit of both? 

A couple of years ago, Bowers & Wilkins launched its original Px7 wireless noise-canceling on-ear headphones and priced them to meet the incumbent class leader, Sony’s WH-1000XM4, head on. And by playing on its heritage as well as to its strengths, Bowers & Wilkins delivered a pair of headphones able to compete where the fundamentals of sound quality were concerned. Yes, they were a bit chintzy, a bit try-hard in appearance, but they had it where it counted, and they were a valid audio-focused alternative to the all-singing, all-dancing, all-conquering Sony option.

Last month, Sony launched its WH-1000XM5. The price is up a bit, the weight is down a bit, the list of features and functionality remains as long as your arm. And so here comes Bowers & Wilkins with a new model. The price is up a bit, the weight is down a bit, the emphasis on sound quality and rather self-conscious “sophistication” remains exactly the same.

Photograph: Bowers & Wilkins

What that means for the outside of the Px7 S2, then, is a look that’s both premium and understated, delivered by deploying high-quality and tactile materials. At least, that’s true of our black review sample. The $399 (£379) Px7 S2 is also available in gray or blue, but we’d be surprised if those finishes undermine the impression of quality. 

A combination of soft, pliant, memory-foam-filled leather at the contact points, flawlessly applied fabric on the outer parts of the headband and ear cups, high-quality and silent plastics for the arms and hinges, and a sky-high overall standard of build helps the Px7 S2 look and feel good. Even the case in which they travel feels a cut above the norm. 

Comfortable, Fast-Charging Cans

Bowers & Wilkins has finessed the headband hanger arrangement and reassessed the clamping force in an effort to make these headphones more comfortable than the model they replace. And assisted by shaving a percentage point off the weight (307 g against the 310 g of the old Px7), it’s actually worked. The Px7 S2 are no burden to wear, and they stay comfortable even through long listening sessions. It helps that the ear pads resist returning your own body heat to the sides of your head for an impressively long time.

Photograph: Bowers & Wilkins

There have been revisions on the inside too. But what hasn’t altered is Bowers & Wilkins’ determination for these headphones to be the choice for customers who value sound quality more highly than, say, adaptive active noise cancellation. The Px7 S2 use Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity and are compatible with SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive codecs—so 24-bit high-resolution audio quality is available. The sound itself is delivered by a pair of 40-mm full-range, free-edge dynamic drivers. This is an all-new bio-cellulose design with lower total harmonic distortion figures than the driver it supersedes. 

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