Bowers & Wilkins PX full review
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Bowers & Wilkins has established itself as a top player in the headphone market over the last few years, but the firm hasn't branched into noise cancelling… until now. Here's our Bowers & Wilkins PX review.
We've been thoroughly impressed by the range of headphones from Bowers & Wilkins across different designs, styles and price points. There's been almost something for everyone aside from some in-ears and a pair with noise cancelling so it's great to see B&W filling one of those gaps with the new PX.
You can pay a lot of money for Bowers & Wilkins headphones with the P9 Signature over-ear headphones coming in at a cool £699.
They're not all that pricey though, and the new PX model is priced at £329. Perhaps a bit lower than we expected after taking a look at them in a briefing, but also not shocking because this means they match they're biggest rival – the Bose QC35 ii.
You can get cheaper wireless headphones from B&W in the P5 Wireless which are £229 but they're more basic with no noise cancelling.
Design and build
The PX headphones have the quintessential Bowers & Wilkins design that we've grown to adore over the years.
We've become accustomed to very high quality build with bags of style on offer and the PX do not disappoint. The firm told us it wanted to take the P9 design and make it more universally accessible to customers.
The streamlined design does exactly that. Despite being similar over-ear headphones, the PX are lighter than the P9 and far more compact and portable. The ear cups swivel but the headphones don't fold so they stay reasonably big.
We love the way they look with curved metal holding braded cables.
Bowers & Wilkins has again done a great job of blending materials including metal, leather and 'ballistic' nylon. The PX are available in Space Grey (grey/silver) or the particularly stunning Soft Gold (blue/gold).
That said, the new Bose QC35 ii are a lot more comfortable with a lighter construction and extremely soft ear pads. They just don't offer the same level of luxury build and style as the PX and feel quite cheap in comparison.
Comfort is the biggest downside of the PX but it still takes a long time before things get a little painful and they should soften up over time.
Like most wireless headphones, there are various ports and buttons on the PX with B&W deciding to put everything on the right-hand side. As well as a 3.5mm port for a cable (should you need it), there's a USB-C port for charging or a digital connection.
You also get a sliding power button, controls for volume and playback, plus a dedicated button to control noise cancelling. There's a slight issue with this we'll talk about below.
Sound quality and features
There's no NFC chip for easy pairing but that's hardly the end of the world, especially when you look at how many features are packed into the PX headphones.
Inside are the same 40mm drivers introduced with the P9 Signature, but there's a whole lot more in terms of features. For starters there's Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX HD but the main feature here is noise cancelling which is a first for Bowers & Wilkins.
If you've not used headphones with the feature then you really need to – two microphones on each ear cup listen to ambient sound and play an inverse audio signal of it to cancel it out. You feel like you're in a bubble and it also means you can hear your music or audiobook a lot better.
Noise cancelling is great in a number of different environments and Bowers & Wilkins has thought about this. Instead of simply switching it on or off, you can choose from three different modes: City, Office and Flight.
Each one increases the noise cancelling and you can also choose how much voice pass-through you want if the defaults don't suit. This feature allows more or less of the sound around you to get through to your ear – particularly handy in an office when people might need your attention.
Overall the noise cancelling is superb thanks to the control you have over it. However, it’s not quite up to the same pure shutout ability of Bose. It’s a close call though and audio performance is better here.
It's just a shame that the button on the headphones only switches it on or off rather than cycling through the modes. Instead, you have to change the mode and the voice pass-through using the dedicated app. While this works fine it can be a bit of a pain.
The app is also where you control another handy feature. The 'wear sensor' knows if you're wearing the PX headphones or not so it can put them into low-power when they're not being used.
That means you don't really need to switch them off when you're done but it can do more. It can also automatically pause/play your music when you take them off or put them on. It's the kind of feature you wish you had on every pair of headphones.
By default we found the wear sensor a bit too sensitive, pausing when we were just adjusting the headphones a little bit rather than taking them off. However, in the app you can choose from three different levels of sensitivity.
In terms of battery life, the PX offer slightly longer listening times to the Bose QC35 ii with 22 hours over wireless with noise cancelling compared to 20. You can get up to 50 hours with a wired connection and no noise cancelling and the battery will last up to 30 days on standby, according to the firm.
The only downside here is that the PX can't be used without any battery power.
Last but not least is the sound quality of the PX which as mentioned earlier are modelled on the P9 Signature which offer stunning performance. So they’re once again 40mm drivers slightly angled to point towards you like you’re listening to a pair of speakers in front.
It results in a really nice stereo field so the PX sounds immersive, albeit not as spacious compared to the P9.
There’s a matching 22ohmn impedance so you can drive the PX headphones with ease but the frequency range is smaller than their big brother – 10-20,000Hz compared to 3-30,000Hz.
Even though they might not sound quite as good as the P9, they’re still superb in sound quality. After all, they’re a lot cheaper and the real competition here is from Bose and Sony.
To our ears, the PX wins it on sound quality with an excellently rich sound that somehow lends itself just as well to jazz as it does drum and bass.
Bowers & Wilkins has proven it knows how to craft and tune headphones and the PX are the best sounding wireless headphones we’ve ever tested. Bass is solid and pumping yet controlled so as not to dominate the response.
As we found with the P9, there’s impressive detail and clarity in the overall sounds. Mid-range is just outstanding with vocals and instruments sounds live. Bags of character here is backed up by bright and crisp top-end.
Slightly more comfort and improved noise cancelling would leave us with no complaints whatsoever.
Bowers & Wilkins PX: Specs
- Over-Ear Headphone
- Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX-HD
- Smart sensors
- Changeable ear cushions
- Detachable cable
- 3.5mm stereo mini jack
- 40mm (1.6in) full range drivers
- 10Hz-20kHz frequency range
- 22 ohms impedance
- <0.3% (1KHz/10mW) distortion
- 111dB/V at 1kHz sensitivity
- 850mAh battery
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