Review: B&W PX7

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The B&W PX7 headphones are the flagship model in the British manufacturer’s range of noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones. Priced at €389, this over-ear closed-back model benefits from an elegant finish combining leather, fabric and carbon fiber. AptX HD compatible, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 headphones feature exclusive large-diameter transducers. Optimized by the brand’s acoustic engineers to cover a wide frequency range, they promise a dynamic and balanced sound, even in noisy environments. We wore the PX7 headphones for a few days in order to get an idea of their performance. 

The B&W PX7 headphones have an understated and elegant style, combining leather, fabric and carbon fiber.

B&W PX7: the brand

B&W is a prestigious British hi-fi brand that was created in 1966 by John Bowers and Roy Wilkins. Bowers & Wilkins has a long history of designing speakers and is best known for its esteemed Nautilus speakers that were unveiled in the early 90s.

Unveiled in 1993, the B&W Nautilus speaker revolutionized the conventional rules of speaker design.

While these prestigious models were redefining the very concept of what an acoustic speaker was, the British manufacturer brought high-quality hi-fi to the masses with the B&W 600 Series. Still a part of the manufacturers catalog after several major revisions, the speakers from the latest B&W 600 Series range feature a Nautilus-loaded double dome tweeter and drivers with Continuum or FST cones. These speakers deliver a precise and balanced sound, with a wide soundstage.

Among the iconic products developed by Bowers & Wilkins is the B&W PV1 subwoofer, released in 2004 and awarded a five-star rating by What Hi-Fi? Magazine. This unique spherical subwoofer equipped with two 8” drivers mounted back to back featured 500 watt ICEpower amplification and could go as low as 21Hz.

The B&W PV1 subwoofer made waves when it was released in 2004. Ideally, it was accompanied by the M1 compact speakers from the B&W MT30 home theater speaker pack.

Its predecessor, the B&W PV1D, remains a reference among subwoofers. Capable of producing formidable and physical bass, it was named subwoofer of the year 2012-2013 during the EISA Awards. It can be found in the B&W MT60-D home theater compact speaker pack, alongside the B&W M1 MKII speakers.

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The B&W MT60-D home theater compact speaker pack includes the B&W PV1-D subwoofer and five B&W M11 MKII satellite speakers.

During the 2000s, Bowers & Wilkins entered the digital age and created an exquisite iPod docking speaker: the Zeppelin, released in 2007. It was followed by a WiFi, AirPlay and Bluetooth compatible version a few years later. Named B&W Zeppelin Wireless, it remained a reference for many years for both its design and musicality. 

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Compatible with AirPlay, aptX Bluetooth and Spotify Connect, the B&W Zeppelin Wireless speaker is a genuine esthetic and acoustic achievement.

In 2010, the English brand continued its substantial investment in loudspeaker research and development. As a result, all of the speakers in the sixth iteration of the prestigious 800 Series Diamond range are equipped with a diamond dome tweeter. 

In 2010, the Series 800 Diamond speakers inherited the diamond tweeter inaugurated in 2006 with the Signature Diamond speaker that commemorated the brand’s fortieth anniversary. 

B&W also entered a new audiophile domain with its first pair of headphones, the B&W P5. Named European headphones of the year 2011-2012 by EISA, this closed-back model with its revolutionary design provides a well-defined sound with powerful lows, and lets you make phone calls with an iPhone.

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As well as benefiting from high-quality materials and a luxurious design, the B&W P5 headphones are comfortable, effectively isolate background noise and provide a rich, dynamic and deep sound.

Spurred on by this success, Bowers & Wilkins released a wireless Bluetooth version in 2015. The B&W P5 Wireless, with on-ear coupling, was followed in 2016 by an over-ear version, the B&W P7 Wireless, as well as the B&W P9 Signature wired headphones that celebrated the brand’s 50th anniversary. 

Celebrating the British brand’s 50th anniversary, the B&W P9 Signature headphones feature a solid aluminum headband and ear pads covered with Saffiano Italian leather, a very high-quality leather mainly used for luxury leather goods.

In 2017, the manufacturer entered a new era in design, digital technology and acoustic engineering with the B&W PX wireless headphones. AptX HD compatible and equipped with an active noise cancellation system, it was followed in 2019 by the B&W PX5 and B&W PX7 headphones, which unveiled a new adaptive active noise cancellation system.

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The B&W PX Wireless headphones were the British manufacturer’s first wireless Bluetooth headphones to include an active noise cancellation system.

A control app called B&W Headphones lets you configure the noise cancellation and the Ambient mode of these headphones. The latter allows the user to hear surrounding noise without having to remove the headphones.

Today, the British manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins still has several speaker ranges in its catalog, including the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series and B&W 700 Series, as well as the Bowers & Wilkins Mini Theater satellite home theater speakers. It is also an important player in the wireless speaker market with the B&W Formation range, and offers a number of subwoofers.

B&W PX7: packaging & accessories

The B&W PX7 headphones come in white cardboard box. Inside, the headphones are protected by a semi-rigid storage case that is covered with an elegant gray fabric. It comes with a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and a mini-jack to mini-jack audio cable. The latter allows you to continue listening to your music in places where radio waves are controlled or forbidden (hospitals, airplanes). Connecting the cable to the left earpiece automatically deactivates Bluetooth.

The B&W PX7 headphones come with a storage case, a mini-jack audio cable and a USB charging cable.

B&W PX7: presentation

The B&W PX7 are aptX HD compatible wireless Bluetooth headphones. The successor to the B&W PX Wireless, they can be distinguished by their new adaptive noise cancellation system. They also have a new headband and carbon fiber arms, as well as larger drivers. 

When the B&W Headphones app for iOS and Android is first launched, a visual presentation of the B&W PX7 headphones’ different features is available.

Visual design and comfort

The B&W PX7 headphones are a very attractive product. As soon as we unpacked them, we were impressed by their build quality and the care taken with the finish. The semi-rigid storage case that they come in sets the tone. Beautifully designed, it is covered with an elegant fabric and closed by a sturdy zipper that doesn’t snag. 

The build quality of the B&W PX7 headphones’ storage case is excellent.

Once we opened the case, we discovered the headphones. Their leather and fabric covering combines simplicity and refinement, a far cry from certain headphones with flashier designs.

The B&W PX7 headphones are well protected inside their case, which also holds the USB charging cable and the mini-jack audio cable.

The B&W PX7 headphones’ design meets high standards and uses a carbon fiber composite for the two arms that hold the earpieces. They slide into a metal headband, which is covered with leather on the inside and fabric on the top, just like the earpieces. 

The British manufacturer used a carbon fiber composite for the two arms that hold the B&W PX7 Bluetooth headphones’ earpieces.

The overall structure conveys a sense of robustness without being overly heavy. Weighing 310 grams, the B&W PX7 is heavier than its main rivals, such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 (255 grams), Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (250 grams) and Technics F70 (295 grams), even though the latter is visually bulkier. 

When we put them on, the B&W PX7 headphones proved to be very comfortable. Their weight was very evenly distributed across the entire surface of the headband, which didn’t cause any discomfort. The earpads were soft and the pressure exerted around the ears was precisely measured to hold the headphones in place without feeling tight. These headphones were pleasant to wear, even with glasses. Moreover, our ears didn’t get too warm, even after listening to music for several hours. This is a crucial aspect to consider when choosing a pair of headphones: they need to stay comfortable throughout long listening sessions.

AptX HD Bluetooth

The B&W PX7 headphones are equipped with a 5.0 Bluetooth controller. This controller supports the standard SBC codec, ensuring the headphones are completely compatible with all audio devices, smartphones, tablets, DAPs and computers that have a Bluetooth emitter.

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Bluetooth headphones also support the aptX HD codec with any compatible source. This codec ensures a very high transmission quality and lets you enjoy a high fidelity wireless connection up to 24 bits.

The button farthest to the left on the earpiece lets you turn the B&W PX7 headphones on and initiate the Bluetooth pairing. To the right, the LED is white when the headphones are paired.

The B&W PX7 headphones’ Bluetooth transmission quality is excellent. Although its range is announced at around 10 meters, in practice we saw that it extended well beyond this and, above all, that it remained stable, even through several walls. As a result, we were able to leave our smartphone in the living room and listen to uninterrupted music from one end of the house to the other. We were even able to walk around our garden (approximately 500m²) without losing reception until we were about 15 meters away from the smartphone inside the house. 

30 hours of battery life

This is the B&W PX7’s other strong point. Its rechargeable battery has a very impressive autonomy, even when the noise cancellation is activated. Enough to last a week at work when listening to six hours of music or more every day, or to take a long-haul flight without the worry of finishing the journey without music.

In addition, the B&W PX7’s quick-charge feature provides up to five hours of battery life in just 15 minutes.

The B&W PX7 headphones are charged using a USB-A to USB-C cable connected to the connector located on the right earpiece next to the mini-jack input.

However, if the headphones’ battery runs out, don’t count on using the mini-jack audio cable to listen to music in “passive mode”: it simply isn’t possible with the B&W PX7. Therefore, this cable can only be used to enjoy your headphones with a non-Bluetooth source, with or without noise cancellation, which is a shame.

Optimized drivers

Both of the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 wireless headphones’ earpieces feature a large, 2” dynamic transducer. Designed and optimized by the engineers that developed the B&W 800 Series Diamond speakers, these drivers cover a wide frequency range that stretches from 10Hz to 30kHz. 

Each driver is tilted backwards slightly so that the sound is directed towards the ear canal.

Inside each earpiece, they are positioned at an angle calculated so the sound is directed towards the ear canal. The British manufacturer promises deep and powerful lows, a smooth and clear midrange, as well as detailed highs. We couldn’t ask for more!

Noise cancellation

The closed shells and thick earpads of the B&W PX7’s earpieces ensure that background noise is effectively cancelled out. However, the British manufacturer still equipped these headphones with an active noise cancellation system that uses several microphones to analyze ambient sounds. This feature can be set to three different modes directly via the dedicated button on the left earpiece.

Located on the B&W PX7’s left earpiece, the noise cancellation button also lets you activate the “Ambient Pass-Through” mode so you can hear what is happening around you.

The Low mode slightly attenuates ambient noise, which is ideal in the city so that you remain aware of what is happening around you and of vehicles in particular. The High mode pushes the system to the maximum of its abilities and is particularly useful if you want to use the headphones on public transport (tramway, bus, metro) or on a plane. The Auto mode continually analyzes the acoustic environment to adjust the level of noise cancellation according to the situation.

Lastly, the B&W PX7 headphones can use their microphones to pick up external sounds so they can be heard clearly through the earpieces (Ambient Pass-Through feature). As a result, you can clearly hear what is going on around you without taking the headphones off. This feature is particularly useful if you want to hear announcements at a train station, or even to have a brief conversation.

The B&W Headphones app can be downloaded for free on an iPhone or an Android smartphone. It lets you activate the noise cancellation system and select one of its three modes. You can also activate and configure the Ambient Pass-Through mode.

Control interface & app

The B&W PX7 headphones are very intuitive to use. The volume and playback control buttons situated underneath the right earpiece are easy to find with your thumb when your hand is placed on the earpiece. The same goes for the active noise cancellation button situated underneath the left earpiece. The ergonomics are well thought out and a lot of manufacturers would do well to take note!

Three buttons on the B&W PX7’s right earpiece control the volume and playback. The more prominent central button is used to pause and play the music, but also to answer or end calls in hands-free telephone mode.

Moreover, the B&W PX7 headphones are equipped with sensors that detect when the headphones are being worn. This feature can be activated or deactivated via the app and the sensors have three different sensitivity levels: less, normal and more. In theory, you simply have to lift either earpiece or remove the headphones for the music to be automatically paused. By placing the earpiece back on your ear or by putting the headphones back on, the music starts again after a few seconds.

During our test, this feature was effective approximately 8 times out of 10. At times, however, the music kept playing after we took the headphones off. Sometimes when we removed the headphones and put them back on the music skipped to the next track. Adjusting the sensitivity of the system didn’t solve this problem. A future update will probably correct this minor flaw.

In addition to setting the noise cancellation, the Ambient Pass-Through mode (left) and the sensitivity of the wear sensors (right), the B&W Headphones app also offers several calming “soundscapes” so that you can relax in noisy environments (center).

Key specifications

Design

  • Type: closed-back
  • Coupling: circumaural
  • Drivers: 2 x 2”
  • Adaptive active noise cancellation
  • High-quality materials and build: memory foam, leather earpads, carbon fiber arms
  • 4 microphones for noise cancellation
  • 2 microphones for phone calls

Measurements

  • Frequency range: 10Hz to 30kHz
  • Total harmonic distortion (THD): < 0.3% (1kHz/10mW)

Bluetooth

  • Version 5.0
  • Bluetooth profiles: A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.6, HFP v 1.6, HSP v1.2, GAP, SDAP, DIP
  • Bluetooth codecs: aptX HD, SBC, AAC

Useability features

  • Mobile app for customized audio playback
  • Natural UI – The integrated sensors handle features such as pausing playback when the headphones are removed

Connectors

  • USB-C (audio, battery charging and software updates)
  • 3.5mm stereo mini-jack

Power supply

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Battery life: 30 hours with the active noise cancellation

General

  • Net weight: 310g

B&W PX7: configuration

For our review of the B&W PX7 headphones, we mainly used an aptX HD compatible Android smartphone, both via Bluetooth and with the mini-jack audio cable. We listened to Deezer (family subscription, MP3 320kbps) and Qobuz (Hi-Fi Sublime subscription) as well as Hi-Res tracks stored in the smartphone’s memory and shared over the local network via the USB Audio Player Pro app.

The B&W PX7 headphones’ active noise cancellation proved to be very effective in our open plan office where a dozen people were working.

B&W PX7: listening impressions

These B&W headphones require a few hours of breaking in to reach an optimal operating regime. As a result, the first listening sessions were a little disappointing, especially in the highs which were somewhat veiled. The soundstage also lacked magnitude and spaciousness.

After around 20 or 30 hours of listening, this changed drastically. The B&W PX7 headphones were clearer and more precise in the highs but remained smooth. The spatialization expanded and the lows were more dynamic.

Globally, these Bowers & Wilkins headphones provided a balanced sound, with extended lows, nicely textured mids and a certain softness in the highs. The aptX HD codec is partly to thank for this. There was none of the harshness or confused lows usually observed with the highly destructive SBC codec. On the contrary, the B&W PX7 provided clarity without harshness in the highs and full-bodied, sometimes tangible lows.

Generously padded, the headband of the B&W PX7 evenly distributes the weight of the headphones across the head. They are very comfortable to wear.

Strangely, in Bluetooth mode we found the sound to be rather flat and lackluster when the active noise cancellation was deactivated. The bass was feeble and shallow. But when the noise cancellation was turned on, no matter the volume, the lows were punchy and gained depth and intensity. The sound had more texture and energy.

This phenomenon was also present with wired connections, although it was less pronounced. However, the volume in this mode was a lot lower than in wireless mode. The amplifier gain should probably have been increased in this mode to provide a higher maximum volume with smartphones.

The quality of the wireless Bluetooth connection was quite simply remarkable, with one exception. When we tried the headphones’ double connection with a smartphone and a laptop, playback via the smartphone’s Deezer app was chaotic, forcing us to deactivate the connection with the computer. This unfortunate experience aside, we enjoyed an excellent Bluetooth connection, both in terms of stability and range, which was well over the ten meters announced by the manufacturer.

Although the noise cancellation didn’t match that of the market leaders, notably Bose and Sony, it was still very effective. The Ambient Pass-Through mode was also very useful and we appreciated being able to adjust the intensity depending on the situation.

Lastly, the hands-free telephone mode was particularly pleasant to use. Not only could we hear the people we were talking to very clearly, but they also praised the quality of the phone call and could hear us clearly too.

The Bowers & Wilkins headphones impressed us in many ways, starting with their balanced and dynamic sound.

Which aspects of the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 didn’t we like? Firstly, it’s a real shame that it is impossible to use them in wired mode when the battery is flat, even though this seems to be a recurring theme among current Bluetooth headphones.

B&W PX : compared to…

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: the materials used for the B&W PX7 justify its price, which is higher than that of its American counterpart, but the latter provides a more efficient noise cancellation system with 11 levels, compared to two preset levels and an automatic mode for the B&W PX7. Concerning battery life, the B&W PX7 comes out on top as it can last at least thirty hours, compared to only twenty for the Bose model. The British headphones also have the advantage regarding sound quality with a richer and more balanced sound, largely due to their compatibility with the aptX HD codec.

Sony WH-1000XM3: the Sony headphones also have a noise cancellation mode with three modes, but it is calibrated differently to that of the B&W PX7 as each mode has a specific use. In practice, the noise cancellation is just as effective with both headphones and they both allow you to remain aware of your surroundings, which is a must with city traffic (ambient noise mode). The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones have the advantage of being able to decode the LDAC codec, which offers a higher data flow than aptX HD in Bluetooth. But this wasn’t so obvious when listening to music and the sound offered by the Bowers & Wilkins was more appealing thanks to its richness, overall balance and energy. 

Technics F70: sold for 399 euros and certified Hi-Res Audio, the Technics headphones are compatible with both aptX HD and LDAC. While the two models are pretty similar in terms of richness and detail, the B&W PX7 has more impact in the lows while maintaining perfect control over this frequency range, even at high volume.

B&W PX7: conclusion

Elegant, comfortable, able to provide a natural and dynamic sound: the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 headphones impressed us with their impactful and perfectly handled lows, detailed highs and, above all, overall balance. However, the noise cancellation must be activated otherwise the sound will be dull. The Bluetooth connection deserves a special mention for its stability and range, but only when a single connection is used.

It is a shame, however, that it is not possible to use the headphones in wired mode when the battery is flat. We also had trouble with glitches in the Wear Sensing system, which was sometimes temperamental.

These headphones are suited to frequent travellers looking for a very “hi-fi” model with excellent musical qualities. For fans of the B&W sound signature and those who want a change from the more conventional Bose and Sony models…

What we liked

  • The rich and balanced sound
  • The effective sound cancellation
  • The ease of use
  • The Ambient Pass-Through mode
  • The impressive battery life

What we would have liked

  • To have been able to use them in wired mode when the battery was flat

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