Bowers & Wilkins in one of the most famous luxury audio brands on the market. And although the Company is well-known for their speakers and home audio systems, it turns out they can make a killer wireless headphone too. There’s no question that B&W’s flagship, the Px8, is in a league of its own, though an admittedly expensive one. In fact, even big-spending audiophiles may wonder if its worth dropping 700 bucks on a Bluetooth headphone. So, what can you expect in terms of sound, design from these luxury cans? Will they blow you away?
What’s in the Box?
- Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Headphones
- 1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable (for wired listening)
- 1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable
- Hard shell case
Look and Feel
A+ on both fronts. Without a doubt, I think the PX8 the best-looking wireless headphone on the market. Classy, yet current in its design, the build quality appears exceptional, and every element in the physical design feels super solid and firmly supported. With a cast aluminum yoke (not featured on the Px7 S2), Nappa leather ear pads and trimming, there’s no question that the Px8 sets a new benchmark for premium headphone design.
Although I rarely have problems with fit, I have to say that the Px8 is also one of the most comfortable wireless headphone I have ever worn. Luxuriously soft and forgiving, the memory foam ear pads remained gentle and cool on the ears even after hours of wear.
Design and Functionality
Under the Hood
For this model, Bowers & Wilkins has refreshed its driver design, employing 40mm carbon cone drivers with a revised magnet, intended to minimize distortion and enhance clarity and realism.
The PX8 offers 30 hours of battery life and gives you an impressive 7 hours of playback after a quick 15 minute charge. Still, 30 hours of playback is pretty standard when compared to other upper-tier headphones, like the Focal Bathys.
Pairing the PX8 is easy and fast, and I experienced no signal interruptions even in the middle of Manhattan. It also supports a bunch of codecs, including aptX, apt HD and aptX Adaptive.
Bowers & Wilkins has thankfully used buttons instead of touch sensors for the headphone controls. Personally, I hate swiping and tapping on ear cups, which can sometimes be confusing and less than optimal in responsiveness. .
The active noise-cancellation is powerful enough to almost eliminate pesky low frequencies, such as those of an air conditioner or train rumble. At the same time it avoids being too powerful. So you’ll never feel any ear pressure like some people do on the more famous ANC wireless models on the market, such as the Sony WH-1000XM5. However, it should be noted, that like most noise-cancelling headphones, the ANC slightly affects the bass, making it heavier and thicker than the more neutral presentation offered when the ANC is off. Finally, you’ll also be able to efficiently switch between ANC, ANC off, and Pass-Through mode, which opens up the sound of your surrounding environment, allowing you order coffee and take crap from your boss.
The PX8 comes with an accompanying app that offers a few neat features, though for this price, I was hoping for a fully customizable equalizer. Unfortunately, the B&W app only allows you to adjust the bass and high frequencies. That being said, the PX8 sounds perfectly balanced right out of the box, so maybe B&W just doesn’t want you tinkering with something that isn’t broken. Which brings us to sound impressions…
Bowers & Wilkins has done an incredible job delivering a soundstage that you can usually only find in a high-performance wired headphone. The scale of the stage feels realistic and never exaggerated, while the imaging is super tight and well-defined. You’ll hear generous distancing between instruments from all angles of the soundstage. The sense of depth is probably the hardest thing to achieve in a headphone. And Px8 has pulled it off surprisingly well, pushing instruments deep behind the ears almost as well as it did forward, beyond the head. And combined with highly nuanced placement and subtle shifts in angle, you’re left utterly immersed in a thoroughly multidimensional and vibrant tapestry of sound. So, five stars in this department.
You’ll hear a deep and voluptuous bass that gets satisfyingly visceral once you reach the sub-frequencies. At the same time, the bass profile is highly detailed, controlled and natural, which becomes most apparent on acoustic tracks. Instruments like cellos and double basses are conveyed with the subtlest textures and timbral colors, delivering an uber-realistic and open performance. At the same time, the Px8 maintains that refined, fluid feel that makes B&W so distinct. So, while the sound never feels adulterated, it also never sounds clinical or boring. I’ve also rarely heard a wireless headphone that tackles acoustic genres as well as it does modern tracks. And for sure, the Px8 delivers one of the of the most versatile low-end profiles in its class.
You’ll hear a tasteful and crowd pleasing balance in this range. The low-mids are given their deserved attention, lending warmth and body to the mix, while the upper mids avoid artificially protruding through the track. And in the midrange, the Px8’s cohesiveness and remarkable level of control becomes even more apparent. Strings effortless move through notes, reaching a perfect balance between smoothness and texture. With respect to modern tracks, although the midrange balance is not particularly dynamic (or “contrasty”), it still throws out ample snap and energy. The result is a forgiving, yet lively listening experience.
You’ll hear velvety, rich vocals in this range that slide up and down notes with smoothness and ease. At the same time, you’ll still sense the faintest vocal crackles and nuances in breath. For sure, the Px8’s highly resolving and transparent presentation remains superb in the treble frequencies as well. While there’s a satisfying crispness in the highest frequencies, you’ll never run into any uncomfortable peakiness.
This is one sophisticated and classy sound signature. Refined, yet remarkably realistic in its presentation, the Px8 does just as much justice to acoustic genres as it does to modern stuff like EDM, pop and hip-hop. The warmth, cohesiveness, fluidity and steady, yet powerful energy that the Px8 delivers is nothing short of delicious. If you’re like me, and you listen to everything under the sun, it just doesn’t get any better than this with respect to wireless performance. For me, the solid ANC and gorgeous design are just a cherry on top. Is $700 asking a lot for a Bluetooth headphone? Sure. But I would still choose it over all the most expensive wireless headphones on the market today (I won’t name names). In fact, in my unusually enthusiastic opinion, these cans are impossible not to love.
You can find the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 at Audio 46.