Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Headphones Review

Posted on 7th November, 2022
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Headphones Review

Jay Garrett auditions this famous British speaker brand's flagship wireless headphones…

Bowers & Wilkins

Px8 Wireless Headphones

USD $699 RRP

Bowers & Wilkins has been making loudspeakers for over half a century and more recently began to apply its vast experience of acoustics to headphones, too. These have been getting ever more impressive, and expensive. Its latest flagship wireless headphones design, dubbed the Px8, costs a cool $699 USD in North America, and is the bigger brother of the $399 Px7 S2. There's even an exotic 007 Edition in blue for $799 USD, too.

Do people really pay so much for headphones? It would seem so, as evidenced by Mark Levinson – which rewrote the rule book with its ultra high-end $999 №5909 release earlier this year. The Px8's pricing is in line with the likes of Apple's AirPods Max but considerably more than offerings from Sony, whose flagship noise-cancellers cost just $399.99, and Sennheiser's MOMENTUM 4 over-ears that are tagged at $349.95 USD.

UP CLOSE

As soon as you reach into the box to lift the Px8 out, it's clear that it is a luxury product. Any memories of the Px7 are dashed from your mind as your hands touch the soft Nappa leather (available in black and tan) on the headband, earcups and earpads, or when your fingers brush against the cast aluminium arms. Suddenly, these are no longer mere headphones but a precision-engineered audio product. Yet even with these premium materials, the Px8 only weighs 12g more than the Px7, tipping the scales at 320g. However, this pair of cans feels much more planted on my head, and the upgraded frame has a more satisfying clamp on my ears, squishing those luxurious pads firmer around my lobes, making for a better seal.

Bowers & Wilkins has also uprated the gubbins inside of the Px8, too. Although the specially-angled drivers remain 40mm, the Px8 eschews bio-cellulose in favour of carbon fibre. We're told that the carbon cone is lighter, more rigid and better controlled in its behaviour, reducing distortion and improving transparency. This lower mass cone corresponds with some tweaks made to the motor system to compensate. Other than that, however, the drive unit is primarily unchanged from the Px7 S2. 

It's the same story elsewhere, with the Px8 boasting Bluetooth 5.2 and aptX Adaptive compatibility, four microphones for noise-cancelling and another pair for voice calls. Additionally, you get a claimed thirty-hour battery life, which I can confirm is about right through my commutes and lunch hours in the office, and should be enough for most flights and travel scenarios. That said, the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless does have bragging rights with an incredible sixty hours of playing stamina which is pretty hard to ignore. Still, I can't think of when I will ever be more than thirty hours away from a charging point, as my phone battery will die before then!

Helping eke more life out of the battery is the option to hardwire the Px8 to a laptop or alternative source via the bundled USB-C to USB-C cable and USB-C to 3.5mm lead. I actually preferred the sound from the former over the latter. But then, the 3.5mm jack-terminated version will most likely have seen the track go from digital to analogue, depending on the source, and then analogue, to digital, to analogue again before hitting your ears.

Another thumbs up for things carried over from the Px7 is the physical buttons on the earcups. I am sure there would have been the temptation to do something clever with haptic feedback, lasers or the like. But, as the motoring industry is coming to realise, there is still a lot to be said for physical buttons – especially when relying on touch and muscle memory. Furthermore, the system on the Px8 worked perfectly each and every time, even after updating my preferences through the Bowers & Wilkins Music app…

APPY TALK

The Music app also offers a means to make adjustments to EQ and noise-cancelling preferences, as well as the sensitivity of the wear sensor. The wear sensor will stop and start the music depending on whether you're wearing the headphones or not - there's a trio of sensitivity settings for this. The highest setting was too trigger-happy for me as it stopped the music when I had to adjust the relationship between the arm of my glasses and the headphone earpads. That aside, I have no quibbles with it, as it seemed to stop whenever I took the Px8 off to order a coffee, and the music restarted as I skipped away with my travel mug of hot, pretentious caffeine.

Sticking with the app, it links directly to music services such as TIDAL, Qobuz and Deezer so that everything can be controlled from one place. This is fab, but I've now got Roon Arc for that kind of behaviour as once I've set my headphone preferences, I generally leave them as is. That said, if you've not got Roon Arc, having your services and such all in one spot can only be a good thing. But, more importantly, it works smoothly and intuitively, and if you're rocking a Zeppelin or such, you can switch over to them when you get home using the very same app.

The Px8's noise cancelling is better than the Px7's, most likely due to the more snug fit I was getting from the superior clamping of the Px8. However, it's on par with the Mark Levinsons, which is to say that there are better choices if noise cancelling is your priority. Less expensive offerings like those from Sony or Sennheiser keep more of the outside out. And while the Bowers & Wilkins cans do a decent job of cutting out most extraneous noise, there are moments when sudden clatter does percolate through. That said, the Px8 trumps those cheaper alternatives in overall sound quality. 

Call quality again is decent, with voices presented clearly with an emphasis on the midband giving the caller's voice a bit more bite. I am assuming that this is to improve intelligibility. Likewise, on the other side, callers reported that my voice had clarity with only occasional wind noise when walking around town affecting things which is something that pretty much all headsets such as these suffer from.

THE LISTENING

With a brand such as Bowers & Wilkins, you would hope that the sound quality of the Px8 is its strongest suit, and I am confident you will not be disappointed. Indeed, this flagship offering leaves a clear gap between it and the Sennheiser and Sony alternatives, while also being my preference over its Px7 stablemate and Apple over-ears. It offers excellent clarity and good heft from the bass, making music seem more fun than the Mark Levinson №5909, which has a more level-headed approach to things.

For example, Porcupine Tree's Harridan positively exploded into my ears, with the picked overdriven bass clear and punchy, closely followed by a tasteful drum fill and synth layers. This driving backdrop was then joined by Steven Wilson's vocals. Anyone familiar with him will know that his production values are high and that he has been at the helm of many a high-profile remaster and Dolby Atmos Music conversion. This musical and technical ability was all reproduced through the Px8 via an uncluttered soundstage that expanded beyond the earcups. I also discovered that these headphones, as with the brand's loudspeakers, enjoy being driven, and a nudge or two of the volume rocker can sometimes make the difference between an engaging visceral listen and background music. 

Get the volume right, and the Px8 is a consummately fine pair of cans. Vocals are dealt with care, ensuring every meaningful inflexion and expressive nuance is delivered to the listener. With Pearl Jam's Black, I was left with no doubt that this song is about loss and letting go. Eddy Vedder's voice is so rich and passionate live, and the Px8 did a great job revealing this in a wireless headset. Moreover, midband clarity was not purely vocal-focused, as his talent was shared by the rest of the instrumentation, letting the listener mentally unpick the musical threads.

Acoustic instrumentation was handled deftly, too. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, TH 59-1 Allegro moderato illuminated the Px8's upper range skills, as Nathan Milstein performed his solo duties conducted by Claudio Abbado, backed by the Wiener Philharmoniker. The classy high-frequency performance of this pair of headphones added to the great sense of scale that it achieved. Furthermore, I found it easy to track low-level details in the recording, no matter how chaotic the recorded acoustic became.

THE VERDICT

The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 gets the balance right for modern listeners seeking premium wireless headphones. It is more fun than the Mark Levinson offering and a better performer than the AirPods Max. And while the silhouette is unmistakably B&W Px series, the quality materials differentiate this product from its Px7 sibling. This is a must-add to your audition list if you're looking for talented, premium-priced, noise-cancelling wireless headphones.

For more information visit Bowers & Wilkins

Jay Garrett's avatar

Jay Garrett

StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

Posted in:Applause Awards 2022 Headphones Over / On Ear Noise Canceling Bluetooth / Wireless Headphones
Tags: bowers wilkins  sound united 

JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION

Want to share your opinion or get advice from other enthusiasts? Then head into the Message Forums where thousands of other enthusiasts are communicating on a daily basis.
CLICK HERE FOR FREE MEMBERSHIP

applause awards

Each time StereoNET reviews a product, it is considered for an Applause Award. Winning one marks it out as a design of great quality and distinction – a special product in its class, on the grounds of either performance, value for money, or usually both.

Applause Awards are personally issued by StereoNET’s global Editor-in-Chief, David Price – who has over three decades of experience reviewing hi-fi products at the highest level – after consulting with our senior editorial team. They are not automatically given with all reviews, nor can manufacturers purchase them.

The StereoNET editorial team includes some of the world’s most experienced and respected hi-fi journalists with a vast wealth of knowledge. Some have edited popular English language hi-fi magazines, and others have been senior contributors to famous audio journals stretching back to the late 1970s. And we also employ professional IT and home theatre specialists who work at the cutting edge of today’s technology.

We believe that no other online hi-fi and home cinema resource offers such expert knowledge, so when StereoNET gives an Applause Award, it is a trustworthy hallmark of quality. Receiving such an award is the prerequisite to becoming eligible for our annual Product of the Year awards, awarded only to the finest designs in their respective categories. Buyers of hi-fi, home cinema, and headphones can be sure that a StereoNET Applause Award winner is worthy of your most serious attention.