For audiophile fans, the British manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins launched the PX headphones in the fourth quarter of last year. The top-class Bluetooth headphones are the company’s attempt to combine its sound solutions with noise cancelling and numerous features to survive in the competitive headphone market. For us the features and the sound of the headphones are especially interesting in this review, which have to compete with a proud UVP of about 399 € (current price: Price not available *).
Unpack the Good Piece
The PX headphones come in a minimalist white cardboard box. They are cuddly embedded and can also be put back into their foam form for storage. What’s included is a small black bag – a designer piece -, a USB charging cable, an audio jack cable and a quickstart. You can choose between two variants: Space grey and soft gold. After recharging, you can look forward to up to 22 hours of music enjoyment with one battery charge.
Design and Quality
The workmanship does justice to the price class. The headphones have a noble business charm and are made of high-quality materials. The design is modern and simple. The bow, which wraps around the auricles and hangs on the side, is conspicuous.
The ear cushions are made of memory foam and a leather layer. Its outside is made of ballistic nylon and an aluminium centre, which is adorned by the brand name in the middle. These materials are found on the headrest. I don’t like the nylon fabric that much and I’m not a fan of leather pads (more about that later). But when it comes to design, there’s not much to complain about in terms of target group specifics.
The ear cups can be rotated by approx. 150 degrees, tilted by approx. 45 degrees and not folded in or stretched sideways. The joint is therefore not easy to move, but is well processed. The size adjustment works reliably and the headphones pass the bending test.
In this section, Bowers & Wilkins headphones will lose several points for the first time. First there is my critical point of view for leather pads. For longer music sessions I consider them unsuitable, because they are not breathable and therefore the ears sweat and the headphones stick more. Despite the memory foam, the Ear Pads are somewhat harder than necessary. However, the choice of materials benefits the sound as well as the noise shielding and there will certainly be users who have a different opinion.
Two large criticism points can, however, be found to be undisputed. On the one hand the comfort with glasses is bad and also the noise cancelling as well as the sound quality suffer enormously. Even the manual points out this impairment. The headphones are therefore not recommended for spectacle wearers. On the other hand the headphones do not hold well on the head. In the hold test, the PX quickly say goodbye to the head when you wiggle it very jerkily. As a result, there are better alternatives for sport.
However, when wear the headphones do not slip and you can wear them for long periods of time. They’re also good on the ears. The weight of 335 g is not light. All in all, the headphones are comfortable with the limitations mentioned, but the competition shows that it can be even better. As mentioned in the introduction, the price also sets the bar very high.
Bowers & Wilkins gets on the NC train late, the PX headphones are the first of the company with active noise reduction. The usefulness of this function should not be underestimated, as peace is a welcome luxury nowadays.
The Over-Ear solution with leather upholstery initially helps to reduce ambient noise even without an active NC. The construction shows the focus on sound and noise cancelling despite criticisms in comfort. A further advantage is that few sound waves are emitted. This is very good, because you usually don’t want to sound the whole neighborhood in the train or the like.
The PXs are doing surprisingly well with the NC. The headphones also score points with multiple settings for noise reduction. This can be switched on and off mechanically by pressing a button or with the corresponding app. The user can choose from three modes in the app: Flight, Office and City. The test shows that each mode serves its purpose and individualizes noise suppression. Different gradations can be set for the modes that regulate the volume of the transmitted ambient noise. However, this sounds too artificial in the higher range and is hardly used in everyday life. In direct comparison to competing products (specifically Bose or Sony), Bowers & Wilkins’ NC is slightly lower, but on a small scale.
The noise reduction is a useful feature and the Brits have done very well with the PX.
Let’s now move on to the core business of headphones, the sound experience. The Bowers & Wilkins PX sound consistently top-class. The 2x 40 mm full range drivers do a great job, the sound couldn’t be better for daily headphones.
The previously criticized structural shielding of the auricles and the angling of the drivers in the chassis ensure an excellent spatial sound image, which is also shown in the 8D audio test. The potential volume is more than sufficient. The input impedance is designed with a low 22 Ohm for smartphones and the like. The sound of the headphones is not much better with good amplifiers than with good files. The frequency range covers everything with 10 Hz – 20 kHz.
Of course, I’ve been listening through our entire test playlist again. From classic to trance to hard rock my ears had to put up with a lot. It has been shown that the headphones have no particular feel-good niche, but in all areas a very good performance. In the demanding areas, such as Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto or film music, the superiority over many competing products was most evident. The heights here remain clear and harmonious. The PX have a powerful and precise bass. The mids and highs are well coordinated, the overall sound image is excellent. Noise cancelling contributes its part to this. You get your money’s worth even at low volumes. The best way to describe the sound is with the adjective naturally.
However, the test also showed that the headphones do not iron out poor sound sources. You’re not glossing over anything. Higher-resolution sources should therefore be used in order to fully exploit the sound capacities. However, this quality level can already be achieved via Bluetooth with Spotify 320 kbit/s, for example.
In its application area, the sound of the test object is excellent. Only studio headphones can outbid him.
At an impressive price you always ask yourself, what can the product do that others can’t? The PX headphones provide good answers. In addition to the high-quality workmanship, good sound and noise cancelling, there are other Features that enhance the headphones.
Bowers & Wilkins has come up with something special for operation with the PX. Using Proximity sensors, the headphones detect whether they are sitting on the head. You don’t have to turn them on or off manually anymore. If, for example, you are placed on the table for two minutes, they automatically switch to standby. If you put it on, automatically starts the music, once briefly lifted off and the music stops. This intelligent support is appreciated, but you should be able to deactivate it if you like (e.g. in the app).
The rest of the operation is carried out by means of classic buttons. They lie inconspicuously on the back of the right auricle and can be easily distinguished from each other when palpated. The buttons have the usual function assignment: play/pause (1x play key), song forward (2x play key), song back (3x play keys), accept or reject call (play key), hang up call (play key longer), louder, quieter. To switch the ANC, there is an extra key.
There is no speech feedback, but there is sound playback. These can be deactivated in the app. The Operation has everything a user could wish for, the sensors are a big plus.
Another plus point is the long battery life of 22 hours (slightly less in the test!) in Bluetooth NC mode. Coupling with the end device is quick and easy. On demand the Quickstart and an all in all good German documentation will help. Another positive feature is that the headphones can be used with cable transmission, a jack cable is included.
The included cloth bag is designed in the style of the upper class and very useful to bring the precious headphones from A to B. It looks good, has a high-quality finish and closes quickly thanks to its magnetic closure. Speed is the keyword here: user-friendliness is superior to many competing products, because the headphones can be packed in immediately after use whole. So you don’t have to “fold” or squeeze them in. One small drawback is that the bag has openings on the sides. This causes dirt to fall into the bag and the protective function against hard cases is impaired.
The app mentioned in the noise cancelling (for Android and iOS) is another sales argument of the British manufacturer. The NC is super configurable and the headphones can be updated and individually renamed. In addition, the battery status can be read precisely via the app (alternatively with status LED).
The Feedback to the app is predominantly negative in the Playstore, especially because of the necessary location authorization. However, this serves the energy-saving use of Bluetooth and is required in this form of Android. Unfortunately, the connection to the headphones is not always successful, music must be played, otherwise the device will not find the headphones. I am still missing an equalizer or an adaptive noise cancelling in the app.
The app is a positive addition to the product despite the limitations mentioned.
Our conclusion on the Bowers & Wilkins PX
With the headphones, the sound stands out as superior, unfortunately the price does. Our test showed that the headphones are suitable for users who want outstanding sound and upscale design and who have the necessary financial leeway.
Many additional features enhance the product. The operation, the noise cancelling, the interfaces, the bag as well as the qualitative workmanship are all successful. Actually everything would be super, if it weren’t for the main criticisms of the unsuitability for spectacle wearers and some sports. The weak point of the B&W PX* is the wearing comfort.
For occasional use with poorly scaled output files (low streaming qualities etc.) there are cheaper alternatives, therefore here some losses for the price-performance rating. Audiophile users should definitely have a look at the British headphones, their NC debut has been a success.
The technical data can be found on the page of the manufacturer.
Write us about your experiences with the headphones or if you have questions about the product or the test!