Bowers & Wilkins PX7

B&W was early out of the traps with its noise-cancelling Bluetooth wireless headphones. The impressive – if not quite flawless – PX of late 2017 set the standard and since then Sony, Bose, Sennheiser and B&O have hit back with the WH-1000XM3, NC700, Momentum 3 (HFC 455), and BeoPlay H8i wireless respectively. In doing so, the market for premium designs has blossomed, and the PX7 is aimed right at its epicentre.

Wireless headphones can only sound as good as the transmission protocol that’s employed, which is why aptX was a big move forward several years ago. More recently, aptX HD arrived promising 24-bit hi-res quality. Now, the new PX7 gets aptX Adaptive, offering aptX HD’s sound but with low latency and high error resilience. Offering data rates of between 279kbps and 420kbps, this compressed format is still far from bit-perfect CD but does now beat top-quality AAC. B&W’s partnership with Qualcomm means the PX7 is the first headphone to offer it.

Powerful DSP is employed to deliver its noise-cancelling functionality, and it’s configurable by an app. To digitally process out much of the outside sound, the headphone is fitted with four microphones – plus two for telephony. The button on the left cup toggles through low, medium and high noise-cancelling modes; the former gives the least processed sound and the latter the quietest. The battery claims nearly 30 hours use in Bluetooth noise-cancelling mode or five hours from a 15-minute charge.

Large 43.6mm drivers are fitted, giving a quoted frequency response of 10Hz to 30kHz. Build quality is very good indeed, and there’s a 3.5mm stereo jack and USB-C audio inputs. The controls are simple to work, and the PX7 is comfortable to wear over long periods. It’s closed back, of course, so those used to open backs might find it a little hot and sweaty.

Sound quality
I tether the PX7 to my iPhone and a number of other iDevices and am more than a little surprised by what greets me – a big, punchy and fulsome sound, with real body and impact. At the same time, there’s no sense of it sounding leaden; it’s musically enjoyable and engaging too. Tonal balance is slightly rich; likely deliberately so. Bass isn’t over the top, but it’s not exactly hiding from the listener. Yet it’s good, as Corduroy’s London, England shows.

Moving up to the midband, the PX7 is surprisingly crisp and detailed on low and medium NC settings. The squeaky clean rock of Sands Of Singapore by Café Jacques is insightful and nuanced. The snare drum sound has great impact and shows this headphone’s dynamic alacrity.

I am not expecting the smooth but well-etched hi-hat cymbal sound that I get from 4hero’s Look Inside. There’s no sense of hardness or glare, even though the instrument is conveyed with plenty of sparkle. I would go so far as saying the PX7 has a distinctively B&W house sound – it’s tidy, composed, intricate and detailed. As I ramp up the volume to the maximum level my ears can take, things remain smooth and composed. All of this rather distracts from just how effective the noise-cancelling is; the variable settings are great and it’s way better than similar designs of just a few years ago.

Although no match for a high-end wired design, Bowers & Wilkins’ PX7 does incredibly well for music on the move – offering a truly elevated listening experience amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. An essential audition, if you’re a serious music lover that likes to be out and about. DP    

Product: Bowers & Wilkins PX7
Price: £350
Origin: UK
Type: Closed-back wireless noise-cancelling headphone
Weight: 310g

● 2x 43.6mm drivers
● AptX Adaptive Bluetooth; 1x USB-C port; 1x 3.5mm jack in
● Quoted battery life: 30 hours

Read the full review in February 2020 issue 459

Bowers and Wilkins
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