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Golden Ears: Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Review

Watch Out, AirPods Max

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Bowers & Wilkins has been a mainstay in the world of high-end audio for decades and, with its new Px8 wireless headphones, is officially taking on Apple’s AirPods Max in the battle for Bluetooth headphone supremacy. They offer incredible sound and are arguably one of the most premium designs available in wireless headphones today. At $699, they demand quite a premium for the no-holds-barred B&W experience. Do these premium headphones earn their equally premium cost of entry? Find out in our review!

Specifications

  • Current Price: $699 (Amazon
  • Wearing style: Bluetooth Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
  • Drive units: 2 x 40mm dynamic full range carbon driver
  • Distortion (THD): <0.1% (1 kHz/10mW)
  • Microphones: 4x mics for ANC, 2x mics for telephony
  • Finishes: Black Leather, Tan & Grey Leather
  • Technical features:
    • Hybrid Noise Cancellation
    • Ambient Pass-Through
    • Wear-Detection Sensor
    • Bluetooth® audio - Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX™ Adaptive
    • USB-C charging & audio interface
  • Bluetooth codecs: aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, aptX, AAC, SBC
  • Bluetooth profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP, BLE GATT (Generic Attribute Profile)
  • Battery type: Rechargeable Lithium Ion
  • Battery life & charging:
    • 30 hours playback
    • 15 minute charge for 7 hours playback
  • Net weight: 320g (without carry case)
  • Dimensions (Carry Case): 189mm (w) x 63mm (d) x 233mm (h)
  • In box accessories
    • 1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable 
    • 1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable
    • Carry Case

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 - The New Bluetooth Flagship

There’s no way around it: the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 is an expensive headphone. The $699 price alone is going to put it out of reach of many people, but even those willing to shell out such a lofty sum are going to need a lot of convincing to settle on paying so much more than even the $500 AirPods Max. Thankfully, Bowers & Wilkins know a thing or two about luxury and a thing or two more about designing great-sounding audio products. 

That much has been true for years. The company has been making some of the best and most expensive speakers in the business for decades. You can find its monitors in Abbey Road Studios and in the upper echelons of sports cars: Maserati and McLaren. Luxury products for discerning audiophiles — and the rest of us too. 

While its products usually carry a bit of premium, B&W doesn’t exclusively make products for the 1%. Its Px7 Bluetooth headphones (reviewed here) can be found for less than $300, and the upgraded Px7 S2 for $399. Both of those headphones have been on recommendation lists across the internet, whether you’re reading dedicated audiophile press or mainstream tech articles. They sound good, look good, and carry an aire of luxury. 

And to their credit, the Px8 does a remarkably solid job of making their $700 price tag feel worthwhile. These headphones are ooze quality and offer the kind of high resolution, open sound that leaves you coming back for more. Just as importantly, they’re ridiculously comfortable so you can wear them all day long — and you may just want to. 

The Px8’s look and feel every bit the luxury product they are. The ear cushions and headbands are made of soft memory foam trimmed in real Nappa leather. Available in black or tan, the earcups are made of aluminum with a glistening, diamond-cut beveled edge. The logo is also intricately cut to reflect jewel-like prisms of light. The arms are cast aluminum with a buttery smooth yet resilient sliding motion, revealing a braided cable tucked neatly inside the arm. It’s a product that’s made to last for years, and if the look and feel of the headphones don’t remind you, the smell of real leather is a regular reminder of just how premium they are.

Despite this use of cast aluminum and premium materials, they’re remarkably light. At 320 grams, I was able to wear them for hours without developing any hot spots on the top of my head. That’s already an improvement from the original PX7 headphones I reviewed back in 2021, but the move to high quality leather and memory foam cushions pays real dividends in how nice these headphones feel to wear. Even with my glasses, there was no soreness, no pressure points, no discomfort at all. They may just be my most comfortable pair of Bluetooth headphones, and when you also consider that they’re easily better made than competing cans from Bose, Sony, or Apple, that’s even more impressive. 

I also find the headphones to be quite stylish. They’re not big and bulky. The headband doesn’t stick out over-much. Thanks to their chic, modern design, they’re one of the few pairs of over-ear headphones I don’t mind wearing out in public.

Inside their sparkling exterior is a new driver, custom designed for this headphone. It uses carbon cone drivers, similar to those used in its 700 series loudspeakers, Carbon fiber is rigid and lightweight, allowing it to move exceptionally fast as a diaphragm material. This results in less distortion, more clarity, and better performance in the lows and highs. The cones have been paired with a custom “motor system” (the magnet, coil, and surround) to deliver the best audio quality Bowers & Wilkins has delivered in a headphone to date. 

Those drivers are paired with an assortment of high-res codecs, though you’ll need to be an Android or PC user to make the most of them. The headphones utilize Bluetooth 5.2, 24-bit audio, and high-resolution aptX codecs so you can enjoy every nuance of your music and entertainment. Supported codecs include aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, standard aptX, as well as normal AAC and SBC. Notably absent is support for Sony’s LDAC, which really should be supported at this price in my opinion. iPhone users can’t take advantage of aptX of any sort, so you’re stuck connecting wired to enjoy the full 24-bit listening experience.

If you don’t want to listen wirelessly, the headphones also come with a USB Type-C cable for normal digital connectivity, as well as a Type-C-to-3.5 cable. That means you can connect these to higher-end audio equipment if you choose, though I think most listeners will find Bluetooth and aptX perfectly sufficient because these headphones sound great. 

Battery life is good but not great — likely a side-effect of their light weight. B&W rates them at 30 hours of playtime, though I found this to actually come in closer to 25-27 since I tend to listen louder and always utilize aptX Adaptive. This puts it 5-10 hours ahead of the AirPods Max, about on par with the Sony WH-1000XM5, but only about half that of the Sennheiser Momentum 4s. 

Controlling the buds is simple and straightforward. There’s a Bluetooth slider on the right earcup that also acts as a power switch. Holding it up will put the headphones into pairing mode, which is fast and reliable, even when connecting to a second device for multipoint. Below this are volume/track buttons which flank a center multifunction button for play/pause, navigating tracks, answering/ending calls, and summoning your virtual assistant. On the left is a single button that cycles through the Px8s ambient noise settings for active noise cancellation, pass-through mode, and passive noise cancellation (off mode). 

The Px8s also offer limited app customization. Within, you can toy with a basic bass and treble EQ, cycle through the ambient noise modes, adjust sleep time, and enable or disable the Wear Sensor. You can also stream music directly through the app from a small selection of HiFi services, like Deezer and Tidal. It’s enough to customize the headphones but I wish Bowers & Wilkins integrated a deeper EQ here. At $700, simple bass and treble adjustment is pretty sparse, especially if you’re not a fan of its stock tuning. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 - Sound and Daily Use Impressions

With all of that background out of the way, it’s time to get into the fun part: how it sounds. The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 is easily the best-sounding Bluetooth headphone I’ve heard yet. The sound quality the carbon cone drivers is able to deliver tops the AirPods Max, Momentum 4s, and the Bose QC45s. There’s low-end punch, lush mids, and crisp highs, making for a headphone that is overall balanced but that also leans into the fun, meaty, bass popular in mainstream music. This is an audiophile set in capability and a mainstream set in out-of-the-box tuning, which means most listeners should find a lot to love without even touching the in-app EQ. 

The Px8’s don’t overplay their hand in any single area but manage to impress across the board. The bass is mid-bass focused, so pop, rock, and electronic have a thickness to their low end. The sub-bass is definitely able to deliver rumble, however. Tom MacDonald’s Church has a powerful sub that brings the song to life and the Px8s do a great job of injecting this song with low-end energy that makes it a very fun listen. Despite this, the guitar in the track is clean and articulate showing how versatile the carbon drivers really are.

Stan by Eminem is another great example. The bass drives the track, but the guitar and atmospherics seem to exist on separate layers, emphasizing the technical performance of the Px8s. Details in the mids and highs are very good. The bass resonance is the attention-getter that draws you in and before you know it, you’re appreciating how well-layered your favorite songs are and how these headphones draw out elements you had previously taken for granted and give them new life. 

Depending on the volume you listen at, the highs can sound a bit sharp at times. Cymbals and high hats pop, but I found myself rolling back the treble slider a notch or two on splashy tracks. 

The soundstage is also impressive on this set. For being closed-back headphones, they offer a surprising amount of depth to the listening experience. Closed-back cans often have a congested sound, but B&W has done a good job of allowing the sound to breathe here. These are top of the pack in soundstage and airiness. 

The active noise cancellation is very good and does a great job of filtering out droning noises like PC fans and engines. They still don’t block out quite as much middle and high-frequency noise as the WH-1000XM5s or AirPods Max, but I suspect most listeners won’t find much to complain about here. Even in an office setting, these do a good job of quieting down your surrounding environment.

The wear sensor created the only major problem I had with this set. Even when I had a tight seal around my ears and the sensor on its lowest setting, it would periodically pause my music like I had taken the headphones off. It was so unreliable that I wound up disabling it and recommend you do the same.

Finally, as headphones that you’ll want to wear often, call quality matters quite a bit. On a series of test recordings, the Px8s did a good job of isolating my voice from background noise and making sure that I could be heard. Volume was a touch low and my voice had a compressed quality that’s common to embedded microphones in over-ear headphones. All in all, they’re good but not great for calls.

For gaming? These headphones will work fine when connected wired. The wide soundstage is perfect for games, as is the bass and EQ customization. At their current price, they don’t make sense just for gaming, but as an all-in-one ANC headphone, these will be a better fit than any of the other flagship ANC headphones from other major competing brands.

Final Thoughts

The Px8s are simply some of the best luxury wireless headphones you can buy today. They’re exquisitely comfortable, sound amazing, and are built to such a high standard, that you’ll be reminded every time you pull them out just how nice they are. And let’s not kid ourselves, at $700, that matters. They’re not perfect and could use a better in-app EQ and wear sensor implementation, but they do a surprisingly excellent job of justifying their high price versus the competition. If you find yourself in the market for a set of luxury wireless headphones, these are a stellar option. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Outstanding sound quality
  • Excellent comfort
  • Good active noise cancellation
  • One of the most stylish over-ear Bluetooth headphones you can buy
  • Exquisite craftsmanship
Cons
  • Wear detection is unreliable
  • Limited in-app EQ
  • ANC still falls behind AirPods Max and Sony WH-1000XM5


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight