I was pretty blown away by the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 when I first reviewed them back in 2019. They delivered an epic sound with an extremely wide soundstage — it made you really feel like you were at a live show — that was unlike any other noise-canceling headphones I had previously tested.
Fast forward to 2022 and the British luxury audio maker has released the next generation of those headphones — the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 ($399) — and while the "S2" versions share a similar look and feel to their predecessors, B&W has improved pretty much everything about them. They made them quite a bit smaller and lighter, too. And they kept them at the same price: $399.
What's Good About the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2?
A big, big sound
If you were a fan of the PX7's sound quality, you're going to be just as enamored with the new PX7 S2 (if not a little more). The two headphones have similar 40mm drivers, but Bowers & Wilkins has updated and reangled them on the new models to further reduce distortion and help them deliver an even more immersive sound experience. (The company claims the PX7 are able to create a stereo image that's similar to its very high-end 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers, but that might be a little bit of an exaggeration if you as me.)
For me, the sound is as grandiose as before — especially when listening to recordings of live shows — and the clarity of the vocals and the punch of the bass is there too. They just sound awesome and I'd easily stack them up against other high-end wireless headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Master & Dynamic MW75. But again, it's a more immersive and "big" sound, which I love — but admittedly, others might not.
Another neat thing is that, for the first time in a pair of its wireless headphones, Bowers & Wilkins allows you to tweak the EQ settings via its Music app. You can't do anything drastic aside from adjust the bass and treble, and I certainly didn't feel the need to make any adjustments, but it's an option for anybody who wants it.
A more comfortable listening experience
The most obvious difference between the new PX7 S2 and the old PX7 is the size. The PX7 from 2019 were big headphones, and felt rather large when you were wearing them. The new PX 7 S2, on the other hand, have a much more streamlined and slimmed-down look. They're not actually that much lighter than their predecessors (310 grams vs 307 grams), but when you're wearing them they definitely feel it. Whereas the old PX7 felt like big headphones, the PX7 S2 are very much a similar size as the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Bose QuietComfort 45.
The only real downside (if you can call it that) with the design is that, like many wireless headphones these days, the PX7 S2 don't up into a nice compact form. Instead, the earcups rotate around so that the headphones can lie flat; this allows them to slip easily into a bag's sleeve, but they don't get quite as compact as headphones of old with foldable headbands.
Love me some physical buttons
Bowers & Wilkins gave the PX7 S2 headphones a decent amount of abilities. They improved the noise-cancellation and transparency so that it's comparable with many of today's top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones. They support Bluetooth multipoint, so you can connect to your smartphone and laptop at once and the music will automatically switch depending on the device you're using. They have the ability to quick-charge. And, if you enable in the app, they support wear detection, so your music will auto play and pause when the headphones detect you are wearing and not wearing them.
That said, one of my favorite things about the PX7 S2: physical buttons. There's no fancy swipe controls on the earcups like you'd get on Sony's or Bose's flagship cans. Instead, there are actual click-y buttons that control the volume, playback, modes (ANC or transparency) and a multi-function button for your voice assistant and answering/ending calls. And yes, unlike Apple's AirPods Max, there's power button so you know when the headphones are actually on or off. It's nice.
What's Not Ideal About the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2?
Active noise-cancellation and transparency modes are great, but not elite
The PX7 S2 are very good noise-canceling headphones. Bowers & Wilkins gave them more processing power and a new six-microphone array compared to their predecessors, and the result is that they are very effective. I wore them while running errands, shopping for groceries and with the TV blasting in the other room, and they do a very good job at blocking out the mid-to-high-range frequencies. I'd hear some higher-pitched voices or a loud rumble from the TV would creep in, but that's sort of to be expected.
The problem is that B&W's PX7 S2 are competing with other high-end noise-canceling headphones, like Apple's AirPods Max, Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Bose Headphones 700, all of which are the crème de la crème when it comes to blocking out ambient noises. And while the PX7 S2 are effective in this department, they're not quite as good. And when you're dropping $400 on a pair of headphones, you can kind of nitpick these types of things.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2: The Verdict
Bowers & Wilkins has bucked the trend of introducing new-and-improved noise-canceling headphones while also increasing its price; the new PX7 S2 cost exactly the same as the PX7 when they were introduced several years ago. And in this day-and-age where there are more high-end noise-canceling headphones than ever before, $400 for the PX7 S2 seems pretty darn reasonable.
That said, the reality is that B&W's PX7 S2 have more competition than ever. And while they aren't the best-of-the-best at active noise-cancellation, they separate themselves with their unique look and big bold sound. If those are two things you're looking for, you can't really go wrong with these noise-canceling headphones.