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Bowers & Wilkins PX8: Two Minute Review
Sonically, the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 are now the over-ear wireless headphones to beat. We said it there. If that's all you need to hear, we wish you luck. But if you want to know why we said "sonically" instead of "overall," and why this is a four-and-a-half star review instead of a five star, read on.
The B&W PX8s are undoubtedly a brilliant new addition to our best over-ear headphones guide. But let's be clear: PX8s are expensive. There are good, tangible and understandable reasons for this: a new 40mm carbon cone drive unit replaces the bio-cellulose driver in the more affordable Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 and die-cast aluminum arms, shiny metal cut-out details Diamond and Nappa leather trim elevate the high-end build, but for some, anything more expensive than the AirPods Max is too rich given the current financial climate. We hear you.
But we've also heard the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 headphones and, cost-of-living crisis or not, they're exceptional.
Bowers & Wilkins admits the brief was simple: get the best wireless headphones possible while keeping the cost down. The UK-based audio specialist delivered beautifully. To put on these headphones is to experience a pride of ownership that is rarely felt even at this level; I didn't feel it with the slightly weird AirPods Max, for example. And despite the cost, the sound quality for the money here is sublime.
Any problem? Some. None of them have to do with sound - that's where these cans really shine; know this now, but that's why we took half a star off the rating in this glowing review. The cheaper Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless (released August 2022) offers 60 hours of battery life even with ANC implemented, and you only get 30 hours here, though that's the same as what you'll get from the Sony WH-1000XM5 (which was released in May 2022: we'd like to save you the hassle of verification). Also, ANC can't be customized, EQ settings are limited to treble and bass, and there are no great extra features.
But that's where the negatives end. Elsewhere, the Bowers & Wilkins Music app now consolidates its streaming services in one place (as long as it's Tidal, Deezer, SoundCloud or Qobuz, though B&W hopes to work with Apple Music in the future) and because this app now rules the roost, creating a black-and-white ecosystem where everything that passes through your cans can simply be transferred to your Zeppelin, Formation Wedge, or other compatible black-and-white speakers as you walk through the door.
As regular readers of TechRadar know, sound is king in this house. And the sonic performance here is detailed, snappy, spacious, musical, and just plain delicious. If you can afford it and want the best cordless cans on the market, you won't be disappointed with the PX8.
Hang it all, the PX8s are a nice set of cans. (Image credit: Future)
- Bowers & Wilkins PX8 at Crutchfield for €699 (opens in a new tab)
Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Price and release date
- Posted on September 28, 2022
- €699 / €599 / AU$1150
The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 are available now for €599 / £699 / AU$1150 / €699.
Expensive, we know, but this is black and white privileged territory…
Granted, there's no escaping the fact that this makes the PX8 more expensive than the Apple AirPods Max, Sennheiser's Momentum 4 Wireless (at $349 / £300 / AU$549), and the leading Sony WH-1000XM5. in its class, which costs €399 / £380 / AU$550.
And given that Sennheiser headphones have twice the resistance of the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 (and XM5, for that matter), prices are starting to look a bit ambitious...
Only that's not the case. Why? Because the sound quality makes it an exceptional purchase, that's why.
The case looks premium too, with a compartment for the two included cables (Image credit: Future)
Bowers & Wilkins Review: Features
- Excellent music app support for entire and multi-room ecosystems
- Simple and reliable physical controls in the ear
- ANC and transparency profiles cannot be customized
While the Bowers & Wilkins PX8's spec sheet is more good than great (ANC profiles include on, off, or pass-through, while EQ tabs only involve bass and treble tabs), so anyone expecting a full setup five-band EQ had no luck). ) what the PX8s do, they do very well.
There's user detection and automatic sleep (which sends them to a low-power state after 15 minutes of inactivity), both of which can be turned on or off, and the left quick action button can be customized, depending on whether you want to commute. ANC profiles or access the voice assistant of your choice.
A nice touch here is the ability to adjust the streaming quality (using your mobile data or Wi-Fi), as well as the carrier sensor, the latter to low, normal, or high. If the PX8 doesn't turn off when you pick up a handset to talk to a colleague, set it to high. Do you find that they stop unexpectedly during use? Change it to low.
Perhaps we could have hoped for more than the "standard" 30-hour battery life, though that's better than the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Bose Noise Canceling 700, which offer between 24 and 30 hours. Plus, a 15-minute quick charge gives you seven hours of playback, a claim we've tested and found to be true.
There's a traditional approach to on-ear controls here, but they work brilliantly, with volume, play and power buttons on the right earcup and a 'quick action' button on the left, which we use to quickly toggle ANC. In this sense, the ANC here is good, eliminating all the loudest buses and planes overhead as we walk into the office.
Transparency mode is a more subtle affair and seems a bit reluctant to actively filter out ambient sounds as keenly as the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, for example. That said, there's a marked difference in sound transmission - you'll hear the outside world, but we'd have turned it up a notch, if possible.
B&W's big draw is its Music app, which now greets you with "spaces" and can group your Bowers & Wilkins products accordingly for multi-room sound when you get home, similar to what Apple Home or the Alexa app offer. from AmazonHome.
The B&W PX8 comes with Bluetooth 5.2 plus support for aptX Adaptive (one of the best Bluetooth codecs available today), as well as aptX and aptX HD, and all six microphones in total (four for ANC, two for call handling). they made clear phone calls during our tests.
These are headphones you'll want to be seen in, ideally on a yacht in the Maldives (Image credit: Future)
Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Design
- Beautiful metallic details (especially in the beige color scheme)
- The drivers are angled towards the user's ear.
- The holding force is perfect.
For style and beauty, Bowers & Wilkins hit a home run with the PX8. They're boxes to see: as we said in our hands-on review, the PX8 would look right at home around the neck of a bright young man on a business-class flight to Milan. Adjusting the headband is a smooth and quiet experience, and the soft, snug-fitting ear cups swivel to lay flat around your neck for the rare occasions when they're not worn over your ears.
Yes, the PX8 echoes the current trend toward designs with cups that rotate flat but don't fold, including the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 (compared to the older folding Sony WH-1000XM4, of course). example) .
And also, unsurprisingly, these cases come with a fabric-covered hard carrying case, but this one is especially nice because the included cables (USB-C to USB-C for charging, USB-C to 3.5mm if your device has such a port) have their own small compartment with a magnetic cover, located in the dead space under the bow of the headband.
Comfort levels were also fantastic throughout our listen, with ample padding on the underside of the headband and clamping force as seamless as we've ever felt; not too tight but reassuringly secure.
Overall (and at the risk of exaggeration) we really like the premium look and feel of these headphones.
The earcups are quite thick, but the inside of the speakers are angled so they sit parallel to your ears, not outside of the earcups. This is designed to help with sound timing and accuracy.
The physical metal buttons on the right earcup are great to the touch and work flawlessly. (Image credit: Future)
Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Sound quality
- Supreme agility and musical clarity.
- Beautifully expansive and detailed.
- Bass heavy but flexible
By turning off all ANC profiles, we stream Tom Petty's Free Fallin' on Tidal, and the smooth, thoughtful guitars sound as three-dimensional and full of life as we've ever heard in a wireless design. Petty's voice is central and detailed through a snappy, expansive midrange. The choruses that hit "Ventura Boulevard" are distinctive, layered, and have extra room to make an impact.
Sukhwinder Singh's Haule Haule plucked strings and serpentine percussion keep us stomping to our feet and are just two of the deftly wielded musical threads in the PX8's cohesive and dynamic mix. Our playlist continues on Bol Na Halke Halke by Mahalakshmi Iyer and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and if you get the chance, we invite you to listen to it. Listen as the intro snakes from behind your left ear to near your right, scratching your cerebellum and occipital lobes along the way. Note also the dynamic build from near silence to a cacophony of flutes, drums, strings, and Iyer's bell-like voice through the shimmering highs.
They are equally expressive and heavy on the bottom end. Stream Stormzy's Mel Made Me Do It and the unusual backing track comes to life. Howls, drumbeats, "the economy that doesn't fly" statements, and rhythmic soundtracks pour from the juicy grime riff, but it's all backed up by a crisp, regimented performance through the bass.
How do they compare to the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless? Well, given the price difference...