Technology

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review: A lot of upgrades at no extra cost

Bowers & Wilkins may be a name many associate with, but the company has steadily evolved. The latest model ($399) is a completely redesigned version of . Bowers & Wilkins streamlined the design, improved active noise cancellation (ANC) and retuned the audio for new 40mm drivers. This new model is a worthy upgrade over its predecessor in every way, and you don’t have to pay more for the improvements either.

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For the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins has borrowed elements from both the original PX and Px7, adding to the refined looks. The company has also slimmed down the overall shape and opted for more padding in the ear cushions – all while reducing the overall weight. Finer details like a silver rim where the earcup meets the earpads give the S2 a more premium look than its predecessor. The textured finish on both the earcups and the top of the headband also improves the aesthetics.

advantages

  • Impressive sound quality
  • Better than the advertised battery life
  • Effective noise cancellation
  • Comfortable fit
  • Refined design

Disadvantages

  • call quality
  • Very simple EQ adjustment
  • Below average audio in pass-through mode
  • Auto pausing needs refinement

Physical controls remain in place, which I have no complaints about. The truth is that buttons are still more reliable than touch controls, even on the headphones, which do swipe and tap almost perfectly. The best touch controls are never 100%, but a key to press always is. On the back of the right earcup is a power slider that doubles as a Bluetooth pairing control. Directly below, a multifunction button is flanked by the volume controls. This center button accepts single, double, and triple presses for play/pause, play next track, or play previous track. When you get a call, a single press will answer it, while a two-second press and hold will reject it. Pressing this middle button once will also end a call.

Gallery: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review | 7 photos


On the left is a single quick action button. By default, it toggles between noise cancellation, pass-through (ambient noise), and off. However, if you don’t mind using the company’s app to make that change, you can reassign this button to activate the voice assistant of your choice. Unlike many headphones, holding the multi-function button doesn’t trigger Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.

When it comes to fit, the Px7 S2 is among the more comfortable headphones I’ve reviewed recently. I have a big head: I take my New Era Caps in 7 ⅝. As such, it can be difficult for a number of cans to remain comfortable after an hour or two of wear. The S2 fitted me snugly, which is essential for effective noise-cancelling, but it never got to be too much. Thanks to the updated cushion on the ear pads, I never once felt the edge of the earcup leave a mark around my ears. This is not always the case.

software

Bowers & Wilkins Music App

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Px7 S2 are Bowers & Wilkins’ first headphones to work with their music app. Earlier models are compatible with the headphones app, but this software only gives access to basic settings, shows battery life and offers a collection of soundscapes to relax in. The music app has a lot more to offer as it supports speakers from B&W: the Formation line, the Panorama 3 soundbar and the Zeppelin.

First and foremost, the software allows you to tweak the Px7 S2’s EQ settings. Unfortunately, the options here are very limited. There are sliders for treble and bass, but nothing for mids or further fine-tuning. Like the headphones app, this one still shows a battery percentage and gives you the option to use the software to select ANC, ambient noise, or turn both off. You can also manage the priority of the two devices that the Px7 S2’s multipoint connectivity allows it to sync with. As I mentioned, there’s an option to use the “Quick Action” button on the left earcup to summon your voice assistant instead of toggling between sound settings.

Then there are a few handy power and audio management options. On the one hand, there is an automatic standby control that puts the headphones into a “low power state” after 15 minutes of inactivity. Next, there’s an automatic pause, powered by the Px7 S2’s built-in wear sensor. The company says you can activate this simply by lifting an earcup, and it gives you the option to tweak the sensitivity with three settings (Low, Normal and High). During my testing, I actually had to rotate the earcup down toward my neck to trigger this. Removing the headphones entirely worked fine, but the other method could use some tweaking. Both the auto pause and standby features can be turned off if you don’t want to use them, so there’s no pressure to use either.

Bowers & Wilkins is already planning an update to the software that will add an in-app music player. This is already a thing for the company’s speakers compatible with the Music app, but soon you’ll be able to link a range of streaming services to rotate your audio from the same app that organizes your headphone settings. Currently the app supports Tidal, Deezer, Last.fm, TuneIn Radio, Qobuz, Soundcloud, NTS Radio and Dash Radio.

sound quality

The Px7 S2 feels less like a successor to the Px7 and more like a completely new set of headphones. The numerous changes here combine to make a more than worthy upgrade over the 2019 model. There are a few criticisms, but in terms of ANC performance and sound quality, the Px7 S2 rivals the best headphones you can buy right now.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Among the big improvements to the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins says it’s built an “entirely new acoustic platform” powered by fresh 40mm drivers. The company says these specially designed units offer low distortion and more accurate reproduction, and are positioned at an angle in the earcups to help things sound as natural as possible. Indeed, Bowers & Wilkins has created a truly immersive soundstage that envelops your ears. The bass is nice and punchy, while the highs add depth and the vocals cut through even the most chaotic of genres.

The Px7 S2 shines with hard rock like that of Gojira magma and Deftones ohm. When either band goes all out, you still get finer details like the texture in the distorted guitars and the subtle nuances in the drums. And it remains a wall of sound throughout that never seems compressed to a murmur. Softer genres meet a similar fate as Chris Stapleton’s combo of Southern rock growl and bluesy guitar picking lays nice and thick on his backing band. Even the 1999 emo classic clarity by Jimmy Eat World sounds atmospheric and full. Kendrick Lamars Mr. Morale & the big steppers represents the S2’s bass response well, adding some low-end punch while vocals remain crisp and clear between synths, piano, snare, and other sounds. Kick drum and deep synthesizer tones are given equal scope on songs like “N95”. It will be interesting to see whether Bowers & Wilkins will further refine its sound profile on the upcoming Px8, because what is offered here is already impressive.

The Px7 S2 also does quite well in terms of ANC performance. We’re not talking Bose or Sony levels, but Bowers & Wilkins isn’t far behind. The company made big changes to the S2’s noise-cancellation, using its in-house technology to do the heavy lifting without sacrificing overall sound quality. It’s also upgraded the microphones that monitor both the drivers’ output and ambient noise. The result is impressive blocking ability, even for things like human voices that some headphones struggle to counter. I had no problem turning off the noise of two kids at home for the summer when it was time for work. The same goes for constant noises like a sound machine or the dishwasher.

Pass-through, the company’s moniker for ambient noise or transparency mode, gets the job done but could use some refinement. Compared to the best natural sound for the feature, the Px7 S2 allows you to hear some of the outside world, but there’s no mistaking the fact that you’re still wearing headphones. Ambient noise is muffled and even with no audio playing, it’s not the best for trying to have a conversation.

call quality

https://www.engadget.com/bowers-and-wilkins-px7-s2-review-170001854.html?src=rss Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review: A lot of upgrades at no extra cost

Russell Falcon

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