No matter where you go, it seems that people everywhere have something in, on or over their ears. Earbuds are everywhere; like tiny white fangs protruding from either side of the head. More astute music listeners might enjoy a pair of stealthy in-ear ’phones, some of which are truly outstanding. Over-ear headphones can be comfortable, but annoyingly audible to others while letting ambient noise from the outside in. Sometimes, a listener just wants to get away from it all.
That’s exactly what the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones allow. Those on the lookout for a “better mousetrap” when it comes to a wireless ’phone that can serve up superior sound while doing battle in the real world will find the Px7 S2 to be a welcome addition to a crowded field. The latest S2 version replaces its predecessor, the well-received Px7, itself a descendant in a decades-long headphone lineage from Bowers & Wilkins, a manufacturer that also makes renowned standalone speakers like the 800 D3 and 801 D4.
The Px7 S2 brings some new engineering and design features to the table, centering on new transducers, one for each ear. These 40 mm, full-range dynamic drivers use a bio-cellulose diaphragm that delivers low distortion and ultra-fast response across the frequency spectrum. High resolution of intricate musical material is apparent at frequency extremes, with immersive bass, extended highs and, importantly, plentiful midrange detail that brings music to life.
Engineers have carefully angled the driver in each earcup to ensure that all frequencies arrive to the listener at precisely the same instant, maintaining the proper time alignment that’s so essential to the natural presentation of music. Being free of cables and cords is always a plus, and the Qualcomm aptX Adaptive wireless technology designed into the Px7 S2 allows listeners to source music from smartphones, tablets and computers. Bowers & Wilkins’ own DSP (Digital Signal Processing) delivers 24-bit, high-res sound. And those with a penchant for hard wiring can use the supplied USB-C and 3.5 mm cables.
Isolation, though, is what it’s all about, as I experienced on a recent flight where the Px7 S2s became my new best friend. Any airport lounge, followed by the relentless drone of an aircraft in flight, is the acid test for noise-cancelling headphones. Here, Bowers & Wilkins engineers have not only attenuated ambient noise on the ground and in the air, but preserved the musicality of the source signal as part of the bargain. This is accomplished through the use of six microphones. Two measure the output of each drive unit, two measure and react to external (ambient) noise and two offer enhanced voice rendition and noise suppression.
The Quick Start Guide is a pleasant change from the “documentation” usually encountered with app-based consumer-electronics gear. Promising that “Set-up could not be easier,” it goes on to explain that downloading the Bowers & Wilkins App will enable full operation, pairing with an Apple or Android mobile device. A simple drawing with a few B&W hieroglyphs explains the function of four precision buttons and a single sliding switch on the sides of the earphones. Battery life is a luxurious 30 hours, enough for any round-the-world flight, and a 15-minute recharge provides about seven hours of additional listening time.
The fit and finish of the $399 Px7 S2 is meticulous. The smooth and textured surfaces as well as the comfortable, long-wearing earpads and headband are all of quality composite. Users can choose from a pale gray, dark blue or black finish with a little brightwork that encircles the exterior of each earpiece. There’s also a matching carrying case that takes these ’phones traveling and brings them home safe and, of course, sound.