Bowers & Wilkins has been a premier British speaker manufacturer since 1966, and a household name among audiophiles since the late ’70s, so it is little wonder that they have also been a popular headphone manufacturer among the pro and audiophile market for over a decade, garnering the coveted title as the official headphone of Abby Road Studios. This means that the B&W Px8 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphone is just the latest in a long-growing list of leading-edge products.
In the Px8, B&W has partnered an all-new driver technology with a 24-bit DSP with the intent of providing outstanding resolution for “all-new levels of immersion and realism.”
The Px8 driver incorporates precisely angled Carbon Cone drive units to reduce distortion, for massively improved clarity which is coupled to a fully optimized drive unit ‘motor system’, with a revised magnet, voice coil, and surround.
B&W’s 24-bit DSP is controllable via the Bowers & Wilkins App which is available through their website or via Google Play or the Apple App Store. The App walks you through pairing, manages multiple B&W devices, reads out battery state, allows you to select Noise Cancellation or Pass Through, adjust Bass and Treble, set device priority for the headphone which can link via Bluetooth to multiple transmitters, change the “Quick Action” button between Environmental Control (ANC) and Voice Assistant, turn the Auto Standby on or off, Turn the Wear Sensor on or off, as well as set the Wear Sensor sensitivity, adjust the streaming quality with separate settings for WiFi and Mobile Data, and you can even personalize the experience by renaming the headphone.
The Px8 can connect to your source in three ways, wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.2 (which offers both the aptX Adaptive and aptX HD codecs for High-Rez transmission), via USB-C, and via 3.5mm TRS single-ended.
Wear Detection allows the headphones to pause automatically when the earcup is lifted from your ear.
At full charge, the Px8 has a stated battery life of 30 hours playback, and a quick charge time of 15 minutes for 7 hours of playback. (Note: the battery drain during wired operation is negligible, as I ran it for about a hundred hours and it still showed 90% battery)
In appearance, the Px8 is simple and elegant, constructed from cast aluminum with Nappa Leather (Nappa is a tanning process that leaves the leather extremely soft and pliable) accents with small ear-sized (over-ear) cups and extendable arms that have two gimbal pivot points for easy adjustment and comfortable fitting. They come in two finishes; Black Leather and Tan & Grey Leather, as well as a 007 Edition and a McLaren Edition.
There are five tactile controls on the Px8, on the right ear cup there is the Power which is a toggle that also is used to activate the pairing state along with three press buttons (Volume +, Multi-function, Volume -) and on the left, there is a single “Quick Action” press button. The tactile controls are accompanied by an indicator light.
Illumination Operational state:
- White: Battery charge > 30%
- Amber: Battery charge between 30% and 10%
- Red: Battery charge < 10%
- Red flashing: Battery charge insufficient for headphone operation
- Blue flashing: Pairing mode enabled
- Blue (2 sec solid): Pairing successful
- Blue flashing (calls): Incoming call
- Green flashing: Rapid charging
- Green solid: Battery charge full, trickle charging
For accessories, the Px8 included a 1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable, a 1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable, and a hard shell zippered Carry Case.
Living with the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones:
As noted above, I burned in the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones using my FiiO M11 via the USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable running Qobuz. When it came time for listening tests, I began by pairing the Px8 to my Moto G Power cell phone using the Bowers & Wilkins App (mostly to explore the options available in the App). As I had a pair of loudspeakers burning-in in the background, I had a good opportunity to check the noise canceling and isolation. The headphone alone, powered off, offered fairly good noise isolation on its own, though I could still delineate the music, once the ANC was switched in the music disappeared (with the exception of a bit of the vocal), as well as the sound from my computer fans and the hum of the computer speaker system, though there was a barely audible hiss from the DSP amplifier, which was noticeable when in the Ambient Pass-Through mode.
Selecting Roger Waters’ “The Lockdown Sessions” (24-bit/48kHz – Qobuz) on Qobuz, I toggled through the ANC settings, impressively there was almost no change in the sound. The tonal balance was warm with fairly strong bass. The sound was extremely pleasant with a good-sized soundstage and clear natural sounding acoustic guitar, though a bit dark in the vocal.
Switching to Alain Altinoglu and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra performing César Franck (“Franck: Symphony in D Minor – Rédemption – Le chasseur maudit” – 24-bit 48kHz – Qobuz), the timbre of the instruments was rich and natural sounding in a large hall, dynamic and musical.
The next step was to compare the wired performance with the wireless, for this I went back to the M11 and selected “Dear God” by XTC (“Skylarking” – 24-bit/96kHz). Wireless, the bottom end was strong, the guitar was balanced and the midrange and vocal were clear but slightly depressed. As one would expect the sound with the digital connection was identical to the Bluetooth as you are using the same DAC/Amplifier (I should note that it was limited to 24-bit/48kHz). On the other hand, the USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable wired connection offered more tonality to the bass, and a little more air to the soundstage.
This led to a final test with my Schiit VALI 2++ / Questyle M12 inline DAC combination to see how far the Px8 would scale up. Listening to “The Look of Love” (“Casino Royale” Dusty Springfield with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass – 24-bit/192kHz) offered a whole new level of experience, and showed that the Px8 not only sounded excellent with jazz but indeed flesh out higher resolution sources. The soundstage was intimate with a sense of space, and though the upright bass was a bit louder than I would normally look for, it was limited to the bass and didn’t bleed over into the other instruments. The piano was crisp and musical, very natural sounding.
I did a quick test of the ANC using recorded jet sounds and it worked well. As to range, it was the farthest of any Bluetooth device I have tested, allowing me to not only go to the far side of my house (five walls of interference) but I was able to exit my garage and go halfway up the driveway toward my mailbox before it began to cut out. For comparison, the best I had used before became spotty once I entered the garage.
Conclusions on the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones:
The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones are everything you would expect from a company like B&W, they have what I think of as that classic B&W sound, smooth mellow highs, and solid bass, very reminiscent of the classic 801 loudspeaker that made them famous. Yet they also reflect that elegance that is the modern B&W speaker like the Nautilus. Comfortable and versatile they are the perfect on-the-go headphone, as well as great for doing chores around the house.
Surprisingly good with all styles of music including classical, the Px8 are a bass head’s dream ideal for jazz, house, EDM, or hip-hop. Musical and pleasant to listen to they would be a quintessential choice for everyday listening.
Though at $699 they come in at the high end of Bluetooth ANC headphones there is no question that the B&W Px8 are well worth the investment and received a hearty recommendation.
Manufacturer’s Website: www.bowerswilkins.com
|Wearing style:||Bluetooth Wireless Over-Ear Headphones|
|Technical features:||Hybrid Noise Cancellation|
|Bluetooth® audio- Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX™ Adaptive|
|USB-C charging & audio interface|
|Bluetooth codecs||aptX™ Adaptive|
|BLE GATT (Generic Attribute Profile)|
|Drive units||2 x 40mm dynamic full range carbon driver|
|Microphones||4x mics for ANC|
|2x mics for telephony|
|Distortion||(THD)<0.1% (1 kHz/10mW)|
|Battery type||Rechargeable Lithium Ion|
|Battery life & charging||30 hours playback|
|15 minute charge for 7 hours playback|
|In box accessories||1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable|
|1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable|
|Tan & Grey Leather|
|Size & Weight:||Net weight||320g (without carry case)|
|Dimensions (Carry Case)||189mm (w) x 63mm (d) x 233mm (h)|