Bowers & Wilkins PX: noise-canceling headphones Review
The name Bowers & Wilkins promises British sound quality in a class of its own. So can the Bowers & Wilkins PX noise-canceling headphones live up to these expectations?
- Good sound
- Excellent workmanship
- British classy design
- Noble materials
- Deficits in spatiality and fine resolution
- High weight
- Noisy noise-canceling system
The Bowers & Wilkins PX in Review
Bowers and Wilkins is a name that puts a shine in the eyes of many hi-fi fans. After all, the English manufacturer stands for the finest loudspeakers, which have long since made their way into many recording studios worldwide.
With the PX, Bowers and Wilkins are introducing their first wireless Bluetooth headphones and want to make the legendary sound quality and elegant design for which the loudspeakers are famous, also available for mobile use. However, contemporary features ensure that the classy handset from Great Britain is in no way inferior to the competition in terms of technology.
The first sonic impression of the Bowers and Wilkins is gratifyingly unpretentious and neutral. The inflated bass thunderstorms of many portable headphones are just as foreign to him as aggressive highs – so nothing stands in the way of long, unadulterated music enjoyment.
However, the English listener also misses a bit of fine dynamics – the elegant groove of the snare drum played with a broom in Esbjörn Svensson’s “The Goldhearted Miner” (ACT Music), which in itself lets your feet bob along with competitors like the KEF Space One with the Bowers & Wilkins PX can only be guessed at.
While Esbjörn Svensson’s piano can develop his melodies wonderfully gently with the Bowers & Wilkins PX, the double bass also lacks air and overtone structure. Toni Braxton’s “Come On Over Here,” on the other hand, is convincing on the one hand with a very warm representation of the voice but still comes out of the listeners a bit “foam-retarded” – the bass lacks pressure, and hi-hats and shakers are also less lively than used.
Paul O’Brien’s “Misty Mountain” (Stockfish Records) confirms this impression: The voice sounds very warm, but there is a lack of presence, and the acoustic guitars lack the sparkling sheen for which Günther Pauler’s recordings are famous.
This is certainly not only due to the decrease in the frequency response of 3.5 kilohertz and the sharp drop in height from 10 kilohertz, but also – as is particularly clear from Lars Danielsson’s record “Libera Me” – the representation of the spatial depth, which unfortunately does not come close to the plasticity of a KEF Space One or a Sennheiser PCX 550.
In summary, the sound of the Bowers and Wilkins PX can perhaps best be described as a “British understatement”: unpretentious, inconspicuous, but always clean and never strenuous. However, there is a lack of spatiality, fine dynamics, and resolution in the height range for inclusion in the reference class.
The Bowers and Wilkins PX are circumaural headphones that impress with their classy materials and excellent quality when unpacked for the first time. The metal headband and the ear cups are finished with hard-wearing nylon, the leads to the earphones are made with textile-coated cables.
Precisely manufactured metal joints and a comparatively impressive weight of 335 grams give the user the immediate feeling of holding a serious piece of high-end audio technology in their hands.
From a technical point of view, the headphones impress with Bluetooth aptX HD, a sophisticated noise suppression system with a total of six built-in microphones (four for noise suppression and two for telephony), as well as a built-in motion sensor that automatically mutes the music when a listener is lifted from the ear.
Design, quality, and comfort
As already described, the non-foldable Bowers and Wilkins PX is a fine piece of sound engineering – meticulously made from selected materials. The earpads can be removed and are held securely in position by magnets – very elegant!
A padded tote bag made of quilted, felt-like fabric is included, the lid is held closed with magnets, and a noble chrome-plated “Bowers & Wilkins” sign is decorated with it. This bag immediately evokes associations with an English luxury car. Still, it certainly protects the PX less well than the more mundane hard cases in which many other headphones are delivered.
The well-padded PX sits comfortably and stably on the ear. However, the somewhat high contact pressure and weight could be a nuisance for some wearers after long periods of use. On the other hand, the heat development under the auricles is moderate for a circumaural listener, so there is no reason for criticism in this regard.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX has only a few controls on the back of the right auricle. First of all, three elongated buttons are assigned similarly to the famous Bose Quietcomfort 35 II: The control elements arranged above and below regulate the volume, while the middle button is responsible for start or stop and telephony.
A double click skips a track forward, pressing it three times plays the previous track. Among these well-known elements are a push and slide switch for commissioning and Bluetooth activation, as well as another small button that switches through the various noise-canceling levels.
In contrast to many competing models, the current operating mode is not announced, so you always have to guess a little. This, in turn, is not particularly difficult because the well-functioning noise-canceling system of the Bowers and Wilkins rushes to different degrees depending on the set level.
In the “Office” setting, the noise suppression is inconspicuous. The middle “City” setting is audible, and the “Flight” setting is even noisier. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do justice to the high-end demands of the device.
The app belonging to the PX only allows the setting of the noise-canceling level and the motion sensors that mute the headphones when they are put down. However, one looks in vain for ways to adjust the sound. On the other hand, the test’s Bluetooth connection was always stable, and the phone functionality was good.
Test conclusion on the Bowers & Wilkins PX
The Bowers and Wilkins PX are superbly crafted wireless headphones that exude British nobility in the best sense of the word. The sound is warm, clean, and pleasant, but I cannot catch up with the reference class due to a lack of detail and space. In addition, the active noise-canceling system is too noisy.