Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Review
Bowers & Wilkins’ brand new line of headphones is in stores. We have already encountered the models at the introduction and at various recent shows, and could not wait to get started with the PX5 and PX7 in more detail. This review pays tribute to the first of those two, the Bowers & Wilkins PX5.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX5, or as we often see it ‘B&W’, are midrange on-ear headphones. The B&W PX5 is mainly aimed at dynamic use. By that we don’t mean that you have to cycle out of a plane with a parachute on your back with a mountain bike, but that it is suitable for versatile use and not specifically for listening in one place. In the morning by bike to the station, in the train or, for example, at the office. Active noise canceling is of added value for business travelers. This makes working at a noisy airport or on an airplane a relief. We still have to test whether the B&W PX5 also offers this relief. But it is a compact on-ear and with the included bag/sleeve you can easily take your B&W PX5 with you, the device hardly takes up space.
- B&W sound
- High quality audio playback
- Suitable for multimedia
Design of Bowers & Wilkins PX5
B&W has been making speakers for many years, you can expect something from that. The fact that they have also been making headphones for a long time gives us a lot of opportunities to enjoy the B&W sound on the go. The size of the PX5 is manageable. Large drivers were therefore not an option. In the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 we find a 35mm driver. To ensure that this driver is worthy of the B&W sound, the team from the 800 Diamond Series was deployed.
It doesn’t stop there. The finish is of a high level. The headband is finished in two parts. Fabric on top and soft (artificial) leather on the bottom. The ear cushions are also covered with this soft material. On the inside of the ear pads we see a white R and L. The exterior of the units has the same fabric as the headband, and bears the Bowers & Wilkins name in silver. The left and right units are attached to a very nicely shaped arm. This arm is made of a carbon fiber. This makes the design a lot lighter than metals. It is also a lot stronger than regular plastic, the other material we often see in headphones. In the right unit we find the on/off/pairing button. Slightly higher are three buttons for control, such as volume and play/pause. And at the bottom there are two connections, one for USB-C charging, the other is a 3.5mm jack. This jack adds so much value to a pair of bluetooth headphones. When your battery is empty, you can simply plug in a cable and continue listening. The moment you can charge again, thanks to USB-C, the battery is good for 4 to 5 hours of music pleasure with approximately 15 minutes.
Finally, on the left unit we find one more button. This is for the active noise canceling mode. The B&W PX5 has four modes: High, Low, Auto, Off. Perhaps the smartest feature of the PX5 is the sensor that recognizes whether the headphones are on the head or not. As soon as you turn off the PX5 because a colleague starts talking to you, the PX5 stops playing music. That has been thought about. The B&W PX5 is a beautiful piece of engineering with the right design and design elements. Hats off!
Special test location
A simple review at the train station is very ordinary, and the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 is not. So we have found a special test location, with unfortunately one serious drawback; we are not allowed to take pictures there. We went to the IT Operations Center, the beating IT heart of Defense. In the space of approximately 150 m2, there are three islands with eight workplaces. All workplaces overlook a mega-sized video wall. They used huge screens to wallpaper the wall, with all the current IT information. During our test there were about 16 people working. Especially if there is a disturbance, it can be very busy. On the one hand, people say that a system has failed, which on the other hand is immediately picked up. Before you know it, the entire space is in turmoil; an ideal setting for a noise canceling test.
We opt for the noise canceling High mode. It is as if a thick blanket of snow is falling over space. We experience a peace, a silence. We can still hear conversations between people, but not very clearly. It’s not complete silence, but it filters so much noise and noise from the room that it’s even possible for us to quietly think about what music we’re going to put on. We hesitate between solid music that suits the stress in the room or do we opt for a piece of beautifully composed classical music, in which every element in the music is controlled. That fits better in the environment where we are. Because the people in this room know exactly what to do. The disruption is dealt with with military precision. Time for some music!
We are in the middle of the hectic pace and find a perfect song that describes the atmosphere and gives it an idea. We end up on the album Passaggio by Lavinia Meijer. The song The Snow Prelude No. 15 touches the serious chord and gives exactly that bit of drama to what is happening in space. We don’t get any of that, because the noise canceling works sublimely. Every now and then half conversations come through, but because of the music that falls away. The passion of Lavinia Meijer remains. How her fingers play the strings of the harp and produce sounds full of emotion, gives a shiver every time. She takes us into the music, you forget where you are.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX5 has a neutral sound. We are somewhat used to that from Bowers & Wilkins. There is a clear B&W sauce over it, and that sauce tastes like more. The PX5 has a pleasing sound. The sound is full and rich. We notice this at the touch of a string that has a little more low. It sounds a little firmer on the B&W PX5. It still retains its natural character, but just a bit tastier. There is, however, a drawback; the moment we listen to a song that is full of loudness, it sounds just a little too much. This is no problem for the first 10 to 20 minutes, but longer, then fatigue sets in. Fortunately, most of this kind of music falls into the JUMP category and we won’t have much to do with it. That the PX5 is very good in displaying quality is only apparent when we listen further on Spotify. We listen to Anastasia from the album Apocalyptic Love. If you don’t like Slash (yet), then you may do so after listening with the B&W PX5. Everything is right! The slightly thicker layer ensures that more of the Oh Yeah! eEffect is achieved. We put a second line behind the test criteria “enjoy”.
Bowers & Wilkins PX5: multimedia beast
We have left the hectic pace and sit outside on a bench. Get some fresh air. That gives the opportunity to play with the app, download it for iOS and Android. Connecting is easy and in the app we find the settings for the PX5. An explanation can be found about the buttons and how you can use voice control, for example. You can also set how much ambient noise you want to let through. This is similar to noise canceling, but you can adjust it completely yourself.
We decide to watch a few videos on Youtube and after 10 minutes switch to Netflix. The movie Dunkirk is a spectacle. This can not only be seen on the screen, it can also be heard thanks to the PX5. The fights are an intense experience and we feel it. The shots, the tears, the bullets flying around your ears; it feels so intense. At that moment a puzzle piece falls into place. A well-known ‘Oooh’ moment. The reason that the bass is just a bit fuller is actually quite simple; the B&W PX5 is a multimedia beast. The layer provides that intense experience with films and series. Of course, the clear mids and highs provide a beautiful sound image, but the lows make it an intense experience for media.
We also tested the sound with a few games. The sound here is actually the same as with films and series, intense! The longer we think about it, the more logic we see. If you’re a commuter, you want to be able to enjoy your music in the morning on the train. For the conference calls you want to understand the conversation well and be comprehensible, and if you are on your way home to a good series or film, then the B&W PX5 will not let you down either. Not even with a nice game of Call of Duty.
Under the line
How much value do you get for your money? We think it’s quite a lot. The market for on-ear noise canceling headphones is quite large. There is a lot of choice. If you wear glasses, an on-ear may be slightly less pleasant than over-ear. The ear does not press against the leg of the glasses all the time. The B&W PX5 are very good headphones. He stands his ground when it comes to music, movies and gaming. You also get a treat of sound, an authentic B&W sound. For fairly cheap price that is almost a bargain. The B&W PX5 gives a Hi-Fi worthy sound, but no Hi-fi tears. That is exactly the sweet spot that B&W is targeting with the PX5. A great all-rounder, for your ear.
Is there a reasonably priced Active Noise Canceling headset from a reputable audio company that also works well with movies and video games? Easy to carry, with an elegant design? Bowers & Wilkins answers all those questions in the affirmative with the Bowers & Wilkins PX5. A piece of technology that combines audio quality and innovation. The PX5 has the authentic B&W sound and does not turn around for any piece of audio. A good investment for hi-fi sound on the go.