Today I decided to test great headphones in my new Bowers & Wilkins PX8 Review article. Read all about these headphones below.
The latest and greatest Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones went on sale in September 2022. They appeared when the manufacturer added a particular, limited version of the “007” finish to join the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the first cinematic picture (“Dr. No”) with a well-known agent in the leading role. I tested the basic version, without Bond gadgets, but with the same sound and functionality.
There are two color versions to choose from – classic black or shades of gray. The packaging looks great, the set includes a case and a set of cables. The case is stiff and will protect the headphones well during transport (Px8 is a mobile model for many other reasons).
I connect the headphones to a modern USB-C plug with a similar ending on the charger and source sides because such a USB cable it is used not only for charging but also as a digital input in USB-DAC mode.
Most modern equipment is already equipped with this standard, and if I come across something “yesterday”… you will have to look for an adapter for classic USB-A. I will come back to the charging process and the benefits of using USB-C sockets.
At this stage, however, my attention is occupied by something else: the second cable is unconventional, on the side of the headphones there is USB-C again (because they only have such a socket), but at the other end there is an analog mini-jack “clamped”.
However, this is not the first time we have seen such a solution (e.g. Mark Levinson No.5909 ); the mini-jack is used to connect an analog source, but the signal is probably converted to digital along the way (a miniature A/D converter could fit into the USB-C plug).
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Specifications
- Technical Features: Hybrid Noise Cancellation, Ambient Pass-Through, Wear-Detection Sensor, Bluetooth® audio –
- Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX™ Adaptive, USB-C charging & audio interface
- Wearing Style: Bluetooth Wireless Over-Ear Headphones
- Bluetooth Codecs: aptX™ Adaptive, aptX™ HD, aptX™, AAC, SBC
- Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP, BLE GATT (Generic Attribute Profile)
- Drive Units: 2 x ø 40mm dynamic full-range custom carbon driver
- Microphone: 4x mics for ANC, 2x mics for telephony
- Distortion: <0.1% (1kHz/10mW)
- Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium Ion
- Battery Life: 30 hours of playback
- Charge: USB-C
- Charge Time: 2 hours, 15 min charge for 7 hours battery life
- Inputs: Bluetooth, USB-C Audio
- In-box Accessories: 1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable, 1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable, Carry Case
- Dimensions (Carry Case): 189mm (w) x 63mm (d) x 233mm (h)
- Weight: 320g (without carry case)
You can download the manual here->Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Manual
Construction & Design
The precision of workmanship and materials, although always great in Bowers headphones, here seems to be the best so far. Bowers & Wilkins Px8 weighs 320 g – it is “average weight” – no attempt was made to reduce it at the expense of solidity, as evidenced by thick, stiff metal elements (including the caps and earpiece housings).
The headband seems tight at first, but the adjustment range is very large, so the headphones can be adjusted to both very small and larger heads. The upper band of the headband is slim, but there is plenty of soft padding on the inside.
The manufacturer informs that the headband is covered with natural “nappa” leather (delicate, with micropores); Animal lovers won’t be thrilled, but you can’t make everyone happy.
The pillows are quite narrow but bulging “donuts” that fit very tightly to the head, thanks to which very good passive insulation was achieved, but again, something pays off – we feel the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 on our heads.
The headband adjustment mechanism works smoothly and requires some force, which, however, results in good stability. The joints can be rotated more than 180 degrees. Clear channel markings are placed inside the shell.
Behind the meshes, you can see diffuser plates that correct the radiation of the transducers. B&W uses cellulose diaphragms in the cheaper 7s, while Bowers & Wilkins Px8s use carbon fiber diaphragms, which are lighter and stiffer, which ultimately reduces distortion.
Connectivity & Battery Life
In terms of electronic systems, we have a modern version of Bluetooth transmission in version 5.2 with an impressive set of (de)coding algorithms: SBC, AAC, aptX and the excellent aptX HD.
The battery is enough for 30 hours of continuous operation (which is a moderate result in today’s reality), and the power supply system is closely connected to the USB-C connector, which enables quick charging – to full capacity in about two hours.
Perforations placed on the outer edges of the earcups announce a complex microphone system. In total, there are six of them in the entire headphones (outside and inside): four support the operation of the ANC active noise reduction systems, and the remaining two are used “only” for phone calls.
Controls & Application
In many areas, Bowers & Wilkins Px8 is brimming with modernity, but against this background, the way of operation may surprise… quite positively. They do not boast a multifunctional touch panel but allow easy contact with traditional buttons.
There is only one on the left earcup, its basic task is to control the ANC noise reduction system (and the transparency mode, you can also turn off all related electronics), and if we use the mobile application, we can call up the voice assistant instead of ANC.
To control the basic functions (volume control, music player) there is a standard set of three buttons, which together with the power switch and USB port can be found on the right side.
The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 user manual starts something like this: “Getting your headphones started couldn’t be easier – download the mobile app and follow the instructions.” This is no wonder, after all, these are wireless headphones, designed primarily for smartphone users.
However, I swim against the current and stay away from applications (at least for a while). It turns out that you can turn on the Px8 headphones without it, and Bluetooth pairing is classic and does not require any application. But maybe there are some functional treasures hidden there that it would be a mistake to ignore. Let’s check.
To use the application, you must… register and create a file in the B&W system. The application allows you to access several functions for which it is not necessary, but also several functions that cannot be activated without its participation.
The first group includes turning on the active noise reduction system and transparency modes. This is accompanied by a short hum, which is not present when we press the button on the earcup (without the application). Let’s assume that developers will soon catch this little detail (or have already) and release a bug-fixing software patch.
The application has exclusive access to functions such as viewing the battery charge status, adjusting the sound tone or setting the sensor that controls music playback when the headphones are removed from the head. There is also a section configuring the operation of the multi-function button (on the left earcup).
Ultimately, however, I didn’t need the B&W app to be happy, after seeing what it could do, I quickly deleted it. It’s a pity that with the same zeal with which they forced me to create an account at the beginning, the system did not hesitate to close it at the end.
Px8 does not force you to listen closely, discover deeper hidden possibilities, or look for audiophile recordings. Of course, the latter will be highlighted.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 differentiate, and do so fiercely, they bring out details and bring us closer to the recording technique. They don’t do it subtly, but they do it effectively and, in this sense, fascinatingly.
Each recording in their “interpretation” is richer, more detailed, and at the same time – whenever there is an opportunity – it emphasizes the rhythm. The bass hits are strong, fast and hard. Bowers do not purr ingratiatingly, much less rock on a soft pillow.
Dynamics and transparency rule. Each recording gains in intensity, which serves the musical emotions… It is not always the same, with Px8 we will not be able to rest, but we will be absorbed to the maximum, even by the music that was supposed to soothe us and put us to sleep.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 turns everything into an eye-catching spectacle, bringing life to sluggish pieces and sharpening dull ones. Wherever you direct your attention, there is a lot of everything; close and tangible.
How quickly can this tire us out? I really don’t know, because even when I thought I had had enough and put on calmer-sounding headphones to relax, their “normality” seemed boring.
If you have to bother with keeping something on your head, there’s a reason. Better to rest after Px8 and then come back to them. These are not headphones for listening to all kinds of music and in every mood, but for “stimulating” sessions.
The high tones are not clearly brightened, although sometimes they sparkle, they often sparkle and, above all, they are constantly absorbing with resolution. More delicate and stronger, metallic rather than velvety, but not monotonous, selective, fresh, clean – they show off and appear even in recordings that previously “had no top”.
The midrange is difficult to observe separately, its relationship with the high tones is close, and the decays determine the character, preventing the lower registers from thickening and warming. Despite this, the vocals are strong, essential and colorful, which is complemented with spirit by expressive articulation details.
It’s not always nice, it’s always great. Interestingly, this character, unless we want to interrupt the session and do something else (because it’s difficult to listen to Px8 and do something else at the same time), does not encourage us to turn the volume down – it provokes us to turn up the volume and experience the possible dynamics to the extent that you can still bear… to hear even more and stronger.
The Bowers & Wilkins Px8s won’t say “enough” on their own, I haven’t pushed them to a level where significant compression would occur. The ANC system has an impact on the sound, which is quite typical – it enhances the edges of the band, especially low frequencies.
This change can be reduced to some extent by using the adjustment sliders, but we will not make theoretical recommendations in this matter, because a lot depends on the specific “circumstances of nature”. ANC is intended for use in noisy environments, and this characteristic correction is also a good solution.
The noise reduction effect in its basic range is very good. The system does not generate any hum, background noise reduction has its limitations, but it can do a lot even in the case of conversations and impact sounds in slightly higher bands, which is usually a problem for systems of this type. There is only one ANC mode, but it can handle various situations.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Video Review
In conclusion, the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 headphones offer a premium listening experience with superb sound quality, effective noise cancellation, and thoughtful design features. They cater to both audiophiles and everyday listeners who demand a high-quality audio experience, making them a worthy investment for those willing to splurge on top-notch headphones.
Bowers & Wilkins Pro & Cons
- Premium Sound Quality: Offers excellent audio clarity and deep bass for an immersive listening experience
- Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): Effective noise-canceling technology helps block out ambient noise
- Comfortable Fit: Ergonomically designed for long-lasting comfort during extended listening sessions
- Long Battery Life: Provides extended playtime on a single charge
- Premium Build: Durable materials and stylish design make them a high-end choice
- Pricey: These headphones come at a premium price point
- Bulky Design: Some users may find them a bit bulky for on-the-go use
- Limited Sound Customization: May not offer as many EQ settings as some competitors
- Bluetooth Connectivity: Occasional connectivity issues reported by some users
- App Dependency: Some features require the use of a mobile app