Bowers and Wilkins is a British audio equipment company that has been in the industry for over 50 years.
This is their latest entry into the world of high end wireless noise canceling headphones.
I must say I am somewhat impressed by their attempt.
Bowers and Wilkins are new to the wireless noise canceling headphone market.
Similar to Microsoft surface headphones they seem to have made a stellar attempt and will be a definite force to be reckoned with in the future.
Now these headphones are priced at a 14% premium to the Bose Quietcomfort 35 II and the SonyWH-1000XM3.
When they came out they were priced at $400*, and the price seems to have been dropped by about $100* depending on the merchant that you buy from.
Naturally, if someone has $300* to spend on a set of headphones, then they will likely scrutinize the headphones a lot closely and also compare them to the premium headphones in this category.
In this case the headphones are going to have to stand up to scrutiny and have no choice but to be compared to the leading players in this segment at this price point, namely the Bose Quietcomfort 35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM3.
The headphones come with a few attractive features with respect to the sensors.
The headphones contain a feature a so called “proximity sensors” which power on when your headphones are on your ears and switch off or go into low power state as soon as you remove them from your neck and place them down.
In the event that you remove one of your ear cups to talk to someone then the headphones will automatically pause.
This is a great feature, but of course when you want to adjust your headphones it can be a bit of a nuisance because sometimes the headphones will pause when you temporarily remove an ear cup to adjust your headphones.
Fortunately you can adjust the sensitivity of the wear sensors in the accompanying application, but this does not always provide the desired result.
Ear cup Dials
On the right ear cup you will notice that next to the jack is the on/off button.
The on/off button doubles as the pairing mode button when you press and hold it.
Above the power on/off switch is the noise cancellation button.
Next to that you will have the volume up and volume down buttons.
The button in the center is the multipurpose button used to control your music playback.
Single press to play or pause, double press to skip a track, triple press to go back a track and press and hold to activate siri.
The ear cup dials are quite raised and have great tactile response.
I do somehow find them hard to tell apart though. But after a few uses they do become
Battery life is decent but nothing special.
When the active noise cancellation is turned on, the headphones can go for 24 hours before needing a recharge.
This is perhaps disappointing as the Sony can go for up to 30 hours (and they cost less).
With noise cancellation turned off, the headphones can go for up to 30 hours.
Again this is disappointing as most of the headphones in this category and at this price range are pushing 40 hours of battery life without noise cancellation.
For reasons unknown to me, or anyone else for that matter the Bowers and Wilkins PX headphones do not come with quick charging capability.
So far most of the wireless noise canceling headphones reviewed here have been able to boast some level of quick charging.
Even the Microsoft surface headphones which, come in at a disappointing 1 hour of battery life on quick charging at least have some quick charging.
I just think if you are going to price headphones at this level, you cannot completely leave out small but competitive features.
The sound signature on these cans is very neutral.
The bass is rich and very deep (I mean very deep).
The mids are very well-defined and the highs are exceptionally crisp with absolutely no tingy sounds to them.
I cranked up the volume to see if there would be any distinguishable sound distortion, and as expected the sound was crips.
In my home office, I tend not to need the noise cancellation feature as it is often fairly quiet.
But so that I do not disturb my wife I would rather have them on, than play my speaker.
I noticed though that the Sound stage is not as wide and low frequency sound not as deep, when the noise cancellation is turned off.
But these things are far less noticeable if you are a casual user and not an audiophile.
Fit and comfort
When you have a feel for the ear pads you will notice that they are nice and plush.
But I did recognize that the padding was not sufficient.
This results in a situation in which you will not be able to wear these cans for extended periods of time.
I found that the maximum that I could do was 2 hours before they started getting uncomfortable.
But a friend of myn (who also has a smaller head) said that they could go for 4-6 hours without having to take the cans off.
When you first see the ear cups, you will notice that they have been made of memory foam and cushion with leather.
I like the fact that they have been well stitched and put together.
You can tell that these headphones will last a while and will not break, meaning you will not have to immediately get a new pair next year.
The ear cups pivot and swivel around the joints very seamlessly.
The headphones can be laid flat and do not fold which is unfortunate as this would mean they would have to be accommodated in a large inconvenient case, which is not ideal.
The ear pads are magnetically attached to the ear cups, which is a pretty neat feature.
Therefore, if you need to clean the ear pads then you can remove them and do this separately, instead of having to hold your headphones whilst cleaning them and risk breaking you headphones.
When you are done cleaning the headphone ear pads they are very easy to place back as they have been designed to simply slip back onto the ear cups.
Similar to the Sony WH-1000XM3 the ear cups do an excellent job of encasing the ears.
Fortunately Bowers and Wilkins recognized the fact that they need to accommodate all ear types.
The ear cups are oval shaped for this exact reason, and at no stage did the ear cups rest on the outer portion of my ears.
One other plus is that the headphones do not result in overheating and I never felt my ears getting hot, or sweating for that matter.
Design and build Quality
The overall design of the Bowers and Wilkins is phenomenal.
I love the stainless steel body of the headphones.
The stiff design is however a slight issue for folks with slightly larger heads as the headphones do not have the same stretching ability as other headphones.
With such a rigid design, these cans do also have quite a bit of clamping force. But after wearing them for a while, they certainly do break in.
The slider is made of stainless steel, and you can be assured that it is nice and strong.
The upper portion of the headband seems to have been made of some synthetic leather.
I am disappointed that additional padding was not added to the upper portion of the headband.
However, after a few days of use I definitely did get used to the leather.
These cans are a little heavy in my opinion.
At 355 grams they are at least 100g heavier than the Sony XM3 and more than 120 grams heavier than the Bose QC35II.
This is generally not an issue, but if you have to wear these over say an 8-hour flight then you may start to feel the weight.
There are 2 colors to choose from space Grey and soft gold.
It was not easy making up my mind about which color to choose, but because of my love of simplicity I ended up going for the space Grey.
But believe me the soft gold looks very slick.
What’s in the box
I do not know if it is just pure coincidence, but when unboxing the Bowers and Wilkins, I felt like I was unboxing a pair of beats headphones where you open the box and the first thing you see are your cans.
When you remove the headphones the next thing that you see will be a diamond weave carrying pouch which is a nice stylish addition.
I think it is a pity that Bowers and Wilkins decided not to include a hard-shell carrying case with the headphones, and instead opted for a diamond shaped pouch.
I find that this is very inconvenient if you happen to be a traveler and may want to include your headphones as part of your luggage.
A pouch simply increases the risk that your headphones could get damaged.
Audio and connectivity
There are chymes to indicate when the headphones are on and off and when the headphones have paired to another Bluetooth device.
Although not material, I did notice a slight latency of less than one second.
The headphones are Bluetooth 4.1 compatible.
I don’t quite understand the logic of being USB type C compatible and then designing the headphones with Bluetooth 4.1, I would have imagined that the headphones would come with Bluetooth 5.0.
The Bowers and Wilkins PX can be connected to a maximum of 2 devices at the same time, which is OK, and a minimum expectation at this time.
The Bowers and Wilkins come with their own application.
The app is very user-friendly.
The app allows you to view your current battery status.
For an Android user like myself I was slightly disappointed that the headphones do not come with NFC.
They do however have APT-X HD audio, which is probably more useful especially in light of google’s introduction of fast pairing.
Unfortunately there are no voice prompts to indicate whether noise cancellation is on or off.
All you here when active noise cancellation is on or off is a slight cracking sound.
Active noise cancellation
I will give the Bowers and Wilkins props for making solid noise cancellation technology.
As you would have read in the other reviews on this site, the basic test that a pair of noise canceling headphones must pass is that they must be able to block out low frequency sounds.
This the Bowers and Wilkins did with absolute precision.
So the sounds of fans, bus engines or air conditioning units need not be a problem anymore.
The Bowers and Wilkins however did not fair as well with higher frequency sounds, even at the highest level of noise cancellation.
This was not catastrophic, but it was noticeable. But overall put on some music and turn on the active noise cancellation, and you are in a blissful oasis.
On flights, I would actually compare the noise canceling ability of these cans with those of the Sony WH1000-MX3 in blocking out jet engine noise.
I was also delighted in that the ANC technology really focused on ensuring that there was as little white noise as possible, which comes in especially handy when you would want to use these without playing music.
I also noticed that when getting of the bus and heading towards the train, I could hardly pick up any wind noise which was awesome.
One of the major downsides to these cans is the price point. I do think a 14% premium to the Sony WH-1000MX3 and the Bose Quietcomfort 35 II is a bit much.
Given the strong build of these headphones, one has to be very patient with them, as they do fit nicely after you wear them a few times.
Perhaps not necessarily a deal breaker, but I feel they could have done better with the battery life. The Sony WH-1000XM3 cost less and has a longer battery life.
Also, to design a set of noise canceling headphones without quick charging is just being noncompetitive.
I feel as if at this price category a pair of headphones should come with bells and whistles. To simply leave out voice prompt and quick charging all together is taking a chance.
Reasons to buy
- Adaptive noise cancellation
- 22 hours of battery life with ANC on
- Deeply immersive and emotive sound
- Built in sensors
- Lift an ear cup to talk
- Auto pause when headphones are removed and auto play when placed back on
- Multi point technology allows you to connect to 2 devices at a time
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