Today, we compare theBowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 Over-ear noise canceling headphones vs. thePx8 flagship wireless active noise canceling headphones.
This article will primarily discuss how the two headphones compare in terms of build quality, comfort, design, and of course, quality of sound.
Let’s get started!
Build and Design Quality
The Px8 uses more luxurious materials for its build, using cast aluminum arms and fine Nappa Leather trim, which is exceptionally soft. In comparison, the Px7 S2 uses more plastic in its build with memory foam earpads that are also quite comfortable but less comfortable than the Px8.
However, if it is vital for you to have a headphone that is lighter in weight and doesn’t use any leather in their build, the Px7 S2 will fit that bill. Both headphones, for the shape of my head, were very comfortable and enjoyable to wear.
At the time of this article, the Px8 is offered in a few different versions, the McLaren Edition for you automotive fans, the 007 Edition for Bond fans, and the standard black or tan finish.
The Px7 S2 is available in Black, Blue, or Grey. Both headphones are capable of 24-bit high-res audio and can be plugged in via USB to enjoy high-res music streaming.
As I have said in other wireless videos we have created on our channel, I primarily utilized both headphones wirelessly with my iPhone or my MacBook pro for this article as they are wireless headphones which is how most people and myself will mainly use them; otherwise, I could plug in my Stellia or other headphones to a DAC amp if I wanted to deal with wires.
Both headphones offer Hybrid Noise Cancellation, Ambient Pass-Through, and Wear-Detection sensors. Regarding active noise cancellation, both headphones use four mics for ANC and are pretty similar in performance, and I didn’t notice any significant differences in my use.
I don’t feel the ANC is class-leading for both headphones; however, it works well, and I was satisfied with their performance for gym sessions, walks with my dog, working at my desk, and having coffee in a local coffee shop.
As far as call quality goes, both headphones use two mics. I was equally pleased with the performance of both headphones for call quality, and so were several people I spoke with on the phone, presenting both the individuals I spoke with and my vocals in a more natural way than some other wireless headphones I have tried.
Both headphones offer 30 hours of playback with 7 hours of playback from a 15-minute charge if you forget to charge your headphones.
Both headphones include a 1.2-meter USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable, a 1.2-meter USB-C to USB-C charging cable, and a Carry case, which conveniently hides the wires behind a magnetic enclosure, a nice touch visually.
So What’s the Difference?
The Px7 S2 uses two carefully angled, custom-designed 40mm, dynamic full-range bio-cellulose drivers. I have been a fan of bio-cellulose drivers for some time now, and they create what I would describe as a more natural organic type of sound compared to other types of drivers on the market that are made of different metals.
The Px8 uses instead two precisely angled 40mm dynamic full-range carbon cone drivers coupled to what B&W calls a fully optimized drive unit ‘motor system’ with revised magnet, voice coil, and surround.
The different drivers in each of the two headphones and the way the headphones are tuned create two distinctly unique qualities of sound that are still of the same house sound that B&W was going for, which I will get into in a moment after discussing the B&W App.
The B & W App
The B & W app works well, and I can bounce back and forth between both headphones. When you open the app, you will see the headphones you have connected, followed by your environmental control, which includes Noise Cancellation and Pass-through with the ability to turn off noise cancellation if you wish.
I noticed that when noise cancellation is active, it does add a bit of a lift in the bass regions, so having the option to turn it off was nice if you are in a quiet environment, and it’s unnecessary.
Next, you have a plus or minus 6 dB for treble and bass. So if you listen to music with noise cancellation and don’t like the lift in the bass, you can pull it back with the EQ. I wish more bands of adjustment were available in the EQ settings; only having two doesn’t allow you to tailor the sound as much as some users will want.
The app also allows you to manage the devices and the priority of those devices, such as your phone and your computer, for listening. You can adjust the Environmental Control button on the headphones to become a voice assistant button.
Next, your Auto standby mode allows the headphones to enter a low power state after fifteen minutes, followed by the wear sensor settings so the music will pause when you take the headphones off.
Lastly, you have the streaming quality, which allows you to choose the quality of your streaming when on a mobile device if you have a limited data plan or when connected to WiFi and running the highest quality streaming.
So, I was pleased with the app minus the minimal EQ settings, and the headphones worked flawlessly with Roon ARC, my mobile streaming bridge service of choice.
So with all of that discussed, let’s get into the fun part, how do these two headphones compare from a quality of sound perspective? I listened to many genres of music across several of my playlists, and I will share my notes from a few of the tracks to give you some music-based impressions of how the headphones compare.
Listening to the Rolling Stones, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” the Px7 S2 presents a highly engaging sound signature from the opening guitar, with excellent imaging of the drums and vocals center stage. The soundstage isn’t huge, but the imaging and definition of the stage are good, only sounding a bit congested when all the instruments come together with the vocals during the chorus.
Listening to the Px8 and the guitar and the drums have more body and soul and more present vocals. The snare has more pop to its sound, with better separation and definition of all the instruments during the chorus. The comfort of the Nappa leather is immediately noticeable when wearing the Px8.
Around 2:43, the stage opens up, and all the instruments sound more defined and present from the Px8 with larger images when compared to the Px7 S2. Both headphones are very enjoyable, with the Px8 being a step ahead on technicalities and additional bass that adds a bit of body and warmth to the guitar. The Px7 S2 sounds less technical, favoring a more natural timbre.
The treble is clear and has plenty of energy for both headphones, allowing the cymbals to stand apart from the other instruments on the track. The Px8 emphasizes the bass and the treble regions compared to the slightly more neutral signature of the Px7 S2. Around the 5:00 minute mark, the Electric guitar has a bit sharper edge to its sound from the Px8 vs. the slightly more laid-back sound of the guitar of the Px7 S2.
Listening next to Fleetwood Mac’s, Rhiannon Stevie’s vocals sound balanced with the instruments on the track when listening to the Px7 S2 while not sounding entirely as defined as I would prefer from this track.
Swapping to Px8 and the more prominent bass is the first thing I notice, giving the bass guitar and Stevie’s vocals more body; however, this may or may not be preferred depending on your preferences as a listener, as the Px8 does not present the vocals or bass guitar neutrally and are warmer leaning in these areas compared to the slightly more neutral organic sound of the Px7 S2.
Listening next to Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine,” the Px7 S2 presents the sound stage intimately with a little bit of congestion, delivering good punch and dynamics from the drums with a good cymbal splash.
Swapping to the Px8, the instruments sound more defined on the stage with a bit better layering, less congestion than the Px7 S2, and presenting a bit of warmth to Clapton's vocals.
So for my notes across the songs I shared so far, it’s a tale of the more technical sounding stage of the Px8 with its additional warmth in the low end and extra sparkle in the top end that some may prefer. Others may prefer the more neutral, natural, intimate sound of the Px7 S2 with its slightly congested sound stage for some tracks.
Switching it up a bit, listening to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the kick drum and guitar sound very pleasing in the opening of this track, with a good balance with the vocals. The Px7 S2 sounds fast without sounding too forward in the upper mids or bright in the treble.
In comparison, the kick drum has more thud and body when listening to the PX8, and the guitar has more meat on the bones. The vocals also have a bit more presence and definition with a bit more forward sound in the upper midrange and lower treble region.
The Px8 is the more immediate and exciting sounding of the two headphones; however, some users may prefer pulling back the bass and treble a bit in the EQ for this song.
Listening to GoGo Penguin's “Totem” from their 2020 Live from Studio 2 album, the Px8 presents a fast quality of sound with deep key strikes from the keys. Without EQ, the bass can sometimes become a bit overwhelming for this song and this genre of music, causing things to sound slightly less natural, depending, of course, on the song's production.
Swapping to the Px7 S2 and the more natural timbre of the piano and better-balanced bass is preferable to me for this song and Jazz in general, where tone and a more natural sound quality are paramount.
I listened to lots of electronica, pop, and EDM, and the signature of the Px8 works exceptionally well with most of the songs I listened to, and the Px8 would likely be my go-to for these genres of music.
Although the Px7 S2 is the less expensive of the two headphones, I preferred it for classical and jazz, as the better balance and more natural timbre of the instruments for these genres, in most cases, sound more realistic even if a bit less technical sounding at times.
For watching movies, I preferred the Px8 with its more immediate and exaggerated signature, which works so well for film.
Of course, you can tweak the sound of both headphones with the built-in EQ from the B & W app or potentially use a third-party app. I wish there were some IPX splash rating for the headphones so you could use them more safely in wet climates or at the gym without fear of moisture. Hopefully, we will see more manufacturers prioritize this in the coming years.
So as always, it will come down to your preferences, the types of music you listen to most, and if you prefer a vegan-friendly or a more luxurious feeling headphone. As always, I encourage you to listen to both headphones side by side to formulate your impressions, as we all hear a bit differently and differ on what we value or prefer in sound quality.
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Until next time friends, remember, let the music be your guide!