Tom's Guide Verdict
The latest iteration of the entry model into Bowers & Wilkins headphones series continues to hit all the right notes with an updated acoustic architecture that borrows from the Px8 for an audiophile emphasis on sound.
Low-profile design with smart styling
Effective noise canceling
No touch controls
Noise canceling isn't as good as its rivals
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Price: $399 / £379 / AU$599
Colors: Cloud gray; ocean blue; forest green; anthracite black
Battery life (rated): Up to 30 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, aptX HD support
Size: Not specified
Weight: 10.8 ounces (307g)
The 4.5-star Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 have been a mainstay of the best wireless headphones since they arrived in mid-2022. Although they continue to be listed on the Bowers & Wilkins' website, they've been joined by the updated Px7 S2e that I have here. The new 'e' version officially went on sale in September 2023, which even by the fast-paced standards of the burgeoning wireless headphone market, two updates on a popular model in less than 18 months is some going.
So what's new? The price remains the same as before, and coincidence or not they're pitched at exactly the same price as the all-conquering Sony WH-1000XM5 — find out how they compare in my Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 face-off. In case you're wondering, the 'e' in the model name refers to them being an 'evolved' version. B&W says that the Px7 S2e takes inspiration and learnings from the company's Px8 flagship headphones together with a re-tuned acoustic performance and 24-bit digital signal processing (DSP).
Although I don't have the preceding Px7 S2 to compare them with directly, I do have a pair of the winning Tom's Guide Awards 2023 Px8 headphones to hand. I confess that performance is closer to the luxury flagship headphones than I expected. In fact, I've been so impressed with the Px7 S2e that I've already ranked them one of my favorite headphones of 2023.
Read on to find out how the 'evolved' version of Bowers & Wilkins' popular entry headphone series manage to move the line on without increasing the price.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: Price & availability
Despite being an 'evolved' version, the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e wireless over-ear active noise-canceling headphones are exactly the same price as the previous S2 version. The 'e' version went on sale on September 19, 2023 and are available to buy through the Bowers & Wilkins website priced at $399 / £379 (approx. AU$599). They're also available via online retailers including Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield.
They're pitched exactly the same as the popular Sony WH-1000XM5 wireless over-ear active noise-canceling headphones, but are $50 more expensive than the recently introduced Bose QuietComfort Headphones.
Unlike the Px7 S2 that come in just three color choices listed on the B&W website, the Px7 S2e version adds a fourth color option; they are available in anthracite black, cloud gray, ocean blue, and forest green.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: Design
- Beautifully constructed low profile design
- High clamping force
There's plenty of competition at the price which straddles the line between mainstream affordability and luxury accessory, but Bowers & Wilkins' Px7 S2e have more of a luxury feel about them than most. Okay, they're not quite up to the plush standards set by the flagship Px8, but the 'evolved' Px7 S2 version exudes an air of panache that's lacking from rival designs such as the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. For example, whereas my Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones are looking a bit scuffed and easily show up finger marks, the textured outer casing of the B&W is more resistant to everyday signs of wear.
Bowers & Wilkins is playing to its strengths, and the new Px7s are a beautifully constructed low profile headphone design. Clamping force is a bit higher than the rival designs I have to hand, but the B&W's always felt secure on my head. Also, I like the wide padding on the headband with the textured outer, and the memory foam earcups provide great comfort. Although they're marginally heavier than Sony's XM5, I really didn't notice it when they were on my head.
Inside each earcup there's the same 40mm bio-cellulose full-range dynamic driver placed at an angle that's said to help deliver soundwaves more directly to the ear. ANC is either on or off, and there's no fully adaptive mode to adjust to your surroundings; this is what separates these headphones from many of the best noise canceling headphones.
They come with a nicely finished hard case identical to the one supplied with the flagship Px8 headphones. A USB-C to USB charging cable is supplied along with a USB-C to 3.5mm cable for wired connection.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: Features
- No touch controls
- Useful Music app integration
Another area where they might feel underspecified, is their use of physical control buttons. Despite the lack of touch controls to navigate playback though, I like the physical buttons and the reassurance I get from the tactile feedback of pressing a function control; although I feel inclined to add that finding the correct button from the button array on the side of the right earcup can often be hit or miss. Additionally, there's a quick action button on the left earcup that give quick access to Environment Control (ANC, Transparency, Off) or can be assigned to activate Voice Assistant.
The Px7 S2e works directly with the Bowers & Wilkins Music app for configuration and playback control with integrated music streaming platforms including Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal and TuneIn. The Music app can also be used with other Bowers & Wilkins products such as the Zeppelin speaker (one of the best music systems for style) for a seamless experience when switching between wireless headphones and wireless speakers.
Although I found that the wear detection sensor was disabled when I first removed the headphones from my head mid-play, I discovered a menu option in the control app to enable Intelligent Playback Control with Low, Medium or High settings so that users can adjust the level of sensitivity for the wear detection sensors. It works well, although there was a delay of several seconds before music resumed when placing them back on my head.
Lastly, there's Google Fast Pair with automatic support for Google’s Find My Device service.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: Sound quality
- Retuned sound delivers rich, involving sound
- Great depth, and control of the low frequencies
If you like your headphone sound to come with a bit of a bass kick, then the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are for you. I don't mean they pump out low frequencies in an overpowering way — their sound is tight and extended — but they do have a fraction more energy than say the Sennheiser's Momentum 4 Wireless headphones or the Sony WH-1000XM5.
That isn't at the expense of detail or rhythmic alacrity, though. Every track I played from my Tidal playlist is loaded with information from my Sony Xperia 1 IV phone with the aptX Adaptive codec enabled for my Bluetooth streams. These Bowers & Wilkins give every song great depth, and control of the low frequencies is impressive. It's a sound I like, but I did find myself dropping the bass level down a notch on the Music app from time to time to tame their energy, particularly on tracks like Hans Zimmer's "Time''.
I like the amount of warmth the Px7 S2e headphones bring to the presentation. This may be part of a minor dip in the lower-mid frequency response, but it helps give vocals a good amount of weight and a great sense of natural presence without affecting clarity. Alison Goldfrapp's cold vocal on "Lovely Head" sounds as chilling as ever, for example.
Treble is nicely judged; not too soft, and not too hard. Once again though, I did find myself tinkering with the EQ control to bring a little more openness to the highs. It's a personal preference thing, but the EQ controls are a handy addition for audiophiles like myself who like to constantly tinker with the sound.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: ANC
- Satisfactory noise canceling
- No ANC level adjustment or adaptive modes
Bowers & Wilkins hasn't mentioned any changes to the noise canceling capabilities. As I mentioned earlier, ANC control is limited to either On or Off, while a Passthrough mode uses the external microphones to enable wearers to hear their surroundings without removing the headphones. Just like the previous-gen model, there's no ANC level adjustment or adaptive modes.
Much like its predecessor, I'd say that the active noise cancelation is good rather than great, meaning that it's more than satisfactory for routine commutes but is unlikely to trouble the top ranking models in our best noise-canceling headphones roundup. External noises are dealt with effectively, but some loud sounds get through.
Overall, they're more than adequate for casual listening without too much intrusion from external sounds, but don't expect the pool of silence that some headphones give when traveling by train or by airplane. Thankfully, there's no hint of the noise canceling tech having any influence over the sound signature of these headphones, and doesn’t alter their sonic characteristics.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: Battery life
Like the Px7 S2, the 'e' version has a best-case battery life of 30 hours. A full charge is expected to take around 2 hours, and a 15 minute charge should be good for 7 hours of playback.
There’s no wireless charging available, and the Px7 S2e must be charged using the USB port on the right earcup. A USB-C to USB charging cable is supplied.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: Verdict
When all is said and done, the Px7 S2e is a great addition that softly moves the entry series on without making big adjustments to the trusted design. Audio performance may have been finessed, but it doesn't feel like an out-and-out upgrade.
On the face of it, Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e could seem to be short-changing buyers in terms of features compared to price rivals from the likes of Sony and Bose. But if it's music that matters, these are the better choice. While the Px7 S2e mark the entry point to Bowers & Wilkins headphones line, these are one of the few models that lavish as much care and attention on their premium look and feel at the price, as they do on their sound.
As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.