Price: $699 / £599 / AU$1,150
Colors: Black; tan/gray
Battery life (rated): Up to 30 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 (codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, aptX HD)
Size: 7.4 x 2.4 x 9.1 inches (WxDxH) with carry case
Weight: 11.2 ounces
The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones have been a mainstay of our best headphones roundup since their launch earlier this year, and received top honors in the Tom's Guide Awards earlier this year as the best audiophile headphones in 2022. We loved the sound delivery the next-gen S2 achieved, with its all-new and repositioned drive units, so you can imagine how happy we were to see that these design upgrades have been enhanced for the recently introduced Bowers & Wilkins Px8 flagship wireless noise-canceling headphones.
With bespoke 40mm Carbon Cone drive units for an even more detailed sound across all parts of the frequency range, and sumptuous materials to further aid comfort, the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 go up against the top noise-canceling headphones from the likes of Sennheiser and Sony. But Bowers & Wilkins is confident it can pull it off and says that the Px8 is its "most advanced noise-canceling headphone to date.”
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Price and availability
- More expensive than similarly specified rivals
- Available in two soft leather color options
The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones are on sale now and have an MSRP of $699 / £599 / AU$1,150, which makes them more expensive than rivals like the Sony WH-1000XM5, Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, and are even more costly than Apple's premium-priced AirPods Max headphones.
Available from the Bowers & Wilkins website (opens in new tab) they can also be found via online retailers including Amazon (opens in new tab) and Crutchfield (opens in new tab). The headphones come in two finishes: black leather or tan leather. Both versions have a cast-aluminum arm structure and alloy accents and trims to the earcups.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Design and comfort
- High-level build and finish throughout
- Memory foam and soft leather achieve long-term comfort
It's easy to appreciate where the extra money is going on the Px8. The new flagship exudes their status the moment you hold them in your hand. The earcups, memory-foam cushions and headband are all trimmed in Nappa leather, and the combination of the alloy and soft leather assert it as a premium product.
The soft leather certainly aided comfort levels during my early morning commutes, and the headband and ear cushions felt feather-light with only a mild clamping force applied at either side of my head. The overall weight of the Px8 is a few ounces more than the Px7 S2, but it's really not something I noticed in use, and the weight felt evenly distributed and lighter than some wireless rivals I've experienced.
At no point did I get the feeling that my head and ears were under any unnecessary pressure, and there wasn't any sense of heat build up at the main contact points thanks to the soft breathable leather helping to alleviate any heat buildup that might occur on longer listening sessions.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Controls
- No touch controls
- Updated Bowers & Wilkins Music app
Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4, the Px8 doesn’t have touch controls on the earcups for playback navigation. Instead, the rear edge of the right earcup carries a selection of physical control buttons that provide play/pause, volume up/down, skip forwards/backwards, and power on/off/Bluetooth pairing.
The Bowers & Wilkins Music App has been upgraded to coincide with the launch of the Px8 and guided me through functionality and controls during initial set up. It provides control to all your B&W products in one place, and even integrates with streaming services subscriptions you may already have with Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Soundcloud and TuneIn, to name a few. It displays the remaining battery life of the headphones too, so that you can keep on top of recharges.
My only real disappointment was that there wasn't a multi-band EQ adjustment for personal customization, but there are bass and treble controls available. Noise-canceling runs to 'on'/'off'/'pass through' modes, but that's as far as they go.
Device management allows you to select auto standby, where the Px8 will power down to lower power mode after 15 minutes, while wear sensor can be set to low, medium, or high for auto playback control when the headphones are removed from your head.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Connectivity
- Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive wireless codec support
- 3.5mm jack and cable supplied for wired connectivity
I like the reassuring sounds that confirm the headphones are paired and connected to your playback device.
Wireless audio is via Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC, AAC, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive codec support when connected to compatible playback devices. It's may disappoint some audio quality fans that there's no LDAC or aptX Lossless Audio compatibility for the highest quality Bluetooth streaming, but there is a USB-C-to-3.5mm analog cable to connect the headphones to a playback device (or add-on headphone/DAC, perhaps) with a headphone socket.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Sound quality
- All-new dynamic driver material sounds agile
- Great detail levels and transparency
The Px8 headphones are fitted with all-new bespoke 40mm Carbon Cone dynamic speaker drivers in each earcup. The new headphone drivers use an ultra-lightweight material said to have been inspired by the Carbon Dome drive units fitted to the company's 700 Series loudspeaker range. Bowers & Wilkins says that the new driver delivers greater resolution, detail and timing that surpasses the high bar set by the Px7 S2.
And from what I've experienced during my time with the review pair, I can vouch that the new drivers do indeed achieve greater resolution and timing. As with the Px7 S2, the drive units in the Px8 are carefully angled inside each earcup to ensure a consistent distance relative to the listener’s ear from every point across the surface of the driver.
Bass sounds natural and rich without feeling overly emphasized. At first the low frequencies sounded a little lean when compared to the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4, but as I listened closer I could hear bags more detail without any sense of it overshadowing other sounds. It's an agile performance that enables me to follow individual elements within the music and pick out different strands of the mix with ease.
I confess, I have favored open-backed, over-ear headphone designs in the past, as these give a little more space and 'air' when it comes to image presentation, and a greater sense of openness with the music soundstage. But in the headphone world where noise-canceling features are a must-have, open-back designs have become a rarity.
Despite the closed-back design, the Px8s do a great job of presenting a broad sonic picture with a pleasant sense of width to the soundstage, and Alison Goldfrapp's "Lovely Head" gave a particularly great feeling of presence. There's nothing wrong with the rest of the frequency range of course, but it's the mid frequencies where these flagship Bowers & Wilkins headphones excel, delivering an abundance of natural detail and midrange clarity to make every syllable sound so convincingly realistic.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Active noise cancelation
- Satisfactory noise cancelling but not the market leader
- Occasional pressure equalization issues from wind turbulence
Bowers & Wilkins says that the Px8 headphones use six high-performance microphones working together: two measure the output of each drive unit, two react to ambient noise from the outside world, while the remaining two voice calls.
The soft Nappa leather ear cushions did an effective job of passively reducing background noise in any environment, cutting the general office hubbub by at least half its normal level even without ANC turned on. Activating noise cancellation took things further and did an effective job of shutting out the noise of my fellow train travelers. Some sounds still break through though, such as my colleague tapping the desk behind, and I’d say that ANC performance is satisfactory rather than great, and doesn’t outperform the likes of Sony’s WH-1000XM5 or Bose 700 as some of the best noise-canceling headphones.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Call quality
- Satisfactory call quality
- Minor audio latency syncing with video
I’m not one for taking video or voice calls while listening to music on a pair of headphones, but when I needed to I found that wearing the Px8 was respectable with decent voice clarity received by the caller hearing my voice at the other end of the call. As we found on the Px7 S2, the two external microphones are placed closer together and repositioned to improve voice capture and reduce wind noise interference and this appears to be a successful arrangement.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Battery life
- Battery life playback time similar to Px7 S2
- Effective quick charge
With 30 hours of battery life, the Px8 matches the Px7 S2, as well as its closest rival the Sony WH-1000XM5, but has some way to go to beat the 60-hour playback with ANC capabilities of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless.
As with the Px7 S2, a 15-minute quick recharge is sufficient for up to 7 hours listening time, and the real-world battery life durations lived up to the claims and my expectations.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review: Verdict
The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones make a luxury leap in terms of design and audio output. They meet the flagship over-ear headphone status and balance luxury design with audiophile credentials to impressive effect, and are one of the most agile and engaging wireless headphones I’ve heard.
The use of luxury materials and attention to detail are enough to warrant the higher price, but there are plenty of rivals vying for attention that get close to the performance of the Px8 for considerably less.