Bowers & Wilkins PX5 / PX7 Wireless ANC Headphone Review: Obscure Tastes

The new Bowers & Wilkins PX5 and PX7 wireless
noise cancelling headphones have arrived here at Minidisc, and right from the outset I will
say these are a bit of a mixed bag for me. Starting with the positives, the industrial
design and finish on these headphones is superb. From the tasteful mix of textiles and metals
in the earcups to the sportscar inspired carbon fibre arms, these ooze luxury. Bowers and Wilkins clearly took feedback on
the design of the previous generation PX, which some of our customers found uncomfortable
due to the overall weight and the density of the earpads. The PX5, which is on-ear, and the PX7, which
is a larger than average portable over-ear design, improve on this with a much softer
and more compliant earpad material – though clamping force remains on the firmer side. Now unfortunately I’m finding that with
my head, the pressure of the headband on the PX5 and PX7 ends up mostly concentrated in
an uncomfortable hot spot right on the top of my head. Your mileage may vary, and I did notice that
this got a little better with time, but in terms of comfort I still find the Sony WH1000XM3
leagues ahead thanks to its lower clamping force and lower weight. The Sony doesn’t look half as fancy though. A real positive with these new headphones,
and particularly with the PX7, is the really strong noise cancelling performance. The new Bowers & Wilkins perform comparably
with the market leading Sonys, and a physical button makes it easy to turn switch between
low, high and automatic noise cancellation, as well as a transparency mode or turning
off noise cancellation entirely. The PX5 isn’t quite as good as the PX7 in
terms of active noise cancelling performance, probably due to its on-ear design, but even
passive noise isolation with these headphones is quite good. Another highlight is the support for the Adaptive
AptX bluetooth protocol on both of these headphones, and this new protocol combines both low latency
and a highly adaptive bitrate to deliver the best effort possible in any given environment. Unfortunately we weren’t able to test this
out since Adaptive AptX is so new that even Wing’s shiny new Pixel 4 doesn’t support
it. Now we get to my thoughts on the sound and
I have to say that unfortunately, I do not like the sound of the PX7 very much at all. The PX7 doesn’t really have a sound that
can be described as warm or bright or even V-shaped – to me they just sound a bit lumpy. The most distinctive components of the sound
of the PX7 are a very strong bass response coupled with a odd sounding gap in the upper
midrange that makes almost all vocals sound like they are being sung through cupped hands. And then on top of this, with some tracks
the PX7 picks up a harsh metallic sizzle in the very highest frequencies. Even though I find the Sony WH1000XM3 a little
bassy and slow with its stock sound, next to the PX7 I found the Sony quite natural
and pleasant. And compared to the Beyedynamic Lagoon ANC,
which is my personal sound quality benchmark for wireless ANC headphones, I found the PX7’s
sound overboosted in the bass and uneven in the highs compared to the Beyer’s warmish,
but otherwise detailed, punchy and linear signature. The one area where the PX7 outdoes the competition
is with its exceptionally wide soundstage, which is really quite spacious and impressive
compared to its more intimate sounding rivals. But where I found the PX7’s peculiar tuning
most effective was actually when watching movies, where they sound big and impressive,
like a home theatre for your ears. But with the majority of music that I listen
to, I really found the sound of the PX7 a little bizarre. Now we did try two different units just to
make sure our impressions were not due to a faulty unit. That being said we have had some positive
feedback from customers who have happily taken a PX7 home with them, so it may just be that
this is not the right headphone for me, but it may be for you. As always an in-store demo is your friend. Now I’m happy to report that I much preferred
the sound of the PX5. Due to the on-ear design, I found the soundstage
much narrower and more intimate on the PX5, but I also found the tuning to be much more
natural, with a warm, balanced tone and just a little bit of extra energy in the bass and
the upper midrange that makes the PX5 like a more vibrant sounding version of the Sony
WH1000XM3. It’s a pleasant tuning that I have no complaints
about. And I kind of wish that Bowers and Wilkins
and somehow made a headphone with the PX5’s tuning and the PX7’s comfort, noise cancelling
performance and soundstage. Now we’re interested in your feedback on
both of these headphones, because something I’ve learnt working at a headphone store
is that there truly is a headphone for everybody, and maybe these are the ones for you. Next time we will be looking at the PI wireless
earphones from Bowers & Wilkins, which I am a MUCH bigger fan of. This is Lachlan for MinidiscTV – and we’ll
see you next time!

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