Bowers & Wilkins recently dipped their toes into wireless noise cancelling headphones with the PX. The headphones cost $400 (£330 AU$549) and have the classy looks and hi-fi audio to match. The company’s first noise cancelling design has plenty of big players to compete with in the high-end market. There’s a few snaggles here and there, but overall Bowers & Wilkins are onto a winner. Check out the Bose QC35 II review if you want to see the competition.
Bowers & Wilkins aim at the professional crowd
The Bowers & Wilkins PX is aimed at the jet-setting, professional crowd. The focus of the headphone seems to be allowing people to work or travel in comfort while being able to control how much external noise comes through.
The headphones can be paired with a free app. It’s a very simple layout which primarily allows you to control the noise cancellation via turning the Environment Filter on or off. The filter has three settings: Office, City and Flight. These settings customise the amount of external noise which comes through. If you want to set the amount manually, there’s also a Voice Pass-through slider available.
The app also allows you to control the Wear Sensor. This function automatically turns the headphones on and off as you put them on your head. There’s three settings of sensitivity available. Using the sensor made me realise how often I lift my headphones off my head to adjust them or scratch an ear or something. I found it jarring to have the music shut off every time I lifted the earphone. Some office workers would no doubt use it but I was glad to be able to turn it off.
PX audio hits hard
The PX packs a real punch in the audio department. The headphone has a reasonably broad 10Hz-20kHz frequency response. The headphone has a bass-heavy, consumer-focused sound. It reminds me of high-end Sennheiser headphones but with slightly less aggressive bass. The bass is still brought forward a lot, which lends itself to R&B, hip hop and pop.
It also works well for rock and heavy music. The low-end makes the bass guitar and kick drum thump hard. The highs aren’t super pushed like many modern headphones. So the mids, where a lot of the guitar attack lies, remain intact. So in this way the PX is more suited to guitar-based music than many headphones that follow the current trend of heavily boosting both lows and highs.
Wireless works without a hitch
The Bowers & Wilkins PX wireless works without a hitch and has a broad range. I can walk throughout a four-bedroom house without dropouts. The passive noise isolation is already quite strong even before turning the headphones on. The active noise-cancellation is solid, although not as strong as the Sennheiser PXC 550, which we recently reviewed. The PX’s noise cancellation doesn’t produce any audible hissing when not playing music. There is a slight sensation of pressure on the ears. However it’s similar in intensity to what I’ve experienced with other high-end noise-cancelling cans.
There’s audio prompts for turning the headphones on and off, but the headphones don’t provide any audio feedback for the other functions, ie volume, pause and noise-cancellation activation. I would have appreciated some indication of whether noise-cancellation is active or not, as in some environments it’s hard to tell. Otherwise, the controls are straight-forward and easy to operate.
Build and comfort
The build of the PX is rock solid. It’s made of premium materials and would survive a bit of knocking around, as would the accessories. Included is a felt case, a 3.5mm straight jack cable and a charging cable. Everything has a very polished presentation, right down to the accessories. The headphones themselves give off a high-end, classy vibe. They are pretty comfortable to wear, although the drivers can tend to rub the ears a little over long sessions. The PX doesn’t heat up too much over long sessions, which is great as it’s a common problem for closed back headphones.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX has a lot going for it. It’s classy, built tough and the feature-set is tailored well to its intended professional market. The audio performance is great and works across a range of styles. The user-interface could have been implemented in a more intuitive manner though. Overall it’s a great headphone, although for $400 I wouldn’t say it’s particularly great value.