Pros: Great ergonomics
Slim ear cups
Good battery life
Can wear for hours on end
Cons: Harsh highs in some (few) songs
Doesn’t handle distortion cleanly
Must use app for best sound/volume
Not as good sounding as Bathys or 5909
Up for review today are the Bowers and Wilkins Px8 Bluetooth (Px8) Audiophile Noise Cancelling (NC) headphones. They use angled Carbon Cones to reduce distortion and aptX™ Adaptive wireless technology with powerful Digital Signal Processing to ensure outstanding 24-bit high-resolution sound. So, that’s cool. They also have 6 microphones for noise canceling and a 30-hour battery life. There is also an orange McClaren and blue James Bond special edition available for more money and zero extra performance. In a nutshell, these are NOT the best SOUNDING wireless headphones on the market, but they may be the best overall. So, if you want functional wireless NC headphones with great sound, get these.
Build Quality / Comfort:
Before I got the Px8, I tried the Focal Bathys (Bathys) and the Mark Levinson 5909 (5909) because… y’know… sound. Both of those have better sound, sort of, but the build quality on each one was far worse than the Px8. Both the Bathys and the 5909 had an EXTREMELY annoying popping noise while walking with the headphones – it essentially sounded like the driver’s diaphragm was popping every time I took a step. Now, most drivers are extremely stiff, so that’s sort of unlikely, it’s more likely to have to do with the noise canceling. That said, it is the most annoying thing in the world to use mobile headphones in a mobile headphone manner and find yourself annoyed with each step. That didn’t work for me, and I’m still not sure they weren’t defective because the Px8 does NOT have that issue.
Not only are the Px8 lightweight without feeling kind of cheap (Bathys,) but they are a small profile, sturdily built, and have good noise cancellation for day-to-day tasks (computer noise, etc.) These are beautiful headphones and although my ears get a little hot over time, every other closed-back can have that same problem. The 5909 has got to be one of the ugliest headphones I’ve ever seen – and they are not low profile. It’s sort of like the Abyss AB1266 of the wireless headphone world. The Bathys at least look decent, but they feel cheap, almost like they were trying to save weight, and ended up with a plasticky feeling headphone with some VERY large earcups. So, the Px8 comes with premium materials, great build quality, good physical controls (not swipe controls), and good connection profiles for Android. Sweet.
Sound / Source / Comparisons:
I am driving these off my Pixel 7 and they work great. When I slide the switch on, they connect and just work. They automatically connect to aptX HD audio and the sound quality is excellent (there’s a caveat here I’ll get to in a minute.) But overall, everything just works the way it’s supposed to – and I LOVE having a sliding on/off switch instead of a button you have to hold down to turn on or off – so fast and easy. OK, caveat time. You need to download the “Music | Bowers & Wilkins” app (not uncommon these days,) and here’s why: you get more volume and better sound quality by connecting your music app to the B&W app and playing it through there. I don’t mean a little more volume, I mean almost twice the volume. I have no idea why, but at least the B&W app works better than the HiBy app and it actually comes up with some really good mixes for you utilizing your music app of choice (Tidal for me.) So, is that annoying? Yeah. Is it terrible? Nope, but the people using these headphones without the B&W app are literally missing out on more volume and better quality music – weird design choice, and may contribute to bad reviews for these. My tests are done through Tidal Hi-Fi connected through the B&W Music app.
Moving on to the sound: I don’t like breaking down headphones by each frequency since every song I test with has bass, mids, and highs. So, I will start with bass-heavy songs, and break down each song by how all the pieces are presented, then move to mids-focused songs and lastly highs-focused songs. You can find my Tidal test tracks playlist in my signature if you want to use the same songs to compare them to your headphones.
The bass song I chose for the Px8 to test is one of my favorites: David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue.)” The bass drums in the intro come in VERY hard with lots of impact and a really good thump, but you can still hear the hi-hats in the background – they don’t get drowned out. When the synths come in at 0:37, and the sub-bass kicks in, it can take your breath away. The sub-bass almost makes you stop breathing and the synths/vocals are very clear and forward present. I don’t know how the Px8 manages to make every part of the song at the front without stepping on any other part of the song. These are a more fun tuning than the audiophile tuning you’ll get from the 5909 and Bathys, but I prefer that. I would definitely say these are bass-boosted headphones and for portable Bluetooth headphones, that’s what I want.
The mids test song for today is Mariana’s Trench’s “Ever After.” The intro vocals and guitars come in very clean and the pianos at 1:00 have a lot of depth and some great resonance. The vocals continue to be clean and when Josh hits the high notes in the song, the Px8 doesn’t have any issues with harshness or sibilance. The drums have good impact, but fall further back in the song, as to be somewhat expected in a rock song. The vocals are VERY forward and it sounds like Josh is singing right in your ear – a really excellent representation of the song. The soundstage feels close in, but that’s something I don’t mind – I enjoy my mids to be more forward as a lot of the music we hear falls under the mids frequencies. The strings that come in at 3:58 are quick, detailed, and clean – though a little detail is missing on them. Overall, the Px8 does great with rock.
Another good mids test song is Waving The Fate’s “The Fall.” The intro guitar comes in cleanly with no issues, but the distorted guitar gets a bit muddy. Then, the vocals come through again cleanly and the background guitar has no issues. The Px8 has some issues with cleanliness when distortion is present.
For the highs test song, I’m using Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes” because I’ve found that this song can really highlight sibilance in headphones and this is a spot where the Px8 falls down. You can hear the sharpness with almost every “S” word sung and it’s pretty painful. So, v-shaped frequency headphones? Check. These are designed more for the Bose/Beats crowd than the Focal Utopia crowd. Both the Bathys and 5909 have better, less sibilant highs. That’s a shame because the mids are lows are really good.
Just to confirm that the highs are sharp with these, I listened to “Across the Burren” by Michele McLaughlin. Oddly, there’s no real sibilance or sharpness in what I would consider one of the toughest highs songs for headphones. The piano comes across wonderfully, without any of the painful sharpness I’ve heard on some others (Looking at you Sony MDR-Z1R.) Weird.
I tried three of the top wireless noise-canceling audiophile headphones and ended up with the Px8 as my top choice. I didn’t pick it as my favorite because it has the best sound (it doesn’t.) I didn’t pick it because it’s the easiest to use (that goes to the Bathys which has no app at all.) It does, however, have the best ergonomics and comfort and the Px8 doesn’t have a popping noise when I walk. So, good sound, a decent app, and great ergonomics. That is why I picked the Px8 over the Bathys and the 5909. Now, I just need to get my hands on the T+A Solitaire T for comparison.
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