The company’s excellent audio is insufficient to make up for significant flaws.
Bowers & Wilkins is having a good run right now. The Px7 S2 and the Px8, two outstanding pairs of headphones from the firm, were unveiled in 2022. It unveiled updated models of its true wireless earphones to start off 2023. The more expensive Pi7 S2 stands above the Pi5 S2 in the company’s lineup and supports 24-bit/48kHz streaming from supported devices and services in addition to aptX Adaptive. To differentiate itself from the new Pi5, the redesigned Pi7 also includes adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC) and case-capable audio retransmission. The company’s premium model’s S2 variations, however, cost a lot more than the top wireless earbuds we’ve examined and fall short in a number of crucial areas.
With the Pi7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins didn’t create the wheel from scratch. The manufacturer changed the colors but kept the main design from the Pi7 from 2021. While the formerly copper-colored components are now silver, this IP54-rated S2 version still comes in black and white. The company’s branding and touch controls are located on a spherical outer panel that has undergone the most alteration. A new third hue, a dark blue with gold highlights, is also available. Although Bowers & Wilkins refers to it as Midnight Blue, to me it appears more purple than blue in person.
In all, the flat oval design of the Pi7 and Pi7 S2 with the circular touch panel on top gives them a distinctive appearance. Even though they aren’t the most pleasant earbuds for prolonged use, they stay in place when you move around. Basic playback controls are present and are mirrored on both sides of the device. Invoking your voice assistant requires a lengthy hold on the right side, while doing the same on the left toggles between ANC and off. The Pi7 S2 does keep track of whether you have the earbuds set to automatic adjustment or standard noise cancelling. On the earbuds themselves, there is no way to activate transparency mode, and there is no option for volume adjustments. Each are really significant exclusions for a $400 package.
Software and features
The company’s Music app offers access to the Pi7 S2 settings, just like more contemporary Bowers & Wilkins headphones. You can choose your noise cancelling option (on, auto, or off) from this page. You can also turn on passthrough (transparent mode), manage connections (multipoint is supported for two devices), turn off the wear sensor (automatic pausing), and choose the streaming quality. The Pi7 S2’s main screen likewise shows battery life for the case and earbuds separately, but for the earbuds, you just see a single figure rather than a percentage for each one. In order to utilize the app as your media player, you may also link a few music services. These possibilities include Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, Tune IN, SoundCloud, and NTS.
That’s all there is to it. There isn’t a way to alter the EQ or choose from settings the business created for the Pi7 S2. Bowers & Wilkins still provided treble and bass sliders so you could make adjustments with their most modern headphones. Even though the adjustments made by those controls are simple and barely perceptible, the choice is still available. Also, you are unable to change the on-board controls, such as the long press action, in any way. As a result, there is no easy way to switch to transparency mode and you are stuck with the left side cycling between ANC on and off.
The Pi7 S2 differs from most of the competition in part because of its wireless transmission casing. With the accompanying USB-C to 3.5mm connector, you can connect the earphones to gadgets that don’t support a straight Bluetooth connection, such an in-flight entertainment system. The earphones will automatically connect if you simply plug the cable into the case and the other device. When everything is in order, the charging/pairing indicator on the outside of the casing will gently blink white. This is not just available from Bowers & Wilkins; the Pi7 also came with the tool. Although while the feature is increasingly showing up on new models, it is still far from being widespread at this time.
For pure sound quality, the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones were among the best we examined in 2016. With its premium Px8, the company went a step further, maintaining its reputation for well-balanced tuning with exceptional clarity and detail. Although the Pi7 S2 headphones aren’t nearly as fantastic as the brand’s headphones, the audio quality is still excellent overall. Although Bowers & Wilkins isn’t far behind Sennheiser’s high-end true wireless alternative, I wouldn’t rank these earbuds higher. In reality, I’d say the Pi7 S2 is marginally superior to the Momentum 3 in terms of reproducing fine details, but just in that one particular area.
You can hear the breathtaking detail when you listen to jazz albums like In These Times by Makayla McRaven. Bluegrass with multiple instruments is similar. These genres demonstrate the Pi7 S2’s abilities in terms of clarity and nuance. It’s not simply a kick drum in McRaven’s instance; you can hear the subtlety that this is the distinctive, muted bass drum that serves as the foundation of the band’s musical approach. When present, horns rise above the rest of the music, giving the instrumental pieces a vocal cadence even when there isn’t any.
Hard rock and metal are among the more erratic genres. While some songs seem open, airy, and loud, others are a little bit muffled and subdued. Although there is plenty of bass throughout, the kick drum is nonetheless crisp and powerful. The Pi7 S2 performs better when listening to hip hop and electronic music, or anything else with a steady, powerful bass line. More specifically, when a rap song plays at a certain frequency, these earbuds are among the few that let you virtually feel the low-end tone. SICK! by Earl Sweatshirt is a good example of this qualities. The Pi7 S2 flawlessly captures the oscillation in Nick Sanborn’s composition for synth-heavy genres like Sylvan Esso’s electro-pop No Rules Sandy tracks like “Echo.”
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review
Noise cancellation is one task that the Pi7 S2 does just fine at. The majority of the time, the earbuds do a fantastic job of blocking out persistently bothersome noises that may otherwise reduce productivity. These aren’t the best for human voices, and occasionally other sounds will pass through, like many other pairs of true wireless earbuds. Although though the Pi7 S2 performs better with the Auto noise cancelling setting than with the default “on” setting, it still falls far short of what Sony, Bose, and other industry leaders can manage. Again, passable is simply not good enough when assessing a set of $400 earbuds.
The Pi7 S2 is a good choice in terms of call quality. The earbuds won’t make you sound like you’re on speaker phone, unlike most of the competition, even though they’re not the best and don’t manage background noise well. Despite the fact that this setting isn’t as natural-sounding as it is on Apple’s AirPods Pro and other headphones, you should definitely turn on transparency mode. You won’t feel the need to shout in order to hear yourself since Bowers & Wilkins makes it possible for you to hear what is going on around you. It’s not nearly as pure an experience as making calls while wearing the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, though, as the earphones don’t feed your voice back through.
In comparison to the Pi7, the Pi7 S2’s battery life is expected to last up to five hours on a single charge, according to Bowers & Wilkins. In addition, the case offers 16 more hours of battery life and wireless charging capabilities. Although the company’s estimate is dependent on ANC being turned off, during my tests, I was able to hit this figure consistently with it switched on. Yet unlike more recent Bowers & Wilkins models I’ve tried, the Pi7 S2 didn’t outperform the claims. Also, the business features a quick-charge feature that allows you to get two hours of use in just 15 minutes.
Five hours is a lot shorter than the majority of the competition. For instance, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 offers eight hours of active noise suppression. I would anticipate getting at least that much or more for a set of $400 earbuds.
The greatest true wireless earbuds available right now, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are still under two years old. Simply put, no other brand even comes close to providing the massive number of features that Sony has packed into its high-end headphones. The M4 not only has excellent sound quality and effective noise cancellation, but it can also pause automatically when you start talking, has a rapid attention mode, and can adjust the sound settings according to your activity or location. They currently cost $278, which is a significant discount over the Pi7 S2, and you can sometimes find them on sale for considerably less.
The Pi7 S2’s main rival in terms of pure audio performance is Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3. They cost half as much as the most recent Bowers & Wilkins premium earbuds, have excellent audio quality, and last longer than the Pi7 S2 – seven hours on the earbuds with three full charges in the case. The Quiet Comfort Earbuds II from Bose are among the best earbuds for noise cancellation. They are far more effective at reducing distractions than the Pi7 S2 and cost $100 less.
In terms of pure audio performance, Bowers & Wilkins has made a name for itself as one of the top audio businesses. The company’s Px brand of headphones are among the best you can buy in terms of sound quality, and its most recent high-end earbuds maintain this tradition. But, the Pi7 must be almost faultless for a pair of $400 earbuds to justify the premium pricing that is over $100 more than some of its closest competitors. Although the overall sound quality is excellent, the battery life, customizability, and ANC performance of these earbuds are lacking. Unfortunately, the Pi7 S2 lacks a lot, and Bowers & Wilkins’ ability to dependably produce crystal-clear sound is not enough to make up for it.