Bowers & Wilkins has updated its headphones line for 2019 and a couple of the new models being introduced present the company's first foray into the wireless neckband category.
Two neckband-style in-ears are on their way - one with active noise cancellation and another without. The latter is the one we recently got to try, albeit briefly, at the company's London launch event and we have to say that it seems to be hitting the ground running (pardon the pun).
The Bowers & Wilkins PI3 is entry-level in comparison to its stablemates, aiming perhaps more at the Beats X level, but certainly not in spec.
As well as aptX Adaptive support, said to be a first for this kind of 'phones, each earpiece of the PI3s contains not one but two drivers, coupled with separate amplifiers. That effectively produces a detailed, larger soundscape with more clarity and presence, especially so for in-ears.
We found out as much during our brief music test, where we listened to Macy Gray's Annabelle and a spot of Neil Young strutting his stuff during an intimate gig recording. Every note, string pull and even applause resounded.
We'll need to test them much more in the coming weeks, but our impressions so far are good.
Surprisingly, as these are the variant without noise cancelling tech, ambient sound seemed well isolated too - a least in a busy, crowded room. We'll also have to test them on a Tube or other loud mode of transport, but it seems that as long as you choose your earbud well, you shouldn't have to turn up the audio to extreme levels to hear it clearly.
In build terms, the flexible silicone material is similar to many peers and remains tangle-free. There are nice flourishes in the design, including aluminium backs to the earpieces. They also sport magnets to keep them together when not in use. Plus, a tiny loop at the top of each ensures that they stay in your ears while working out or running.
There is no official IP rating for water or dust resistance on the box, but they are sweat resistant at the very least and we've been assured that a light downpour will not harm them.
Battery life is claimed to be eight hours of uninterrupted play. While fast charge through USB-C gives two hours for just 15 minutes of charging time.
Bowers & Wilkins has never really been known for entry-level headphones before, especially as competitively priced as the PI3.
At £169.99 ($199.99) these in-ears are in the same ballpark as the Beats X and others in that sector, yet have B&W's trademark audio stamp on them to ensure you get a lot of performance for your money.
We can't wait to try them out in the wider world, but considering they will be available in October - in space gray, blue or gold - we won't have long to do just that.