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(Pocket-lint) - The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 are a bit of a surprise entry into the headphones market.

Against the British company's usual habit of biding its time between generations - updating devices when it feels the technology has moved on significantly - these second-gen headphones replace the five-star Px7 model after just two years.

But, there have been many tweaks and enhancements introduced through this upgraded pair of ANC headphones - particularly in the design department.  

So, are the Px7 S2 a worthy follow-up to the first generation - and how do they compare to the industry's big hitters? 

We gave them a thorough test to find out.

Our quick take

The ANC headphones market is now jam-packed with superb options, but the Px7 S2 deserve to be held in the same high regard as the top models from Sony and Bose.

These over-ears don't just improve on their predecessors, they match their peers expertly - and, in many cases, they better them.

Audio performance is throaty and robust, with fine control over clarity, too. You'll get as much enjoyment from a bass-heavy Stormzy session as you will an episode of The Umbrella Academy on a packed train.

Noise cancellation has been enhanced, too, with better blocking of unwanted ambience without impacting sound quality.

Perhaps what elevates them to compete more readily with the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the like, though, is the design. Not only do the Px7 S2s look incredibly slick, but they are also by far the most comfortable Bowers & Wilkins wireless headphones yet.

That results in a premium headset that's right up there for audio and can be worn for long periods. It certainly justifies the £379 / $399 price point in our book.

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review: Pitch perfect

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2

5 stars - Pocket-lint editors choice
For
  • Excellent audio performance
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Noise cancelling has been improved
  • Fast charging
  • Neat design improvements
  • Supports aptX Adaptive
Against
  • Carrying case is massive
  • Companion app needs access to more services
  • No aptX Lossless

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Design

  • Weight: 307g
  • Memory foam earcups
  • Black, grey and blue options
  • Case size: 189 x 63 x 233mm
  • Wear detection sensor

While the 2020 Px7 headphones represented a design departure from its siblings, the Px7 S2 is more in line with what we'd typically expect from Bowers & Wilkins.

A raised aluminium deco plate returns to the exterior of each ear, while the materials used evoke memories of the brand's first ANC alternatives, the PX.

The big difference, though, is in the padding on the underside of the headband - and the earcups themselves. Each is softer and more pliable than ever before, presenting a far more comfortable experience. Bowers & Wilkins also claims to have reduced the clamping force between generations, which you can definitely feel during wear.

They are tight enough to offer decent noise isolation, to go with the cancellation technology, but thankfully don't feature the over-egged pressure of some equivalents that can cause slight discomfort over long periods.

Their weight has been reduced a touch, too, although not so much as to be noticeable.

Our only design disappointment relates to the size of the carry case - it's pretty large for what are designed to be easily portable headphones. You'll have to make a decent amount of room in a bag for it, although we're at least pleased that it's robust and sturdy - much like the headphones themselves - enough to survive a bit of battering.

It also comes with a nice hidden pouch area inside that contains a USB-C cable and USB-C to 3.5mm jack for wired listening, which is neat.

Features, connectivity and battery life

  • Bowers & Wilkins Music app
  • Bluetooth 5.0; aptX Adaptive support
  • USB-C fast charging
  • Up to 30 hours battery life
  • Voice assistant support

Connecting the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones to a device is a doddle. They use Bluetooth 5.0 to hook up to a source device, and there's a dedicated B&W Music app for iOS and Android that helps. It found the over-ears easily (we paired them with our phone first, via the usual Bluetooth methods).

The app's downside is that there are plenty of gaps in its coverage. While it links with the likes of Qoboz and Tidal, it doesn't feature Spotify or Apple Music, so you end up coming out of it often to find and play tracks.

Pocket-lintBowers and Wilkins Px7 S2 review images photo 1

The only other connectivity is through the aforementioned USB-C to 3.5mm cable. You also charge them through USB-C, which now supports faster charging than before. The battery is the same size as in the Px7, but it now takes just two hours to charge fully from empty.

In addition, 15 minutes of charge time will give you seven hours of playback time.

In practice, we've used the headphones for multiple purposes across a period of a few days and found the battery to still be around 50-60 per cent charged. We imagine there will be no problem on a long-haul flight, for example, as B&W claims they'll last up to 30 hours with ANC engaged.

As with the last generation, the Px7 S2 also come with Qualcomm aptX Adaptive support. That means they can receive almost-lossless music streamed at up to 24-bit/48 kHz. There's no support for the latest Snapdragon Sound codecs, nor aptX Lossless, but that's true with the vast majority of headphones on the market at present.

Naturally, active noise cancelling is also on board, using four microphones dotted around the earcups. It's selectable using a quick button on the left-hand cup or in the dedicated app, and you get three options - noise cancelling on, pass through (which has been improved for this generation), and off entirely.

There's no adaptive noise cancelling, so it doesn't alter based on your surroundings. And, though we tend to turn this functionality off on most rival products anyway after some initial testing, it's something to note for those who generally appreciate tapping into it.

Audio performance

  • 43.6mm dynamic full range bio-cellulose driver in each ear
  • 4 x mics for ANC, 2 x mics for calls
  • Active noise cancellation tech
  • Distortion: <0.1% (1kHz/10mW)

Where B&W products generally excel is in audio performance - and the Px7 S2 is no exception.

The two 43.6mm dynamic full-range drivers (one in each ear) have been tweaked for lower distortion and faster response timings. This provides an excellent soundfield, regardless of the source material.

Pocket-lintBowers and Wilkins Px7 S2 review images photo 14

They are perhaps bassier than previous generations from the company, with more tangible thrust at lower frequencies, but that comes without any muddying of the mid to high ranges.

Take Elbow's Lippy Kids - you can hear the individual pulls on the bass strings during the intro, while the piano stabs remain crisp. The trademark whistles then punctuate the rear in the track spacing. Nothing is lost.

Then chuck on Never Fight a Man with a Perm from Idles and it feels like you're being punched in the eardrums.

Pocket-lintBowers and Wilkins Px7 S2 review images photo 6

And, for great balance, The Stone Roses' Fools Gold riffs running through Aitch's 1989 hit distinctly without taking anything away from his bars.

In short, these are very accomplished over-ears that are complemented by noise-cancelling tech, rather than hampered by it. It's exactly what we've come to expect from B&W, and they're more than ready to compete with the experience provided by Sony and Bose.

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To recap

Bowers & Wilkins is known for its exemplary audio performance, but the Px7 S2 shows it is rapidly catching up in the technology and comfort stakes, too. The Px7 S2 are arguably its most comfortable wireless headset yet, with premium materials allowing for elongated periods of use. The noise cancellation is also more accurate in expelling unwanted outside interference. Yes, these over-ears come with a premium price, but their capabilities more than justify it.

Writing by Rik Henderson.