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The Ideal Everyday Wireless Headphone? Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e Review

My approach to reviews is somewhat unique. For the past 25 years, I’ve helped manufacturers better understand their competitive and consumer landscapes, often purchasing a group of products to test competitively rather than just reviewing one product in a vacuum. My work process involves creating detailed documentation—ranging from 20 to 50 pages—that objectively covers design, performance, and technology. Additionally, I include competitive sales data, consumer surveys, and other necessary information to offer a solid product strategy for the current and next generation of products. All that is to say I don’t review products the way others typically do, but instead review them in context of competitive product to let you know if it’s a good buy, and when a competitive product might be better. Unfortunately, this thorough analysis is becoming less common among manufacturers, leading to products and software being released prematurely or not properly aligned with consumer needs (Just ask Sonos). But that’s a topic for another article I’m working on. 

Recently, I saw the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e headphones on sale, so I picked a couple of them up, curious to see how they compare to the older Px7 and PX models I already own. I have a deep familiarity with this product, having led the Px7 S2 redesign project for Bowers & Wilkins after developing a comprehensive strategy that secured the redesign’s approval. However, our California offices were shut down in 2020, shortly before the company was sold to Sound United, so this is my first opportunity to experience the Px7 S2e firsthand, and on my own dime.

If I was going to buy it anyway, I thought I might as well have some fun and create a review tied to a product giveaway for my new tech channel, FAQnatics. So, today, we’re going deep as we not only dive into the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e headphones but comparing them to other top products in this category from Sony, Bose and Beats. Are these the ideal everyday wireless headphone for those that want the total package! Head turning design, amazing audio, solid ANC, and the best overall value for their dollar? Let’s find out!

Oh yeah, like I mentioned I just kicked off a giveaway contest June 1st, 2024, where I’ll be giving away a pair of Px7 S2e headphones in Anthrocite Black. So, check out this video when you’re done with the article and get registered to win!

Fit & Finish
First up, let’s talk about fit and finish. The Px7 S2e features a familiar design to the OG Flagship PX headphone, with raised endcaps and a premium aluminum finish. It’s a major step up from the Px7, which, sounded great, didn’t quite hit the mark in terms of luxury fit and finish.

When I got brought into Bowers & Wilkins, a few of us knew right away the headphone design wasn’t going to get it done, and I ended up fighting to get approval on an updated headphone design, the Px7 S2. This new Px7 S2e “evolved” model, that’s what the “e” stands for, offers an updated tuning, and a few other updates to the electronics to make it more consistent with its Px8 big brother.


Weighing in at 10.8 ounces, the Px7 S2e strikes a solid balance between weight and substance. The tightly woven cloth material exudes luxury and avoids any snagging issues common with cloth earcups. New headband geometry and a reduction of clamp force by .2 lbs. dramatically enhances comfort during extended wear. It sits well, though it does move slightly when you tilt your head too far forward or back, but unless you’re doing some serious head-banging, you shouldn’t have any issues.

 

Now, let’s look at how that compares to top sales competitors. The Apple AirPods Max are almost 3 oz heavier at 13.6 ounces, providing a premium feel when you first pick them up, but then getting uncomfortable during extended use.

Now, the original PX was an amazing headphone, the only real issue it had from the start was that it was too heavy for all-day use, and that was at 11.9 oz. The premium materials and required clamp force made it tough to wear for long periods of time, but it’s an understandable mistake because heft and exotic materials are a hallmark of the speaker industry, and critical listening headphones are often designed similarly because they are only worn for 30-90 minutes at a time, and hopefully with a drink in hand to help dull the neck and shoulder pain that can result.

I like the materials on the Airpods Max, and nothing connects more seamlessly to an iPhone or Macbook than an Apple or Beats headphone. However, a weight of 13.6 oz clearly shows they don’t understand the impact of that much weight on all-day wear. At $550, they should have brought in a team, that understood the assignment. Just like my PX headphones hang on a hook 90% of the time even though they are my favorite design, you are either going to be openly unhappy with a headphone this heavy, or end up with neck and shoulder issues, and probably some headaches. Unfortunately, I’ve spent hundreds of hours testing these and similar weighted products, always with the same results. Although everyone’s tolerances are a bit different, anything above 11 oz. and not properly designed are likely going to end with the same results.

What about the lighter side of things? The Sony WH-1000XM5 comes in at 8.8 oz, and the Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra weighs about 8.9 oz. Both are significantly lighter than the Px7 S2e, but there are tradeoffs there as well, so let’s spend a minute on the designer’s dilemma.

Headphone  Bose 

Quiet Comfort Ultra 

Sony 

WH-1000XM5 

Beats 

Studio Pro 

Bowers & Wilkins 

Px7S2e 

Apple 

AirPods Max 

Weight  8.9 oz  8.9 oz  9.2 oz  10.8 oz  13.6 oz 
Clamp Force  .8 lbs.  .8 lbs.  1 lbs.  .9 lbs.  1.2 lbs. 


The Designer’s Dilemma
 

The reason headphones don’t come off when you lean forward involves clamp force, or how snugly the earcups press against your head. High clamp force can become painful after a while, but it prevents the headphones from slipping and enhances bass response by reducing sound leakage. I mentioned earlier about the change in headband geometry and reduction in clamp force for the Px7 S2e, maintaining a secure fit with less overall pressure. This weight to clamp force ratio strikes a good balance: secure without being overly tight, which is crucial whether you’re commuting, working, or traveling.  

 With previous headphones, I often had to switch from over-ear to in-ear after a few hours, to the point where I often just wear my in-ears to avoid the issue. But with this new design, I found the Px7 S2e comfortable after multiple three-hour sessions, thanks to their improved design, weight distribution and memory foam earcups that kept my ears cool. While it’s heavier than the Sony and Bose models, the additional weight clearly translates to better materials and a more luxurious feel. The Px7 S2e exudes luxury and examination, something that can’t be said about most headphones in its class. But it isn’t just eye-catching, it’s designed to be comfortable, and while we often say not to judge a book by its cover, the sound is exactly what you’d expect based on the outward design.  

 Lighter headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 (8.8 oz) and Bose QuietComfort Ultra (8.3 oz) require less clamp force and are therefore more comfortable to wear for long periods, because they don’t have as much weight to shift around. That’s comes at the cost of premium materials used on those heavier headphones being swapped out for basic plastic which don’t look or feel as premium, effectively the designer’s dilemma of weight vs. substance. With headphones priced at $300 or more, I expect a well-engineered design that balances comfort, weight, and a premium look and feel. The first point is where Apple misses the mark, and the last point is where Bose and Sony fall short. 

While constructed well, their lightweight material choices feel utilitarian, lacking a premium appeal. Even with a few color choices, they look like everything else, the grey/silver midsize SUV of the headphone world. You can’t dispute their popularity, but something worn on your head or around your neck for hours a day deserves to express a bit more luxury and character, especially if it doesn’t cost you more to do so. If you want black, these Anthracite Black headphones don’t attract too much attention from a distance but will have you examining all the finishing touches – because great products should tell a story you can appreciate and want to share.

That’s not to say Bowers & Wilkins always had it right. The Px7 utilized luxury materials like its carbon composite arm, increasing strength while reducing weight. The problem is it looked like grey plastic; a prime example of expensive innovation lacking perceived value. Now, what does perceived value mean? Like I mentioned these arms were made of a carbon fiber composite, a premium material found in exotic cars and high-end gold clubs. However, the material doesn’t have that same look, so while it has real value in terms of technology, if it looks inexpensive, the perceived value is just basic grey plastic.

The Px7 S2e corrects this with a color-injected composite, offering a premium look while maintaining weight and strength. The headband has also been updated with a rigid top structure that looks more premium, along with excellent color matching across the various materials—a challenging task as you move between various plastic, cloth, and textured metals. This is where you can tell if a brand is putting in the work to design something special or minimizing material and color options to simplify production, and lower internal costs.

Focusing on Performance, Not Just Technology

As much as I appreciate exceptional design and materials, style without substance falls flat. While audiophiles would argue for open-back, wired headphones, the convenience of wireless is a must for everyday use. The Px7 S2e delivers with Bluetooth 5.2 and supports a wide range of codecs including aptX, AAC, and SBC. But don’t get too caught up in these speeds and feeds, since codec availability largely depends on your source device. My iPhone 15 for example, uses AAC, which sounds excellent with a good source, although I am a fan of Qualcomm’s aptX technology if you are on an Android.

Clean sound, with a little bump in the bass region, and rich, silky-smooth mids and highs, that sounds just like the instruments and vocals should. The soundstage feels as though the music is moving around you, creating an immersive experience. The Px7 S2e offers solid bass performance with reinforced earcups and a larger driver size, ensuring robust bass without overwhelming the overall sound.

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What truly sets these headphones apart is how they bring together the advanced 24-bit processing, sophisticated DSP, and custom 40mm drivers. Unlike generic off-the-shelf components, these drivers are specifically designed for the Px7 S2e, ensuring great sound and a perfect fit with all the other technology crammed inside the earcups. This precise engineering results in exceptional audio quality and precise imaging, but nailing the first one doesn’t automatically lead to mastering the second. Think of audio quality as the tech measurements. Frequency response, noise leakage, technical data that is important, but requires context from the overall experience. Imaging can be measured but it is really about what you hear “visually”. Can you “see” the stage and know the bass player is on the left, with the piano a bit further back on the right, and the vocalist walking across the stage. The soundstage should feel as though the music is moving around you or directly in front, rather than just hearing music from the earcups. This immersive experience is one of the standout benefits of the Px7 S2e, especially if you feed it good content.

Opinions on bass performance often divide listeners. Some prefer flat, accurate frequency response, while most enjoy a warmer, slightly bass-emphasized sound. Either way, achieving proper bass in headphones requires a good seal around the ears, proper clamp force, and the right driver size. The Px7 S2e excels with well-engineered earcups featuring reinforced walls that keep bass energy directed towards the listener. They then add a larger 40mm driver vs. the Sony (30mm) and Bose (35mm) models to better hit those low notes. The headphones provide robust, but not overpowering bass that enhances the listening experience, while the app offers the ability to bass boost when needed, a consumer request much to the sound engineer’s chagrin yet its addition means they are listening to the consumer. Their pillowy soft earcups maintain a good seal, ensuring bass notes are delivered with impact and clarity, while also not overheating my ears – a common occurrence with some cushion materials when listening for an hour or more.

In line with the other headphones, the Px7 S2e offers a competitive battery range of 20-30 hours, influenced by: volume levels, ANC usage, and distance from your phone. Quick charging via USB-C means you can get several hours of playback from just a 15–20-minute charge, perfect for long flights or busy days.

Headphone  Bose 

Quiet Comfort Ultra 

Sony 

WH-1000XM5 

Beats 

Studio Pro 

Bowers & Wilkins 

Px7S2e 

Apple 

AirPods Max 

Driver Size  35mm  30mm  40mm  40mm  40mm 
Battery Life  24 hours  30 hours  40 hours  30 hours  20 hours 


Can you hear me now because I can’t hear you!
 

 What about Active Noise Cancellation or ANC, and call quality? Bose has long been the leader in ANC, but since the XM4, I feel Sony has taken the top spot. As you can see in the chart, ANC attenuation is lower, but earcup leakage is better with the Sony, which helps in overall performance. For call capabilities, Bose has the most natural microphone clarity, though the gap is closing with each new generation. Here’s a short clip from each I downloaded from rtings.com. I also had the chance to test the Px7 S2e myself on a plane, and then again at a car dealership for 4-hours while I was waiting for my car to be serviced. I could have waited at home, but it seemed like a good opportunity to get another datapoint on how well they performed in the field.

 

Headphone  Bose 

Quiet Comfort Ultra 

Sony 

WH-1000XM5 

Beats 

Studio Pro 

Bowers & Wilkins 

Px7S2e 

Apple 

AirPods Max 

ANC Attenuation  -27dB  -25.81dB  -22.67dB  -22.33dB  -26.06dB 
Noise Leakage  37.83dB  35.69dB  32.30dB  35.34dB  38.88dB 

Beats Studio Pro
Apple Airpods Max
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e
Sony WH-1000XM5
Bose Quietcomfort Ultra
Recordings provided by rtings.com

While Bose and Sony might have the edge in pure ANC and call performance, the Px7 S2e strikes a balance between noise reduction and maintaining excellent audio quality. But isn’t maximum noise attenuation the point? Sure! Except I know ANC has an impact on the music, which I want to minimize. So, while I can respect the attenuation numbers Bose and Sony put up, what I actually need is something that cuts background noise well, like droning airplane noise and the mid-range to higher frequencies of office work, while minimally impacting the audio performance.

While the Px7 S2e is admittedly the lowest performer in terms of pure attenuation, a ton of time was spent balancing between the need for silence and the negative effect ANC has on music. Personally, when I’m playing music at an engaging level, I often turn ANC off because it sounds better, and I can’t hear the outside noise at those playback levels anyway. When I was on my recent flight, turning ANC on immediately got rid of the engine and air noise and reduced everything else. The same happened at the car dealership. The noise from the street and AC system was gone, the background music playing was barely audible, and although I could hear some voices, it cut out 80%-90% of the twenty or so people walking around or talking at their desks. I know Bose and Sony ANC attenuates better, but if that means giving up better audio, I’m not willing to do it. I look at this as a time when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and subjectively I think anyone looking for great audio quality while providing solid background noise reduction would be happy with the way the Px7S2e balances ANC and music playback.

Greater than the sum of its parts
While other headphones may measure as well or better in a specific category, I believe you need to look at the data, then actually use the various products to really understand which one is right for you. Obviously, that’s tough for most people, since using it for five minutes in a store doesn’t really give you a proper idea of what it’s going to be like after hours of use. This is why returns in the headphone category attributed to buyer’s remorse is so high, often 8%-12% when only 1%- 2% are deemed defective. It’s also why I wanted to walk you through my experience, to help make that decision a bit easier for you, while still pointing out what each headphone does well in case you have a different need. Also, this isn’t a sponsored article, so if you have questions on any of these headphones or want to better understand which one is right for you, drop a comment, and I’m happy to provide you with an objective opinion.

So, what’s my verdict? The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e combines advanced technology, thoughtful design, and high-quality materials to deliver a premium listening experience. While Sony and Bose offer strong alternatives, the Px7 S2e stands out for its balance of comfort, sound quality, and luxury feel, and at $400, it’s a true value in the $300-$550 price range we’re discussing, and what I spent my own dollars on in this case.

Even better, as I was wrapping up a few things, I found two great options if you decide the Bowers & Wilkins product is right for you. Costco has a promotion for the month of June, where the previous version, the Px7 S2 in Anthrocite Black is only $229.99, an absolute steal. While not the latest version, these are basically the same headphone, and at that price I can’t imagine why this wouldn’t be your next headphone. If you want the latest though, the Px7 S2e are also on sale currently for $319.99 at your local or online retailer. I reached out to one of my previous workmates and was told these are likely on sale until the 15th, so if you want the “e” version, I’d pick it up pretty quick before they go back to $399.99.

PX7 S2 at Costco for $219.99
Px7 S2e at Amazon for $319.99

Now, as promised, here’s the info on my giveaway! I’m giving away a pair of Px7 S2e headphones to celebrate the launch of my YouTube channel, FAQnatics. Click here to watch a quick video for all the details, or just click here to register. There will be multiple ways to enter and participate and I expect to do more and bigger giveaways as I get more participation.

Drop a comment to let me know what you think about these headphones, this review, or if there is a product or category you’d like to know more about.

Chat soon,
Brett Bjorkquist
Principal MRKTMKR
& Head FAQnatic
Brett@mrktmkr.com
YouTube: @FAQnatics

 

 

 

With 24 years in the CEDIA industry, Brett Bjorkquist got his start at GoodGuys, a local AV business, and was running his first location by 25. He’s been recruited by a variety of manufacturers including Logitech, Bowers & Wilkins, and Kaleidescape, served as a volunteer Co-chair for CEDIA, and won multiple Quest for Quality awards for training/support. Recognizing the industry's need for better training programs, he founded MRKTMKR, offering manufacturers a more effective way to engage Integrators. In 2024, he launched FAQnatics, a consumer-focused YouTube channel educating on technology trends and connecting consumers to qualified products and Integrators.

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