Sunday, 01 January 2023 17:05

REVIEW: Bowers & Wilkins PX8 – is the bigger brother of Px7 S2 at allmost twice the price worth the additional price? Featured

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Loudspeaker veteran Bowers & Wilkins has had a big commitment to headphones recently, and have surprised me with both the wireless InEar monitors PI7, and the more conventional Over Ear models Px7 S2. Earlier this autumn, the flagship models Px8 arrived, and we were able to borrow a review-sample that makes it possible to find out whether they are worth the price difference from the Px7 S2 at almost twice the price.

When Bowers & Wilkins arranged a digital press conference with the Px7 S2 as the main attraction on June 8, we also got a brief glimpse of the new flagship PX8. After we published a review of the Px7 S2 with excellent results earlier this autumn, we have now had the opportunity to review the flagship Px8. And the good performance of the Px7 S2 means that expectations for the Px8 at the forefront are reasonably high. We are not really very excited about whether the Px8 provides a better sound experience than its little brother, but more about how large the difference is. And not least if there is a difference between these two models that justifies a price difference of almost double, which was the reality for a while after the Px7 S2 received a temporary price reduction down to NOK 3,698.

B&W PX8

Px8 has many similarities with its kid brother Px7 S2, to a degree that it is reasonable to call it a further development. But still, there are some significant differences between these two models, where some of these differences are clearly visible, while others are very little visually exposed.

The most obvious differences are the use of materials, where B&W has gone all out on the Px8 with a perfect premium finish that could make even Bang & Olufsen blush gently. But for many of us, what has happened on the sound side is even more important. And then it is the driver with the completely new material who is the main actor. And we will return to both of these two factors in their respective sections of the review.

Special editions

Despite the fact that the Px8 is a brand new model, Bowers & Wilkins has already managed to launch two special editions of this flagship model.

We wrote about the Px8 007 edition when it was launched just over a month ago. This anniversary edition is of course not about Px8's anniversary, but the 60th anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No. In addition to a special color called Midnight Blue, the 007 edition is adorned with a 007 inscription on the top of the ear cups, as well as a red power/bluetooth button. Only visual changes compared to the standard versions, in other words. And most people would maybe like to think that the standard version is fine and are unlikely to pay NOK 1,300 extra for the 007 edition. But if you're a James Bond enthusiast, you'll just have to... And I know some of them...

Personally, I find the Px8 McLaren-Edition a bit more seductive. It has been produced as a mark of what is, at the time of writing, a 7-year collaboration between Bowers & Wilkins and the English car manufacturer McLaren. ALso in this case, there are only visual effects, and then in the form of colouring. McLaren Gray is combined with a stripe McLaren Orange contrast color on the outside of the earcups, and also on the inside at the bottom of the earcups and on the cable. This color mix is ​​in B&W languange called Galvanic Gray & Papaya Orange. And this color choice would probably be my first choice in the event of a purchase. And then I still haven't decided whether I would be willing to pay the extra NOK 1,300, and that must of course be the individual's eventual dilemma.

THE TERRAIN

We start with the obvious, because even though the price difference to the Px7 S2 temporarily increased for a period before Christmas due to a price reduction of the Px7 S2 to NOK 3,698, there are so many similarities between the Px7 S2 and the Px8 that they must be considered competitors. And then the question is whether they are so close to each other in terms of performance that this becomes good, old English cannibalism at a bloody cost, or whether there is a sufficient difference in quality that almost doubling the price compared to the Px7 S2 can be defended. This is one of the main questions I will try to answer later in the review, and a fairly significant part of this review has a comparison with the Px7 S2 as the main focus.

In the Px7 S2's segment also the Bose QC45, Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 are competitors, and although all of these may be slightly asymmetrical rivals to the PX7 S2, it is the latter that performs best in terms of sound quality, at least when compared to Sony and Bose . But none of these are relevant competitors to the Px8, almost regardless of preferences. Unless you are extremely hooked up in noise cancellation, and correspondingly unobsessed with music, to a degree that could make the late Leonard Cohen sing But you don't really care for music, do ya?

It is worth noting that Bang & Olufsen's candidates are either slightly lower- or correspondingly higher than the PX8 in price. Among these, Beoplay Portal has previously been reviewed in Audiophile.no, and we will return to how they stack up against the PX8. The Apple AirPods Max is also, strictly speaking, a candidate that should be considered as a competitor to the PX8. They started with a price of NOK 6,990, but can be had today for around 500 NOK less.

With the PX8's price tag of around seven thousand NOK, there has been launched a couple of exciting candidates from abow. We're talking about what are considered to be the sharpest competitors to the PX8, and candidates for the very best wireless headphones at any price. The Focal Bathys at NOK 8,990 was launched at the beginning of October, while the slightly more expensive Mark Levinson № 5909 that was launched on January 22. We have a legitimate hope of being able to review both of these competitors in the near future, in order to possibly choose a winner for best sound of this trio.

DESIGN AND FINISH

The design of the Px8 is one of the really big advantages of the Px8 compared to most other headphones. The design is basically identical to the design of the Px7 S2, but even so, it is a gross inaccuracy to say exactly that. Because design contains many elements, and materials and texture are also important factors. And there are significant factors that separate the two.

Perhaps the most important element is that the Px8 has a very exclusive nappa leather, where the Px7 S2 has a combination of vegan leather and textile. Now this is also a great and quite exclusive choice of material for the little brother, not least there is a very appealing structure on the fabric of the Px7 S2. But on the Px8, B&W have gone all in with their nappa leather, and also in the handlebar they have lifted the use of materials to cast aluminum on the Px8.

With these measures, B&W have shown that they are not a single step behind Bang & Olufsen's flagship model Beoplay H95, a model that costs a couple of thousand NOK more than the Px8. And as I indicated in the review of the Px7 S2, B&O's top models are apparently powerful sources of inspiration for the line in Bowers & Wilkins' new headphones.

And with this grip, it's hard for any closed-back bluetooth headphones at all to chastise the Px8 in the exercise of design and finish. A "dark horse" could be Focal's new Bathys, with a design that plays on completely different strings than the Px8, where they continue the popular design features of their wired HighEnd headphones. Then there is the question of whether the material and build quality keeps up with the Px8. I hope we can get back to that in a test of Bathys eventually.

And for the record - in case there was any doubt, the candidates from Bose, Sony and Sennheiser are not in the same league when it comes to design and finish.

Unlike the Px7 S2, the Px8 comes in only two colors – at least if we stick to the standard edition. The color "black" probably needs no further description, while Tan is actually a two-tone variant, where the surfaces on the outside are natural-coloured medium-light leather, and the head cushions and underside of the headband are in off-white. Of these, I have a clear preference for the black color of the review-sample. And then I have previously revealed my preferences for the color scheme in the McLaren Edition.

CASE

The case is another of the exercises where the Px7 S2 scored very well. It's apparently identical to the Px8's case, which is good news. This means that this case also has a lid with a magnetic lock that provides room for the two included cables.

A significant difference is, of course, that the case this time has a more practical and robust black finish, but that is a result of the color choice of the headphone, not the model. And also this time, there is a case that is larger than those of the competitors that have foldable construction on the headphones. I prefer B&W's concept, even if it takes up a bit more space in the bag.

 

COMFORT

The Px8 has a clamping force that leans a little towards tight, and from memory this is quite similar to the Px7 S2. This is not a problem for comfort, and is also helped by very soft nappa leather combined with memory-foam in the head cushions. Clamping force is always a trade-off, and how this is experienced will also be very subjective, i.a. depending on head size and shape. I have several times worn Px8 for 6-8 hours in a row without discomfort.

The oval shape of the ear cups on the Px8 provides a very good ear fit for my ears, and they are large enough so that the ears do not come into conflict with the edges of the ear cushion.

The weight of the Px8 is 13 grams higher than its kid brother, and it is not felt to have a practical impact on comfort.

MENU AND OPERATION

B&W's Music App is also used on the Px8. As mentioned in the review of the Px7 S2, this is a well-developed app with many possibilities, and it was also used for the first time on wireless headphones with the Px7 S2, where a dedicated headphone app had previously been used. The app is available for both iOS and Android, and I tried both versions.

It is possible to adjust treble and bass by +- 6dB, and a Multipoint Connection control contributes to good usability.

It is also possible to control whether you prefer to have the headphones automatically switch off when you take them off. And unlike with the Px7 S2, I experienced significantly fewer elements of error triggering, so with the Px8 I chose to have this function activated.

Daily management takes place via four buttons on the right earcup, and one button on the left. The layout of these is quite classic, and also identical to the Px7 S2. You will find volume up and down, and a multifunction button in the middle which, among other things, starts and stops the music. Here, there is a good distance between each button, in addition to the fact that the middle one has a tactile marking with a grooved surface. The top button is an on/off button, which also activates pairing mode when you stretch it spring-loaded upwards.

The button on the left ear cup switches between ANC off / on / presence.

 

DRIVERS

Here we come to one of the significant differences between the Px7 S2 and the Px8. Because where the 40mm drivers in the smallest models have slightly classic membranes in biocellulose and resin, the Px8 has a membrane in carbon fibre. B&W claim that this material, which is lighter, stiffer and better controlled than cellulose pulp, contributes to less distortion and a more open sound.

Also on the Px8, the drivers are angled 15.4 degrees backwards to provide an improved stereo image. This is a very positive move, and probably also contributes significantly to the good listening experience on this model. This principle was also used on the first generation of the PX7, but the design of the housing on that model gave great limitations, and the angle was therefore much slacker. On the Px7 S2 and also on the Px8, this is greatly optimized.

We will return to the results in sound quality of better membrane material in the drivers, but it is, as always, difficult to be categorical about what is the cause of the differences we register. What we do not have any information about is whether there is a difference between the integrated amplifiers in the two models.

CONNECTIONS 

We start with Bluetooth, which is the latest version – Bluetooth 5.2. There is some conflicting information about this online, both for the Px7 S2 and Px8. We rely on the manufacturer's information, which states that 5.2 applies, while some other sources state 5.0.

Supported codecs are SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive.

USB-connection for audio

Like the Px7 S2, the Px8 also has a USB input that can be used for both charging and digital audio transmission. This means that this is also a headphone that may be used for lossless sound reproduction. I tried in the first round to play music from the PC, and as with the Px7 S2, it worked without a hitch. By the way, not only squeak-free, but also with a bit clearer and more reproduction than via bluetooth.

With the transfer from the Pixel 7 Pro via USB C, the experience repeated itself from the experiment with the Galaxy S10 in the review of the Px7 S2. If I enabled USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) on the Android mobile to ensure a transfer that does not re-sample to 48kHz, it resulted in unstable playback, while it worked smoothly when UAPP was disabled. And the conclusion is quite straightforward - B&W headphones and UAPP are not a good match, at least for the moment until a possible software update changes this. But having said that - even with UAPP disabled, there is very good reproduction via USB C from an Android mobile, and experienced even better than with AAC and aptX HD.

The other cable that comes with the Px8 is a kinda special cable – a 3.5mm analogue mini-Jack to digital USB-C at the other end. It contains an AD converter somewhere along the way, probably in the USB-C connector. This is a solution that is somewhat similar to what is found in Apple's AirPods Max. PX7 S2/Px8 and AirPods Max have in common that they do not have an analogue input. Where these headphones differ is that with B&W you get a special cable for transmission from analogue sources included in the purchase, while with Apple you have to buy it separately. And so there is reason to remember that all sound that passes through this cable is of course converted to digital signals. That's what an AD converter does for a living.

BATTERY LIFE

The battery life of the Px8 is stated to be 30 hours with ANC. It's the same as the PX7 S2, and is a performance well above average. And if you use the headphones without ANC, the battery life is significantly increased. I did not measure this on the Px8, but similar experiences from the PX7 S2 gave a battery life of well over 40 hours without ANC, and that is very good.

Charging time from flat to full battery is two hours, and with 15 minutes of charging, according to the manufacturer, it should provide 7 hours of use time.

ANC

My first impression of the Px8 was that the ANC performance is very good, and better than I remember the PX7 S2. This especially applies to Pass-through, which is B&W's term for Awareness mode. And then there is confusion around information that the ANC DSP should be the same in the two models. And then there are two possible explanations to this - my memory may be playing tricks on me, or there are other factors that cause the result to be slightly different.

In any case, it is the noise cancellation in the Px8 that is highly approved. And then it's important to remember that these are headphones for people who are more concerned with music than with noise cancellation.

TEST TRACK

This time I have found the test track from the test of the Px7 S2, and supplemented the comments from little brother with listening impressions from the Px8. And if it goes as I have planned, it will eventually also be joined by listening impressions from Focal Bathys and from Mark Levinson № 5909

The test track was played on the Px8 via Bluetooth with the codec aptX HD from a Pixel 7 Pro, without ANC (noise cancellation) and with flat tone controls, while the one from the Px7 S2 was played with AAC from the iPhone 11 at the time.

  1. ERIK FRIEDLANDER. BOHEMIA AFTER DARK – OSCALYPSO
    Px7 S2:
    An emphasis on the deeper octaves in a great rendition. Good warmth in this particular recording with very precise room information.
    Px8 : Px8 also starts with an impression that clearly leans towards the dark. Also here, there is a distinct reproduction, but it is also obviously a more detailed reproduction than the Px7 S2 presented.

  2. NIGEL KENNEDY. VIVALDI: THE NEW FOUR SEASONS: SUMMER: 8 FEAR – VIVLDI: THE NEW FOUR SEASONS.
    Px7 S2:
    Nice warmth in the lyrical Vivaldi passages. And the Kennedy passages are not as unpleasant as they can be in many other contexts. But definitely something careful in the treble.
    Px8 : Vivaldi-passages sound very good, while the Kennedy-passages tear well in the ear canal and cerebral cortex. That actually confirms a good detail reproduction.

  3. ARILD ANDERSEN. PATCH OF LIGHT – HYPERBOREAN
    Px7 S2:
    Warm and beautiful, but not as much detail in the brighter frequencies as some other setups.
    Px8 : Nice warmth, and good detailing with good air.

  4. ARILD ANDERSEN. HYPERBOREAN – HYPERBOREAN
    Px7 S2:
    Arild Andersen's bass is distinct. Paolo nicely reproduced, although others may reproduce a little more air.
    Px8 : Plenty of air around Paolo's fabulous percussion, while Arild Andersen's bass is excellent.

  5. FRANK ZAPPA. RUBBER SHIRT – SHEIK YERBOUTI
    Px7 S2: Deep bass, and good dynamics.
    Px8 : Very good and dynamic bass with good depth on this track

  6. FRANK ZAPPA. DEBRA KADABRA – BONGO FURY
    Px7 S2: This track fits the PX7 S2 perfectly. What is often a slightly bothersome hardness is gone. And Beefheart's vocals are beautifully reproduced.
    Px8 : Captain Beefheart's vocals are brilliantly reproduced on this great track on Bongo Fury, one of my favorite Zappa albums. This is a track that can often sound a bit strained on other setups.

  7. FRANK ZAPPA. THE PURPLE LAGOON – ZAPPA IN NEW YORK
    Px7 S2: Here, too, there is a very good reproduction, with, among other things, good punch in the bass.
    Px8 : Another Zappa track that is a candidate for the best of all time. Here the Px8 excels in the bass.

  8. HELENE GRIMAUD. SILVESTROV: BAGATELLES I – XIII: BAGATELLE I – MEMORY
    Px7 S2: Strikingly good ending, and otherwise good piano sound with good warmth. Others reproduce even more sound, while the PX7 S2 focuses more on the music and the piano sound.
    Px8 : Very good space reproduction and tonal balance on this track.

  9. JAN GARBAREK. MISSION: TO BE WHERE I AM – IT'S OK TO LISTEN TO THE GRAY VOICE
    Px7 S2: Very nice sound in Garbarek's saxophone, in a melodic rendering.
    Px8 : Very good reproduction – distinctly musical while the detailing is excellent.

  10. JETHRO NONSENSE. MY GOD – NOTHING IS EASY
    Px7 S2: Great rendition of Ian Anderson's vocals and acoustic guitar in the first few minutes. A bit hard when the rock comp kicks in, but it's usually to an even greater extent on other setups as well.
    Px8 : Here Ian Anderson excels even more than on Px7 S2 with his vocals and acoustic guitar inspired by traditional, classical English music. And then it always gets a little hard when Martin Barre and the rest of the team put in quite precisely at 2:00 blank. But there is a bit of the quality of this recording of My God, which in my ears is the best version of all time, and one of the very best tracks by Jethro Tull.

  11. JIMI HENDRIX. RED HOUSE – HENDRIX IN THE WEST
    Px7 S2: Rendering with nerve of this incredibly good interpretation of Red House. A little extra twist must be expected on this recording.
    Px8 : I almost always get shivers down my spine when Jimi Hendrix says " We call this for the blues, and we call this for the Red House". I did too when I heard the album for the first time over 50 years ago, and not least when I hear the track now on the B&W Px8. The track is very dynamic, and the recording brings out the nerve in the music well, even if it is not completely free of distortion. And precisely the nerve is very well reproduced on the Px8.

  12. JOHN ABERCROMBIE. RED AND ORANGE – TIMELESS
    Px7 S2:
    synth bass until the control is lost a bit, and it sounds a bit harsh. Abercrombie's guitar is great.
    Px8 : Incredibly good and distinct reproduction of Jan Hammer's synth bass.

  13. JONI MITCHELL. OVERTURE / COTTON AVENUE – DON JUAN'S RECKLESS DAUGHTER
    Px7 S2: Not as sharp sound in the intro as often on this track. Jaco's bass excels. Cotton Avenue very good balance with warmth, which is very unusual on this track
    Px8 : Although I've experienced this countless times in almost as countless setups, there's something magical when Jaco hits his first bass note at precisely 1:45. And here I gradually become a bit focused on the musical whole that is formed by Joni's vocals and guitar, and Jaco's bass.

  14. KARI BREMNES. KANSKJE - DET VI HAR
    Px7 S2: The bass in a bit of free dressage, but still sufficiently distinct behind a magnificent rendering of Kari's vocals
    Px8 : The bass also excels on this track. And Kari's vocal is better and more flawlessly reproduced than I can remember hearing it in a long time.

  15. KARI BREMNES. LIKE FØR DAGEN GÅR NED - OG SÅ KOM RESTEN AV LIVET
    CAME Px7 S2: The bass is heavy, and that suits the song. Kari's vocals are often a challenge on this song, but here it is exquisite.
    Px8 : This track by Kari Bremnes is also given full justice on Px8.

  16. KEITH JARRETT. FOR MILES – BYE BYE BLACKBIRD
    Px7 S2: Surprisingly great rendition by both Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. Keith Jarrett's piano well reproduced with a nice sound.
    Px8 : Here it is really quite magical how the Px8 manages to combine a distinctly warm reproduction with a very resolved and open treble.

  17. KETIL BJØRNSTAD. MOREN – SUNRISE
    Px7 S2: There is something extra heartfelt about the clarinet in the opening. Kari's vocals are good, with extra warmth.
    Px8 : Also on this track, Px8 manages to combine a musical warmth with a distinctly detailed rendering of Ketil Bjørnstad's music to Edvard Munch's text.

  18. KETIL BJØRNSTAD. SYLVELINES HUS – BERGET THE BLÅ
    Px7 S2: This is the real home ground for the PX7 S2. The sharp, thin timbre of this recording is well tamed.
    Px8 : Sylveline's house is rendered so musically and magically that I am tempted to listen to the entire album Berget Det Blå. But it must be admitted that Arild Andersen's bass stands out in particular, and here it is extra distinctly reproduced.

  19. LEONARD COHEN. HAPPENS TO THE HEART – THANKS FOR THE DANCE
    Px7 S2: Great and raspy vocals. And the content of the song is given extra emphasis by the PX7 S2.
    Px8 : Leonard Cohen is rendered with the authority he deserves on this posthumously released track.

  20. LEONARD COHEN. THE STORY OF ISAC – SONGS FROM A ROOM
    Px7 S2: Slightly overfocused bass with moderate control. Very good vocals.
    Px8 : This is probably the first track in the test track where I think the bass is a bit overexposed, and not very precise.

  21. LYNNI TREE CREAM. JEALOUS TYPE – STORM
    Px7 S2: Raw, and very deep bass, which is well and precisely reproduced. Close-up of Lynni's vocals and vocal cords.
    Px8 :   Crazy good rendition of Lynni's creative interpretation of John Lennon's Jealous Guy.

  22. MARY BOINE. CHASING MYSELF INTO REALITY – SEE THE WOMAN
    Px7 S2: Surprisingly good control in the bass. Good vocals.
    Px8 : Even better control in the bass than with the Px7 S2. The only difference is that this is not surprising on the Px8. But Mari's vocals sound a bit strained. This is a demanding track

  23. BEYONCE. DONT HURT YOURSELF – LEMONADE
    Px7 S2: Heavy hitting and a bit harsh. But not uncomfortable, as it can easily become on this track.
    Px8 : Also herei, it is noticeably heavy-hitting.

  24. RADKA TONEFF. THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS - FAIRYTAILES (REMASTER 2022)
    Px7 S2: Good reproduction on the PX7 S2, which surprisingly outperforms some wired competitors in playback of this track from my test of the Cayin RU6. But this time the test track has changed to the 2022 version.
    Px8 : Great rendering.

  25. SAH. ANGERMANLANDSMORGON – PAST PRESENT FUTURE
    Px7 S2: The deepest bass notes are a bit demanding, but the PX7 S2 handles them well. Otherwise great reproduction with nice reproduction upwards in the register
    Px8 : The bass is tackled with ease, even if it has proved demanding on other setups. A slightly singing bass at the same time.

  26. MARIA JOAO – MARIO LAGINHA. HORN PLEASE – COR.
    Px7 S2: Great traffic atmosphere!
    Px8 : Magic!

  27. WAKO. PIANO – LIVE IN OSLO.
    Px7 S2: Very nice reproduction, and the applause in the opening gives a spooky presence
    Px8 : Fantastically good reproduction of this live track.

  28. BILLIE EILISH. TV GUITAR SONGS
    Px7 S2:
    This is a very demanding track in the bass, and the PX7 S2 does moderately well.
    Px8 : The Px8 tackles this demanding track head on. Also the bass in the chorus.

  29. IRMIN SCHMIDT. PIANO STUCK I – 5 PIANO STUCK
    Px7 S2: Nice sound, and good control and a lot of air in the deep piano
    strokes Px8 : Great reproduction

  30. THE CHIAROSCURO QUARTET. STRING QUARTET NO. 1 - ALLEGRO – BEETHOVEN: STRING
    QUARTETS Px7 S2: Distinctly warm reproduction. Melody-focused rendering of the quartet, not four individual strings. This track was originally included in the test playlist because of its precise reproduction, but here it is the whole and other qualities that dominate.
    Px8 : Nice combination of warmth, bass with authority, and details in the treble.

  31. MELT MOTIF. EVERYTHING WILL DISAPEAR – A WHITE HORSE WILL TAKE YOU HOME
    Px7 S2: Fascinating rendition of an equally fascinating track. Very nice contrast between Rakel Greve's vocals and the raw and bass-heavy Dance-characterized comp with a twist.
    Px8 : A fierce bass is reproduced with bravura, deeper than life. And Rakel's vocals are fantastic

  32. DOMINIQUE FILS AIME. BIRDS - NAMELESS
    Px7 S2: Impressive and distinct.
    Px8 : Great dynamics, and precise bass combined with detailed treble.

  33. JOHANNES MOSES. FRATRES - ALONE TOGETHER
    Px7 S2:
    Heartfelt and beautiful. Nice weight in the characteristic bass layers.
    Px8 : Great reproduction of a not too demanding track.

  34. JENNIFER WARNES. BALLAD OF THE RUNAWAY HORSE - FAMOUS BLEU RAINCOAT
    Px7 S2: Magnificent and heartfelt rendition of Jennifer Warnes' vocals on this Cohen cover.
    Px8 : Nice and bass-dominated rendition of this cover version of the classic Cohen composition, a rendition that also brings many fine nuances in Jennifer Warnes' vocals. Gets a little harder towards the end of the song.

  35. PURE MARIE. BOLERO/SUSANNE - LIVE AT JAZZ STANDARD
    Px7 S2: Wonderfully warm and close rendition of this magical fusion of Maurice Ravel and Leonard Cohen:
    Px8 : Here we get a wonderful tonal balance which, combined with dynamics and detailed rendition, becomes an irresistible cocktail on this creative musical the amalgamation.

  36. BOB DYLAN. MAN IN THE LONG BLACK COAT - OH MERCY.
    Px7 S2: Great rendition of one of Dylan's highlights. Powerful bass with good control.
    Px8 : I never doubted that Px8 would make a little piece of magic out of this track. Still, the distinct bass surprised a bit.

  37. FINK. TROUBLE`S WHAT YOU`RE IN - WHEELS TURN BENEATH MY FEET
    Px7 S2: Incredible micro
    -dynamics Px8 : Violent dynamics, and an extremely precise bass

SUMMARY LISTENING IMPRESSIONS

As with the Px7 S2, there is also an emphasis on bass on the Px8. And here we are talking about both quantity and quality. It is an extremely precise and controlled bass, which both gives a bass which in many cases is experienced as melodious and detailed. And on this point it surpasses the Px7 S2 on the most demanding tracks on the test trail, because on the very most demanding tracks the steel control of the Px7 S2 could sometimes be a little lacking. But not for the Px8. And then of course some will be able to think that there is a little too much emphasis on the bass in the Px8 (and in the Px7 S2). I have no problem acknowledging that this is probably a bit on the north side of a neutral rendering, but oh my, it's so much fun. And great. And what makes the emphasized bass not a problem with the Px8 is the good precision, which means that it does not go over or mask the rest of the frequency spectrum.

The midrange is also incredibly great on the Px8, and contributes to a distinctly warm reproduction. Vocals are reproduced very well, and both Kari Bremnes and Joni Mitchell get a grade that surpasses most headphones. The deepest part of the midrange has probably also received a small boost in the Px8 compared to the upper frequencies.

In a way, perhaps the treble reproduction is the most interesting frequency range of the Px8. Because in parts of the treble, there is an obvious cautiousness, and this will usually result in a reproduction that is very far from analytical, and which is often a little lacking in detailed information. And the interesting thing is that B&W has managed to combine a distinctly warm reproduction with a very good and detailed sound. In a purely subjective experience, for many this can be a very ideal combination, and the Px8 is very far from an ear-splitting phenomenon in the treble to my nearly 67-year-old ears.

The perspective characteristics are good, although there is no getting away from the fact that these are closed headphones, with the characteristics that this entails. Thus, it is usually not the very largest rooms that are drawn here, but more scenes that have an intimacy.

Px8 vs Px7 S2

Is the Px8 significantly better than the Px7 S2 in terms of sound reproduction? Yes, significantly. And I am tempted to add to a surprisingly large extent . On the one hand, there are a lot of the same sound characteristics here, so that's not where the big difference lies. The biggest improvement lies in control in the bass, and detailing combined with a very clear and distorted reproduction up in the register. And perhaps especially in the treble area, where it can be tempting to suspect that it is the carbon fiber driver that has the main credit for this, with a membrane material taken from B&W's treble drivers in HighEnd loudspeakers.

And the inevitable follow-up question is whether the Px8 is worth a price difference of NOK 2,700 compared to the Px7 S2? This of course depends on who is asking, but I assume that the vast majority of people who consider the Px8 do so because of the sound. And my personal assessment is that the Px8 is worth the price difference because of the sound alone, without the more lavish material use. It does not necessarily mean that there is a formidable difference between these two models, but is perhaps just as much an expression of the fact that when you start at the level of the Px7 S2, improvements will necessarily cost a lot. Because there is no doubt that the Px7 S2 also has a very good sound in relation to the price, and seen from a somewhat hopeless cost/benefit perspective it will perhaps get an even better score than the Px8. But that's not how the world is screwed up - there is no such thing as «twice as good sound…”

Px8 vs Beoplay Portal

At the start of the review, I promised to get back to how the Beoplay Portal stacks up against the Px8. And that in and of itself is an interesting comparison, because B&O is probably the closest candidate to the Px8, although I would prefer to compare it with the Beoplay H95, which I have unfortunately not heard. But the Beoplay Portal is no match for the Px8, even if there are some common features in the frequency response. Where Portal is lacking is in the ability to detail.

The situation is that, at the time of writing, the Px8 are the very best wireless headphones I've heard, so it's natural to see what happens if we compare them to good wired headphones.

Px8 vs Focal HighEnd Wired Headphones

Ok, this is going to be a bit rough, because in addition to the fact that Fokal's HighEnd models are significantly more expensive, they have also been able to concentrate the costs on everything other than bluetooth and integrated amplifiers. And yet I think it's an interesting exercise.

I have recently reviewed the two least expencive wired HighEnd models from Focal – Celestee and Clear MG , and in addition I have an Elear in the stable. Of these, the Celestee is probably the closest comparison, both because these are closed constructions, and because they have a tonal balance that is closer to the Px8 than the other two. And in addition, the price difference up to the Celestee is not quite as great as from the Px8 up to the more than twice as expensive Clear MG. But still, it is inevitable that Celestee runs away with an expected victory here, partly because of better dynamics and a slightly more balanced sound.

Compared to Elear , there is perhaps a more obvious difference in character. Elear is actually quite balanced and neutral, without a particular emphasis on any frequency ranges. WHtch must not be confused with beeing linear. And then it has an open construction which almost automatically provides different properties than a closed construction like the Px8 has.

Px8 vs Denon AH-D5200/7200/9200

Here we are in a landscape where there is beginning to be some consistency in the sound characteristics. Also, all three of these Denon models have a marked and well-controlled bass, especially if they are driven by good headphone amps. In terms of price , the AH-D5200 matches the Px8, with an identical price tag in Norway. The AH-D5200 is probably still a little bit better than the Px8, even with wired USB transfer to the Px8, but of course depending on hwat DAC and Amp you combine the Denon with. And this is also a model that has a somewhat magical combination of a warm reproduction and a careful, yet well-detailed treble.

And then I hasten to add that it is getting to be quite a few years since I tested the AH-D5200, while I have a set of AH-D7200 in my stable, and it was quite similar to the AH-D5200. The AH-D9200 is so far behind in price that there is at least as little relevant comparison as for the Clear MG.

Px8 vs Sennheiser HD650

This is probably the model in my collection that differs the most from the Px8. But they still have one factor in common, and that is a warm middle tone. That aside, there is not much that is similar, and where the Px8 has a bold bass, the HD650 has a very cautiously withdrawn bass reproduction.

BACK TO THE TERRAIN

And back to what I like to call the terrain, we have the special situation that I had to switch to good wired models that sometimes cost significantly more than the Px8 to find worthy contenders. Because the Px8 are simply the best wireless headphones I've heard to date. And with the exception of the Sennheiser HD650, the Px8 must see itself beaten by these wired HighEnd models, although mostly by a surprisingly small margin.

It will therefore be very interesting if my ambitions for a comparison with the somewhat more expensive wireless Focal Bathys and Mark Levinson № 5909 become a reality. I've had some short but very promising listening samples of the Mark Levinson № 5909, but it's too superficial to say anything sensible about how they hold up in comparison for now. At the time of writing, it is the Px8 that climbs to the top of the podium in the wireless headphones exercise for me.

CONCLUSION

Bowers Wilkins has created a cracking good wireless headphone with the Px8. It costs quite a bit more than the Px7 S2, but is worth every penny of the difference, and even more. And then you get a more luxurious material quality as a pure bonus, because here it is the sound that counts.

The Px8 has the best wireless headphone sound I've listened to thoroughly, regardless of price. And with a design and finish that can make even B&O blush gently, and otherwise excellent all-round properties including the possibility of lossless USB transfer, good ANC and good comfort, it is obvious that Bowers & Wilkins has created a winning candidate with the Px8!

 

Recommended price for Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 is NOK NOK 6,998

Read more about Px8 at the Norwegian retailer HiFi Klubben
Read more about Px8 at Bowers & Wilkins

Read 8506 times Last modified on Saturday, 07 January 2023 09:51
Karl Erik Sylthe

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