The classy British audio company, Bowers & Wilkins, has yet to release a true wireless earphone model. So, right now, in terms of wireless in-ear headphones, they’re riding their money on the noise-cancelling, PI4. And it’s not cheap either. At $300, what can you expect from the PI4 in terms of sound and design? And is it worth the price tag? Let’s find out in this Bowers & Wilkins PI4 Review.
Bowers & Wilkins PI4 Review
IN the BOX
While the PI4 has no PI rating (so we don’t know how resistant it is to sweat and rain), these buds do seem suitable for an active lifestyle. Thanks to the rubber ear fins that sit in the contours of the ear, the fit is snug and secure. And though it may not be the most comfortable earphone I’ve ever tested, it does provide great natural sound isolation, even with the noise-cancellation switched off. You’ll also get a few different sized tips and ear fins to choose from. The neckband is also extremely light. And I didn’t even notice it around my neck after a after a few minutes of wear.
Controls and Functionality
Using the three buttons on the right side of the neckband, you’ll be able to control the standard functions, including play/pause, track skipping and volume. You’ll also have access to your charming but incompetent voice assistant.
As mentioned above, because of the snug fit, the natural sound isolation is quite good. That being said, the ANC didn’t improve the isolation a great deal. That being said, any kind of hum will be mostly eliminated. So, the ANC will certainly have an effect when you’re sitting on an airplane or next to an air conditioner. Just don’t expect absolute silence. To be honest, I’ve never heard a noise-cancelling headphone that cancels out sound completely.
The ANC button on the left side of the neckband will let you switch between ANC levels, including auto/adaptive mode.
Battery Life and Charging
The P14 provides 12 hours of battery life, which is about standard for a pair wireless earbuds with this kind of neckband design. And thanks in part to the USB-C charging connection, you’ll be able to get 3 hours of playtime after 15 minutes of charging.
The call quality wasn’t terrible from my end. But the sound felt a little blunted. And when I asked the caller how I sounded, she said that she was “left wanting”. I tend to have that effect on people.
The PI4 supports AAC and AptX.
The PI4 offers an accompanying app that gives you added control over the settings of your headphones. For example, you can activate the “pass-through” mode that negates the ANC and invites in the surrounding sound so that you don’t have to take your headphones off when ordering coffee. You’ll also be able to change voice prompts, as well as play environmental soundscapes, such as rain and crackling fire. The sound was so realistic, that I roasted a marshmallow over my phone. However, unfortunately, you won’t find an equalizer, which is a feature offered by other major brands’ earphones selling at this price point. Just saying…
The bass is thick and substantial. But it only hits when called upon. Listen to a little pop, and you’ll get plenty of power and punch. And hip-hop produces some nice sub-bass frequencies as well. But once you move onto other genres, the bass settles down a little. Rock tracks reveal a some warmth, but the low-end avoid stealing the show. And classical strings present a rich and majestic feel, even though they sound more smooth than detailed.
The balance feels relatively natural and easy to listen to to in this range. That is, vocals don’t sit artificially forward in the mix. And though the lower-midrange is a little recessed, you’ll still get a nice amount of body when listening to instrument heavy tracks. While the PI4 sounds reasonably clean, you won’t hear hard or crystalized definition. These PI4 doesn’t scream precision. Rather, there’s an easy going gentleness or roundness to the sound that works especially well with classical recordings.
Again, easy listening in the highs. Though you will get some percussion snap when listening to pop and funk, the PI4 never gets bright or uncomfortable. And even in the high frequencies that weight remains. Vocals, for example, don’t feel airy and light. Rather, they have a pleasing thickness and velvety smoothness. Still, don’t expect a particularly transparent sound when listening to acoustic instruments in this range.
Though instrument placement doesn’t feel incredibly precise, the PI4 does present a good amount of height, and you’ll get some sense of depth as well. But for an in-ear noise-cancelling wireless headphone, you can never expect a particularly spacious or multidimensional soundstage.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Rich and easy listening sound signature; good sound isolation; snug fit.
Cons: Not for those who like a precise and crystal clean sound signature; noise-cancellation less than mind blowing; call quality could be better.
Although there’s nothing at all wrong with the PI4, it does seem a tad overpriced for what it offers. While the sound signature is pleasing to the ears, it doesn’t present an immaculately clear sound. Furthermore, call clarity could be better, and the ANC doesn’t add too much to the natural sound isolation. Given that you can get a truly wireless noise-cancelling earphone, like the Sony WF-1000XM3 for 70 bucks less, I think that Bowers & Wilkins could have priced the P14 at $200. That would have been a solid deal.
You can find the Bowers & Wilkins PI4 for the best price here: