It hasn’t been long since I reviewed the PX7 S2, and now Bowers and Wilkins already have a new item to follow it up with. The long-awaited PX8 is finally here. A fresh, higher-end Bluetooth headphone that aims to improve upon everything that makes B&Ws headphones worthwhile. With these advertised improvements comes their priciest headphones to date, costing $699. The Focal Bathys have also just been released in a similar price range. Is the PX8 a worthy competitor?
What You Get
- 1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack audio cable
- 1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable
- Carry Case
Look and Feel
If you put the PX7 S2 and the PX8 side by side, I don’t you’ll find much difference between the two. That’s only when it comes to the build though. In terms of aesthetics, the PX8 has slight differences that give it a more premium look. There’s a matte finish on both earcups supported by cast aluminum arms that form a stellar build. The silver outline around the cup plate is also a great touch. Nappa leather makes up the headband and ear pads, bringing good lightness and comfort similar to the PX7 S2. I was able to wear the PX8 for many hours without them feeling too hot.
Design and Functionality
Inside the PX8 is a 40mm dynamic driver made with angled carbon cones. This makeup is designed to reduce distortion for revised clarity. The PX8 also contains a motor system that contains a new magnet and voice coil in order to be even more precise. You also have a whole set of mics that deliver ANC and clear phone calls. Four mics are given to operate the PX8’s noise-canceling abilities, and it results in strong isolation. It is up to par with Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 and slightly reaches Sony’s WH-1000XM5. I liked having environmental mode set to the PX8’s quick action to quickly switch between noise-canceling to being fully aware of the space around me. You can switch this quick action to activating voice assistance through Bowers and Wilkins’s companion app. Also featured in this app is a limited EQ with sliders for bass and treble. It is not the most versatile EQ, but simple enough to make a slight adjustment to a wide frequency band.
Pairing the PX8 goes without a hitch, with a fast connection and no dropouts after hours of listening. It supports a variety of CODECs, like SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptx Adaptive.
You’ll be able to get around 30 hours of playtime from the PX8, the same as the Focal Bathys. Fifteen minutes of charge should be able to give you seven hours of playback if you’re looking for a quick charge.
The PX7 S2 made an impression on me with its soundstage, and the PX8 does the same. Not many Bluetooth headphones can match the level of openness on display here. These headphones avoid the usual in-your-head soundstage that limits spatial imaging regarding width and dimension. On the PX8, you’re given a giant bubble of sound to enjoy. Instruments and vocals have a more natural placement in their mixes. They appear more in front of you than directly from the drivers themselves. This creates a stronger immersion, not unlike a great pair of wired closed-back headphones in a similar price range. It wraps around you and entices you with its output. There’s a feeling of non-linearity here that is hard for other Bluetooth headphones to match, even some of the most popular models on the market today.
Bowers and Wilkins is no stranger to delivering a strong bass. With the PX8, the lows might not be as exciting in the mid-bass, but the subs definitely give you some considerable heft. Especially when using the in-app EQ, the PX8 can really feel deep. For my taste, I think adding just 1 or 2dB of gain will do a good enough job of adding as much sweetener as I need. The PX8 features all the rumble and vibration you could ask for in a Bluetooth headphone. While the mid-bass has some good snap to it, the frequencies aren’t as punchy as I expected. I never got that throaty feel in its tone, but they still have clarity and impact.
In the Bowers and Wilkins app, there is still no EQ for mids. When testing out the PX8 there are instances where I thought it could use one. The PX8 isn’t v-shaped in its frequency response, but some elements could have received a slight boost in volume. That is not to say that the PX8 lacks clarity in its mids. There are some good details here to bite on, and it never feels completely recessed. Some more energy could really help elevate the PX8, especially in the fundamental midrange. Thankfully, the PX8 really comes alive in the upper mids. Using EQ in the app highlights this area as well when using its treble sliders. Vocals receive some great transparency and are lifted up above the instrumentals of most tracks.
There’s a fine presence to the highs that is easy to digest. They have spurts of brightness but never irritate. Its texture has a nice glimmer to it, enhancing the detail of specific sound elements. Vocals receive the most significant lift with their heightened presentation, but reverb tails also have a crispness to them. High piano keys give you some bite as well, but their tone never pierces.
The latest ANC headphone from Bowers and Wilkins is a worthy successor to the PX7. Many parts of its design are highly improved, but you’ll have to pay a higher price for it. It is a higher-end Bluetooth headphone that can be a great companion if you’re willing to pay. The sound signature has some great qualities, especially its bass, highs, and soundstage. While it is a remarkable step up from the PX7, I’m not sure if it is quite the audiophile sound that a pair of headphones at this price usually go for. I enjoyed my time with the PX8, and if you’re willing to pay one hundred and fifty dollars more than the AirPods Max then it is going to be your best bet.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 is available at Audio46.