There was a time when my dear friend Ethan and I brainstormed the concept of what a true pair of high-end wireless Bluetooth speakers would look, feel, and sound like. On my way to the plane for which I am traversing this fine nation as I type, I actually saw these audiophile grade Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones (buy at Amazon) sold at a kiosk at Dulles International Airport. Man, have we come a long way, in that just a few years ago a high-end audiophile wireless headphone was just a dream, and today there are plenty of players in this space.
The subject of this review is Bowers & Wilkins’ newest top-of-the-line, audiophile-grade wireless headphones. The Px8 are priced at $699 per pair. They represent a higher-end option above the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2s for $399 (review) (buy at Amazon), whichI recently reviewed and currently own a pair of. The Px8 are even more fashion-forward and allege even better comfort and sound. Let’s see if they live up to the billing…
What Makes the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones Special?
- Bowers & Wilkins designed a better driver for the Px8 that is a more robust than the one in the Px7 S2s. The Px8 drivers are an angled carbon cone design with an upgraded magnet engineered to deliver a more open midrange and a slightly less fatiguing high frequencies.
- The Px8s are a total upgrade over the Px7s S2s in terms of fit and finish and I didn’t expect to ever say that. The metal buttons are solid, unlike most headphones in this class. The machined metal parts are gorgeous. I have a tan pair and the leather looks great.
- The fit of the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s is very comfortable thanks to lush Nappa leather, memory foam, and a not-too-tight fit on your head.
- You can connect the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s via USB-C to either charge them or to use their “DAC mode” (like the Focal Bathys, which are a close competitor from another lauded audiophile company at around the same price). There are some who love the reliability and enhanced performance of a wired connection, but I own these headphones because they are wireless. I do love that they charge via USB-C, which is becoming more common but isn’t an industry-wide standard yet even if it should be.
- The Px8s are very handsome looking headphones. En route to the Capital Audiofest near Washington D.C., I got a complement from one of the flight attendants on how gorgeous my headphones were. When I got to my hotel, the Gen-Z attendant noted their design as well. On the plane back home two days later, two of the flight attendants stopped and wanted to touch, feel, and hear the Px8s. That’s a lot of attention that you aren’t going to get from a black pair of plastic headphones.
- The ANC (active noise cancelation) is on par with the historical industry leaders: Bose and Sony. The six-mic system allows for a more “transparent” mode where some noise gets through. Press the well-crafted button once or twice more on the left ear cup and listen to the background noise disappear instantly. While at the show, I took the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s down to the hotel bar, which was jamming thanks to some upcoming events (a Bar Mitzva, I think) where the adults were loud, drunk, and frankly annoying. I needed a double Macallan 12 and a minute with my thoughts and Astrud Gilberto playing Brazilian jazz for my own little anti-social techno-powered bubble. Bowers & Wilkins noise cancelation is among the best money can buy today.
- The Bowers & Wilkins Px8s are easy to pair with your devices via Bluetooth, which still to this day can’t be said about all wireless headphones. You can also pair them to two devices at once. For example, on this plane trip that allowed me to use my MacBook Pro for music but easily switch to my iPhone 13 within seconds.
- The battery life on the Bowers & Wilkins might not win for the longest, but seriously, who cares? These headphones will last you from Los Angeles to London and likely back again without a recharge. And they recharge very quickly.
Why Should You Care About the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Headphones?
My readers come to me for good sound first and good sound you will get from the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s, but you also get a fashion-forward pair of headphones that look as good as they sound. Their pedigree includes a company that makes the reference speakers for Abbey Road Studio in London, as well as Skywalker Ranch in Northern California. Bowers & Wilkins is the speaker of choice for car brands such as Maserati, Volvo, and McLaren.
What might get you to peel an extra $100 bill from your wallet is Bowers & Wilkins partnership with the James Bond franchise. Now, this is purely a vanity move, as you aren’t getting a better sounding headphone for your extra spend. What you are getting is a Bond-branded headphone in blue that has a cool print inside the ear cups, a red toggle button, and some Bond flair. I didn’t go for this option as they are already pretty spendy at $699 by my standards.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
- With the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2s, I complained about the muddy bass. The Px8s are better,but the issues, even with the better drivers, isn’t fully fixed. I heard from some industry colleagues that encouraged me to use more EQ (this comes via the app) and I did both on the Px7 S2s and the Px8s and I bumped down the bass -1 dB and that helped a lot. The mids are a lot clearer on the Px8s versus the Px7 S2s.
- The Bowers & Wilkins App is nicely done and easy to download, but its EQ isn’t very powerful in that it is only two bands of equalization. I could use a little more flexibility to customize my sound, especially in the bass. Doing this also seems to clear up the mids and highs, which makes sense. I just finished a review of Technics’ AEH-800 wireless headphones, which look very generic but sound equally as good as the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s for about half the money. Their app is better, too, and it comes with a much more flexible six-band EQ that I didn’t have to make too many tweaks with, but it was better than the one on the Bowers & Wilkins app. Then again, nobody said boo when wearing the Technics while hanging out at the beach and gym back in Los Angeles.
- The Px8 case is perfectly fine, but it is nothing that makes a deign statement or is layered with rich Corinthian leather like my 1970 Chrysler Cordoba.
Listening to the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Headphones
On “Love Will Find a Way” from Yes’ Gig Generator album (1440 AIFF – CD resolution) (buy at Amazon on CD or vinyl) , a mid-1980s not-all-that-progressive lineup of the band but a guilty pop pleasure for me, the opening string accompaniment sounds open and engaging. A little of the life gets sucked out of the sound with ANC (noise cancelation) engaged, but boy is it useful in that hotel bar or here in seat 1G on a Boeing 777 back to Los Angeles, With the smallest possible tweak of -1 dB on the app’s two-band EQ, the bassline is much more tight sounding than with the same adjustment on the Px7s with the same ANC (the same everything including playback device, level, etc…). If you have both pairs of modern over -ear Bowers & Wilkins headphones with you as I do, you can get a much better appreciation for why the driver is better on the Px8s and why they cost more money.
An excellent recording that recording studio acoustician Bob Hodas turned me on to years ago was “Hey Baby” from No Doubt’s 2001 Rock Steady album from 2001 (1440 AIFF – CD resolution) (buy at Amazon) . The fifth studio record from the Southern California ska band is produced to the hilt and I love it. Rap-reggae elements, production effects, and slappy-deep bass are only part of the party. The big bass sound that the Bowers & Wilkins deliver is on display here and a lot of fun to listen to. If you don’t have this track or record, download it on my recommendation specifically for your headphone auditions, but it will slam on your audiophile system in ways that will make the elder’s stylus skip on their Jazz at the Pawnshop record.
One track that I’ve been vibing on for headphone reviews is Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I Am Coming Home” (1440 AIFF – CD resolution) (buy at Amazon). The opening acoustical guitar is a good test for midrange clarity on any Bluetooth headphone, and the improved drivers on the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s shine here. The layered backup vocals are another good test. I like the Zach Wylde guitar solo with some volume applied to test the high frequencies, which on his guitar sound hot but not bright or shrill through the Px8s. On the way out of the song, note the big bass and drum sounds before you turn down the volume. They have that “concert big” sound that will make you wish you had a lighter to wave even if that might be a faux pas while on an airplane.
More Headphone Resources
- We’ve reviewed neatly all of the best wireless over- ear headphones on the market today from Sennheiser, Technics, Apple, Bose, Sony, 1More, Monoprice, Focal, Mark Levinson, and with more coming. If you can’t find a pair of headphones that you love from our audiophile headphone section, then perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough.
- Bowers & Wilkins goes into a little more detail on their site, especially about the James Bond 60th Anniversary headphones.
Does The Bowers & Wilkins Px8s Have Any Resale Value?
It is possible that a pair of Bowers & Wilkins Px8s will have some resale value after a little use. Personally, I beat my headphones pretty badly and foolishly refuse to put them in a case when I travel. On this trip, I jammed two pairs of Bowers & Wilkins headphones into my Tumi briefcase, which is like sticking four cookies in your mouth at the same time. The James Bond version of the Bowers & Wilkins are your best bet for resale value, I think, but I am not feeling the value of them for an extra $100 when the Px8s are pricey to start with. Simply put, my expectations are just not that high for wireless Bluetooth headphones as a product category but Bowers & Wilkins is likely one of your best bets if this is an important factor in your audiophile investment.
Who Is the Competition for the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Headphones?
There are so many possible players that we can look into, but again, I would recommend you to do some reading in our audiophile headphone category page. Apple’s AirPods Max (buy at Amazon) is possibly the closet thing on the fashion-forward front. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones (buy at Amazon) is equally as good sounding for half of the money.
The Focal Bathys at $799 (buy at Amazon) at $799 is likely the most direct competition with equal or slightly better sound, a comparable audiophile pedigree (arguably better in the world of high end headphones), and stunning French industrial design. The Bathys, like the Px8s, have the ability to use internal headphone DACs as a wired pair of headphones, but wireless the Bathys might get the sonic edge in my book.
Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones at $999 (buy at Crutchfield) is literally on my desk right now as the next up for review. These $1,000 headphones are made by Harman (JBL, Revel, AKG) who make killer headphones and are known for the Harman curve, which alludes to their accurate measurements on the bench. The Mark Levinson headphones are something that I am very much looking forward to spending some time with, as I can’t live without a bad-ass pair of wireless headphone in my travel and workout rig.
Final Thoughts on the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Wireless Headphones
For most people, the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones will deliver enough audiophile sound and sexy finishes/materials to also make a tech-oriented design statement. Then again, there are people like me who seek the Nth degree of performance. Anybody who’s ever listened to Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series floorstanding speakers generally loves them after only a few minutes of playback – the problem is when you see/hear that there is an 800 Series product that goes all-out with performance, industrial design, as well as fit and finish, you start finding new budgets for your ever-growing audio habit.
Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones (buy at Amazon) are just that type of product. They are gorgeous. They sound better than most headphones in their class and look better than all of them at this stage. The Bowers & Wilkins Px8s aren’t cheap, but they are solid performers and, depending on your needs, you’ve got all sorts of options. My wife tried to hijack my Bowers & Wilkins Px8s the second I cracked open the box, but she’s not getting them. She can have my Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2s in white for her day-long Zoom calls. The Px8s stay with me.
(update: a few weeks later… she got them)