In 2017, I reviewed the original Bowers & Wilkins P7 – they sounded great and were comfortable to wear all day, but lacked true portability/foldability and noise-canceling technology.
In 2021, I reviewed the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon – they sounded even better and addressed my two significant complaints about the original P7s. They also had a slick carbon fiber headband, which didn’t make the headphones noticeably lighter, but did give them a unique look.
Now, I had the opportunity to check out the Px7 S2. You know where this is headed if you’ve noticed a trend from above. The Px7 S2s have fantastic sound with an even better flat-fold design and significant improvements to the noise-canceling functionality. More on that later.
Overall, I am pleased with the Px7 S2s – the improvements are noticeable and they did a great job keeping many of the things I liked from the PX7 Carbon.
Enough small talk, let’s focus on the Px7 S2s.
B&W Px7 S2 Key Features:
- Hybrid Noise Cancellation
- Ambient Pass-Through
- Wear-Detection Sensor
- USB-C charging & audio interface
- 30 hours playback with noise-canceling
- 7 hours playback on a 15-minute quick charge
Comparing the PX7 and Px7 S2 side by side, you’ll notice one major constant – B&W’s beautiful design language. No harsh lines, rounded corners, silver or accents, premium materials, and sturdy, stable construction.
That said, there are subtle differences – the Px7 S2s are more of a rounded rectangular shape than the original P7s. The buttons are also integrated in a cleaner way with an extra plastic ring that surrounds the whole earcup on the S2 vs. a plastic extension on the PX7s.
My favorite design change from PX7 to S2 is the complete lay flat fold design. While the carrying case for the S2s isn’t that much thinner, the headphones themselves are much more compact when not using the case. While the earcups on PX7s lay flat, the arms lay higher than the earcups. On the S2s, it is one level plane. The earcups, arms, and headband all lay completely flat. While this might not seem like a big deal, it is both satisfying and easier to pack. The carrying case is a flat design and slides into bags more easily.
One note that I mentioned in my PX7 review was about the use of fabric on the outside of the earcups. My PX7’s fabric is very dirty after several years of daily use. You can clean it with a cloth, but still an annoyance. I was glad to see the amount of fabric was significantly reduced on the S2s! You’ll notice the S2s have a raised metal portion that has a collection of machined holes, which may do some of the technical work that the fabric did on PX7s.
The PX7 was my first experience with noise-canceling headphones, and I admitted I would never go back, especially for situations like airplanes and coffee shop work. As you can tell, I was certainly impressed with the experience, but the headphones struggled with unpredictable noises.
I am stoked to share the S2s shipped a major upgrade to the effectiveness of their noise-canceling technology. Here’s a snippet from the S2’s press release about the technical changes to the mic array:
“Six upgraded high-performance microphones work together to deliver the best results: two measure the output of each drive unit, two react to ambient noise from the outside world and two provide outstanding voice clarity with enhanced noise suppression. Careful positioning and angling of those microphones enhance performance even in the noisiest environments.”
The Px7 S2s have a simplified noise-cancelation approach – on (which is adaptive to your environment), pass-through (which allows external noise to, well, pass through for those who train commute or are walking in an airport), and off. The Px7 S2s also do not have the ability to control how much noise is passed through on passthrough mode, like the PX7s using the “Headphones” app. Overall, I love the simplified experience. I never used anything but high on the PX7s, and the S2s single noise-canceling mode works better than high on the PX7s, so cycling through 2 options instead of three is efficient and works for me.
Since I mentioned the app above, now feels like a good time to mention that the S2s use a new app! Instead of the B&W “Headphones” app, S2 users now use the “Music | Bowers & Wilkins” app. The experience is truly much better, especially on the connection side of things. In the old app, I found myself removing my PX7s or PI7s every few weeks to get the app to recognize them. The new app just works, every time.
While the new app removes the fine-tune control of the passthrough levels, it adds fine-tune control for bass and treble. I generally like to hear a little more bass, so I’ve moved my bass levels to +3.0 in the app.
Other settings like the wear sensor sensitivity, headphone name, and more have moved around, but I love the new app, overall. It also has dark mode!
Apart from a cleaner design, the buttons are identical on the two models – a power slider that doubles as the Bluetooth pairing trigger, a three-pack that has play/pause and volume up/down. Double tapping the center button will skip a track. Finally, there is a button for the noise canceling levels.
One complaint that I do have about the S2s is the dynamic wear sensor. It worked great on the PX7s for me, but on the S2s, it pauses every few minutes when I don’t want it to. Now, it is important to note that this technology didn’t get worse on the S2s, but the change to the shape of the earcups has disallowed the technology to work properly for my head/ears. While a bummer and frustrating because I love the feature for getting up from my desk, pausing music at the gym to talk to someone, and more, it isn’t a significant ding. I’d rather have the spectacular noise-canceling over a perfectly functioning wear sensor.
Here’s a note from B&W’s tech team on the issue:
“Unfortunately some head sizes can simply cause this issue, which is why we offer the option to defeat the sensor.”
Short and sweet, but the solution that I use daily. Unfortunate is the best word for it… not a deal breaker by any means, just something that requires a little getting used to after having it work great on the PX7s for years. I mainly use my Px7 S2 now for desk work and coffee shop work, as I don’t need the wear sensor as much in those situations, and I take my PX7s to the gym where it is handy.
B&W retained the USB-C charging, which I am super happy about. I love that I can charge almost all my devices with one cable, minimizing the cables and adapters needed for travel.
As I’ve said in my other B&W reviews, an audiophile I am not, but I do love the fact that I can fine-tune the sound output with the new app on the S2s. I like a bass-heavy sound profile, and the app can make that happen! That said, B&W also made major updates to the acoustic platform, so pairing better noise-cancelation with an all-new sound platform really elevated the S2s to a completely immersive and rich experience.
Here’s another snippet from the press release:
“Px7 S2 is built around an all-new acoustic platform designed to deliver unmatched high-resolution sound quality. At its heart are newly developed, custom-designed 40mm drive units, specifically created to suit the requirements of headphone listening. The drivers offer an ultra-fast response – allowing them to faithfully reproduce every nuance in a piece of music – while remaining supremely low in distortion, resulting in a more accurate, high-resolution presentation. The drive units are also carefully angled inside each earcup to ensure a consistent distance relative to the listener’s ear from every point across the surface of each driver, again producing a more natural and immersive soundstage.”
There you have it folks, much better than I could have explained. Long story short, it’s B&W, they put in the work to make the sound experience right.
At $399, you’re certainly at the top end of the market with only a few fully noise-canceling over-the-ear headphones coming in higher, wink wink, Apple.
While all three versions of the 7s (P7, PX7, Px7 S2) have been $399, these S2s feel most worthy of the price tag over all previous versions. You get a truly exceptional experience in every aspect with the S2s – foldability/portability, noise-canceling, sound quality, and even the app is better than ever!
If you’re in the market for a premium experience, I promise you won’t regret checking out B&W. The Px7 S2 is a testament and culmination of years of R&D and dedication to improvement on the 7s platform, starting all the way back with the P7 in 2013.
- Folds flat!
- Fantastic noise-canceling
- Long battery life
- Wear sensor doesn't work well for all head/ear sizes