I have been working with Bowers & Wilkins for a number of years covering multiple iterations of the P7 lineup including the P7, PX7 Carbon, and the Px7 S2. The PX7 Carbons brought the first big leap forward from the original P7s, delivering an upgraded physical design that allowed for greater portability and noise-canceling tech. The Px7 S2s brought subtle improvements to the physical folding design, but big improvements to the noise-canceling tech with 3 easy-to-use ANC modes and much better sound blocking for unpredictable noises.
The Px8 release feels like a culmination of all B&W’s learnings from the 3 major P7 wireless iterations and more.
B&W carried over the lay-flat fold design and the improved noise-canceling tech from the Px7 S2s. Reintroduced some of the legacy design elements like raised & textured Bowers & Wilkins badging on the earcaps as well as the shiny accent ring around the earcaps found on both the P7s and PX7s. And then added an even more premium grade of materials and an all-new set of sound drivers to produce B&W’s biggest and best flagship headphones to date.
The Px8s have propelled B&W into the top-tier headphone market, a price point threshold only a few brands have surpassed in the wireless category including the likes of Apple and Bang & Olufsen.
But don’t let that scare you, it’s about time Apple’s Airpods Max had some competition… Keep reading to hear why the Px8s are B&W’s best headphones, yet! Let’s get to the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 review.
B&W Px8 Key Features:
- Hybrid Noise Cancellation
- Ambient Pass-Through
- Wear-Detection Sensor
Bluetooth® audio – Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX™ Adaptive
- USB-C charging & audio interface
- 30 hours playback with noise-canceling
- 7 hours playback on a 15-minute quick charge
Now, all Bowers & Wilkins products have gorgeous designs… As noted in my recent Px7 S2 review, there is very clear language informing B&W’s designs – premium materials, contrasting textures, and rounded corners to name a few.
That said, the Px8s are not a textbook delivery of B&W’s design language, they are a sequel.
Everywhere you touch is either incredibly soft or incredibly smooth. Gone is the textured fabric that I noted was easily dirtied on the PX7s and Px7 S2s. It’s all been replaced with luxurious, soft and supple Nappa leather – both sides of the headband, wrapping inside the earcups, and accenting the earcaps. Where there isn’t Nappa leather, you’ll find brushed metal. It is elegant and handsome.
The Px8s clearly pay homage to the original P7s – they’re not just perfect sound machines, they’re statement pieces. They stand out from the sea of pleather and plastic.
The Px8s are a lovely blend of the P7 lineage and modern, portability-aware design.
In addition, the Px8s are indeed an all-day comfort headphone. They just feel great! Soft around the ears, and a headband clamp pressure that doesn’t give you a headache after a few hours.
My only concern is the stretchability of the Nappa leather long term. It is soft and supple, which means its likely easy to scratch. I haven’t taken the Px8s nearly as many places as the Px7 S2s, so it’s hard to make a call on that, yet.
So, they passed the design check, what about the sound check? Well, the PX8s have brand-new ultra-high-resolution carbon cones to elevate the PX8s to reference-quality audio standards.
The PX8s take inspiration from Bowers & Wilkins’ incredibly successful 700 loudspeaker range, with select models making use of carbon dome tweeters and proprietary woven composite material. The PX8s feature 40mm carbon cone drive units that deliver ultra-fast response and extremely low distortion throughout the frequency range. The goal is to deliver true sound, sound the way the artist intended for us to hear it.
What does this all mean? The PX8s set a new reference standard for mobile, wireless audio. Coupling the new drivers with new angles inside each earcup to deliver highly immersive, accurate sound no matter your ear shape.
They are quite simply the best-sounding headphones B&W has produced at baseline. But better yet, can be fine-tuned to your individual preferences – bass and treble – via the new app (more on the app later).
The noise-canceling tech in the Px8s is as top-notch as the design. The Px8s borrow the simplified noise-cancelation approach from the Px7 S2s which have 3 modes – 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.
While I believe the mic array and software used between the two models are the same, the slightly more plush and supple Nappa leather ear cups seem to give the Px8s an edge over the Px7 S2s in the sound-blocking experience. I work from home, and there have been several times that I didn’t even hear my partner come home from work with the volume at a very reasonable 50%-60% range.
Another place where I believe the Px8s stand out is the pass-through audio of your own voice. When I take calls with over-the-ear headphones, I cannot stand the issue of not hearing my own voice when I speak. The Px7 S2s delivered an okay experience when using the pass-through feature to improve speaking on calls. However, this seems to be entirely fixed with the Px8s, and could very well be made possible by the new audio drivers producing a more perfect reproduction of my voice via the ambient mics. This particular “speaking with headphones on” point is largely objective and could just be a personal issue for me, but an important one in my book!
The “Music | Bowers & Wilkins” app experience is quite nice compared to the old app. The Bluetooth LE connection is much more stable and reliable and the user interface is easy to navigate and use.
While the new app removes the fine-tune control of the ambient noise 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 – I did the same for the Px7 S2s.
You can also easily control the wear sensor, connected devices, auto standby, and more.
Regarding the wear sensor, depending on your head shape, the sensor might be too sensitive and work a little too well. On both the Px8s and Px7 S2s, I had to disable this feature as my music paused frequently even on the low sensitivity setting. While the earcups are utterly comfortable on both models, for some reason the sensors don’t work well with my head shape. It wasn’t an issue on the PX7s, which had a different earcup shape but is an issue for the Px8s and Px7 S2s. Oh well! Not a dealbreaker, just a bummer.
At $699 before tax, the PX8s aren’t for everyone, but B&W gave it their all design-wise, both in sound reproduction and physical form. You see it, feel it, and hear it when you experience these headphones in real life. There’s also no doubt they’ll last. The Nappa leather won’t suffer from the deterioration (cracking) of synthetics and the extra metal touches on these add structural soundness that’ll stand up to many years of daily use, however, I did note my concern about the scratchability of the new Nappa leather above.
I’d say the PX8s are directed at the audiophile crowd more so than the average user. But, for those who fly frequently for work, commute by train in a big city, or work in a noisy office, the extra cash for the PX8s delivers an experience that could make all those daily moments more luxurious.
In closing, like all tech, it ultimately comes down to your budget and preferences. If you have the money for the best, you simply will not be disappointed. Or, if you’re like me and just love the best of the best, the PX8s will look great next to your iPhone 14 and M1 Macbook Pro.
- Extremely soft and comfortable ear cups
- Noice cancelling and call quality/speech pass through
- Battery life
- Nappa leather could be more scratchable, but will not deteriorate like pleather