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A short film about the Bowers & Wilkins PX7

  • Wired or wireless? Many audiophiles won’t even entertain the question. With True Wireless IEMs, it’s not hard to see why: the audible benefits of active noise cancellation (ANC), should it present, have yet to outweigh Bluetooth’s lossy audio transmission. Without ANC on board, in making the switch from wired to wireless, we pick up only questionable convenience. Sure, there’s no long wire to untangle but we must keep an eye on battery levels.

    Codec considerations can cause some wireless headphonistas to double down on their C-word usage. Don’t trip over Bluetooth audio’s linguistic frippery: no existing Bluetooth audio codec offers lossless audio. A ‘CD-quality’ FLAC demands 1411kbps of bandwidth but the most advanced Bluetooth codecs still come up short. Sony’s LDAC offers 990kbps and Qualcomm’s aptX HD says hello with 576kbps. Like Spotify’s Ogg Vorbis (320kbps) and Apple Music’s AAC (256kbps), both LDAC and aptX HD use psychoacoustic encoding techniques to discard the least essential audio data. You can read more on this here:

    The inconvenient truth about Bluetooth audio

    The incoming Bluetooth LE isn’t going to take us closer to lossless either:

    Bluetooth LE Audio: multi-streaming, new codec (but no lossless)

    Furthermore, no iPhone offers aptX/HD support — only AAC:

    How to enable aptX (HD) Bluetooth audio on your iPhone, iPad?

    It is against a backdrop of codec confusion that all Bluetooth headphone manufacturers introduce new models. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 enters the fray as an over-ear with active noise cancelling for US$399 / €399 / £349. Catch up here.

    For those who prefer a more basic summary, the PX7 vital statistics are as follows:

    • Weight: 310g
    • Drivers: 43.6mm
    • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C charging + audio, 3.5mm analogue
    • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive
    • Battery life: 30 hours + 15-minute quick-charge for 5 hours’ playback

    There’s no LDAC on board so the majority of Android users will see the PX7 pair using aptX HD. iPhone users take a minor audible hit as ACC comes into play.

    However, with softer earcups and a reduced clamping force, the PX7 give us greater long-term comfort and better passive isolation than Bowers & Wilkins’ outgoing PX. And when coupled with ANC, this passive seal double glazes us to the outside world, turning in more effective audio isolation than a True Wireless IEM like the Sony WF-1000XM3.

    King of the ANC over-ear hill for the last three years have been Sony’s 1000X, now in its third generation with a fourth due any day. The Sony model’s highly effective ANC, high comfort factor and fold-up design have made them this audio writer’s clear favourite…until now.

    In the following video, we take a deeper dive on the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 to see how they stack up against the Sony rival. The PX7 won’t supplant passive wired headphones used at home but out in the street and on public transportation, pragmatism tells us that the benefits of an over-ear headphone’s noise isolation and cancellation can outweigh Bluetooth’s lossy encoding.

    Camera: Olaf von Voss | Editor: John Darko | Motion GFX: Jana Dagdagan

    **CORRECTION** At 0.53 the gfx label should read ‘PX’ (and not ‘PX7’).

    Review playlists: Spotify here; Tidal here; Qobuz here.

    Further information: Bowers & Wilkins

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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