Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

High-end sound in a luxury package

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review
(Image: © Alex Bracetti/Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The $699 Bowers & Wilkins PX8 cost a pretty penny, but they're well worth the investment for excellent audio, ANC, and craftsmanship.

Pros

  • +

    Rich, accurate sound

  • +

    Top-tier noise cancellation

  • +

    Beautiful construction

  • +

    Strong wireless performance

  • +

    Very comfy

  • +

    Higher battery life than any Bose ANC model

Cons

  • -

    Too expensive for most consumers

  • -

    Wear detection needs work

  • -

    Disappointing call quality

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Bowers & Wilkins announced two new noise-cancelling headphones this past summer: the PX7 S2 and PX8. The former hit store shelves first and earned critical acclaim; Laptop Magazine recognized them as one of the best wireless headphones available. Now, the flagship PX8 are ready to take over the wireless audio reigns for B&W.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 SPECS

Price: $699

Colors: Black; Tan

Battery life (rated): 30 hours

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2

Processor: Not stated

Size: Not stated (headphones); 9.2 x 7.4 x 2.5 inches (carrying case)

Weight:  11.28 ounces

You’ll notice the PX8 and PX7 S2 carry many of the same specs, including active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive/HD support, hi-res streaming app integration, and up to 30 hours of battery life. The designs are also similar, granted B&W added more refined materials to the PX8, along with new drivers.

Do we have a Bose killer on our hands or just another fancy, high-priced headphone with terrific ANC and sound? Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review to find out.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Availability and price

You can purchase the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 for $699 at major online retailers, including Amazon (opens in new tab) and Crutchfield (opens in new tab), or directly from B&W (opens in new tab). It comes in two colors: Black and Tan. In the box are a carrying case, a USB-C to USB-C charging cable, a USB-C to 3.5mm cable, and a manual.

Price-wise, these are some of the more expensive ANC headphones in the category next to the $999 Mark Levinson No. 9505 and $799 Focal Bathys. That also means they come with a steeper MSRP than category leaders such as the $379 Bose 700 and $399 Sony WH-1000XM5.

Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Design and comfort

The PX8 borrows the same silhouette and business-class, minimalist design as every other headphone in the B&W library. There are minimal design updates to differentiate this version from the previous release. Leather wraps around the front of the ear cup instead of tightly woven fabric. The arm structure is made from cast iron and has a sleek diecast aluminum finish versus the PX7 S2’s plastic arm structure with a black finish. Details like the alloy accents and trim around the earcups remain intact, along with the Nappa leather trimming on the memory-foam cushions and headband.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Even with its sturdy craftsmanship, the PX8 is a product you’ll want to protect from blemishes at all costs. That means keeping these cans in their included slim zippered carrying case when not in use. The case is covered in hard-woven fabric and beautifully displays the headphones on the inside, plus there’s a built-in compartment to store all bundled accessories. 

B&W did a noteworthy job of evenly distributing the weight on these headphones. They feel lighter than most rivals in their class. Soft-touch leather presses gently against the ears, providing enough breathability to keep air circulation flowing when worn for long stretches, which is great since the material heats up after about 3 hours of wear.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Fit is reliable. The extenders slide out for seamless adjustment. You’ll want to set them about a half an inch from the top of your skull to prevent the headband from applying unwanted pressure.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Controls and digital assistant

B&W copy and pasted the PX7 S2’s control scheme. The right earcup has an action button to either cycle through the different listening modes or enable the digital assistant. Meanwhile, the left earcup has a multifunctional button (playback/call management) flanked between volume rockers, along with a power/pairing slider on the top. Tactility is solid, ensuring all intended commands are met with every button press, and the slider has a nice recoil effect to it when pushed up.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Motion sensors were installed into the PX8 for wear detection. These must be the same sensors used in the PX7 S2 because they do not offer the most responsive feedback and suffer from serious lag; it takes about 3-5 seconds for auto-pause to initiate. Adjusting the sensitivity levels (Low, Normal, and High) in the companion app did nothing to resolve the issue.

Siri and Google Assistant work well for voice commands. B&W’s six-mic array is intelligible and picks up verbal inquiries with precision. Voice activation should have been included to fire up Google Assistant or Alexa by saying their respective wake-word phrase.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Audio quality

All-new carbon cone 40mm drive units were created for the PX8, which use a similar design found in the company’s 700 Series loudspeakers. I’ve never given the 700 Series a listen, but if the PX8 pumps out similar sound, then I know what to ask the missus for this Christmas.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Detail, resolution, and separation are immaculate. Pull up Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to hear what I’m talking about. From the beginning, you can feel the massively isolated drums and the phasing effect added to them, which amplifies their thumping presence. The brass and string instruments are also reproduced superbly and blend beautifully over the rhythmically driven rock production.

Sticking with the classics, I gave several jazz records a spin and experienced sonic delight. Favorites like the Ahmad Jamal Trio’s “Dolphin Dance” tickled my eardrums with fine-tuned nuances. I always appreciate the how clean and transparent the lows and highs sound on this record, but the PX8 added an extra layer of depth; the cymbals felt gentler, and the double bass was crisper. That same level of performance was maintained on contemporary Jazz cuts like Esperanza Spalding’s “Precious,” where the harmonic vocals rode smoothly over the melodic piano notes and emphatic drums.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

While there’s some great, well-balanced frequency range, you can tell B&W chose to emphasize the midrange. Hip-hop bangers like Redman’s “Time 4 Sum Aksion” delivered boomy bass, but it took a backseat to the rapper’s pronounced vocals. If you’re someone who demands more bass for the price, check out the Mark Levinson No. 5909.

Audiophiles wanting 24-bit sound should make aptX HD their default codec since it maintains the highest bitrate; aptX Adaptive often changes bitrate to prioritize either low latency or high-quality streaming. These headphones also support regular aptX, as well as AAC and SBC, the latter working well on iOS/macOS devices.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Traditionalists who prefer wired listening can use the bundled aux cable. Sound is satisfying when connected to a smartphone or laptop/desktop.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Active noise cancellation

The PX8 seem to operate on the same ANC circuitry as the PX7 S2. Consider this excellent news since the technology performs at an elite level. B&W’s mics are assigned to different noise neutralization responsibilities; two are used for measuring the output of each drive, two react to ambient noise, and two increase voice clarity while enhancing noise suppression.

Sharing a workspace with my wife and rowdy toddler, the PX8 came in clutch, blocking out common distractions like doorbells, household appliances, loud TVs, and my wife’s FaceTime chats via speakerphone. ANC reduced low and mid-frequency sounds best. Tumbling noises from the washer and dryer units were completely silent, along with the constant dog barking that took place on my floor.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The PX7 S2 struggled with high-frequency noises, but the PX8 doesn’t. Sirens and whistles went past my ears. Even my baby boy’s tantrums were barely audible, and this was when I was listening to acoustic tracks and podcasts. I wouldn’t have known he was crying if I wasn’t in the same room.

Wind reduction has also been improved. The whisking effects created by gusty conditions were less harsh, which made it more pleasant to hear music in outdoor settings. 

Pass-Through works well for ambient listening. It came in handy during office hours, allowing me to communicate clearly with my wife as she watched TV. I was also able to keep tabs on my toddler via monitor during naptime. Furthermore, I could hear my next-door neighbors conversing on their balcony and landscapers working throughout the property. Using the feature in a broader outdoor setting was more rewarding, as the mics picked up every peep in my vicinity, from airplanes flying over the property to construction work taking place one block down.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: App and special features

Extended functionality is accessed through the B&W Music. Key features like action button configuration, auto standby, battery level indication, Environmental Control, EQ adjustment, and wear sensor activation are all accounted for. B&W also introduced two features when announcing both the PX7 S2 and PX8.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

There is the All Your Music section that serves as an in-app portal to lossless streaming services such as Deezer, Quboz, and Tidal. Not only does this allow you to play 24-bit tracks directly from the app, but it will let you switch seamlessly from the PX8 to other compatible B&W wireless audio products (e.g., Zeppelin, Formation Duo).

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Streaming quality is the second feature. This lets you customize the listening experience on mobile devices by prioritizing streaming over mobile data or Wi-Fi. Both options come with four settings: reduced data, medium, high, and highest.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Battery life

Battery life is rated at 30 hours with ANC on. Before you ask, no, the feature cannot be disabled. I estimated ANC playtime at about 27.5 hours, practically matching the PX7 S2 and Sony WH-1000XM5 (ANC on). This should be sufficient for most users. My unit came with 80% battery life right out of the box and still had juice in the tank after a week of moderate use (4 hours daily).

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

A 15-minute quick charge generates up to 7 hours of listening time. Not bad, but not the fastest we’ve seen in the category. For comparison, the Sony WH-1000XM5 does 3 hours in 3 minutes and the Sennheiser Momentum 4 does 5 hours on a 10-minute charge. 

If longer playtimes are a priority, we strongly recommend the Momentum 4 (60 hours).

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Call quality and connectivity

I expected better from the PX8 as a calling headset. Several callers complained about the low volume on my end and heard lots of ambient noise. I had to be in virtually silent settings for people to hear me clearly.  

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

These headphones operate on Bluetooth 5.2. Connectivity is reliable across all platforms: iOS, Android, and Windows. Pairing to my MacBook Pro was quick, but the process was even quicker with Android devices, thanks to one-tap Google Fast Pair. Multipoint technology is also available to pair the headphones to two devices at the same time, and the feature works well. 

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Range extends up to 50 feet in open spaces; I was able to move around the house and play Spotify tracks on my Pixel 6 Pro while the device was charging in my bedroom.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: Verdict

If the PX7 S2 are a 90 out of 100, then the PX8 are a 93 out of 100 – just short of perfect. Flaws like poor wear detection do not take away from the product’s premium performance. Music and movies sound beautiful across all devices, specifically Android smartphones that support Qualcomm’s aptX codec suite. ANC blocks out external sounds across the frequency spectrum remarkably well. The other huge selling points such as adequate battery life, strong connectivity, and that chic design scream luxe.

These are not your average, relatively attainable noise-cancelling headphones, as is emphasized by the high price tag. However, if you’re a business traveler or a music lover who wants detailed sound with minimal distractions at any cost, the PX8 make for one classy audio investment.