Bowers Wilkins - Bowers & Wilkins PX

Bowers Wilkins

Bowers & Wilkins PX: headphones with uneven noise reduction

Aprox. 305€ - see price -

It was not until 2016 that the venerable British brand Bowers & Wilkins launched its first wireless headsets, evolutions of the proven P5 and P7. A year later, the brand presents this time a brand new model with Bluetooth connectivity and another trendy feature: active customizable noise reduction. However the PX (that's its name), does not yet manage to match the best players in this very populated segment of wireless headphones with RBA ...

Our review


In broad outline, the PX takes up without surprise the emblematic silhouette of the Bowers & Wilkins helmets, however allowing itself some liberties compared to its predecessors, of which it does not adopt exactly neither the construction nor the luxurious materials. The steel of the frame has given way to aluminum, and plastic is clearly more present on the shell of this helmet. Let us be reassured however: the latest addition to the P range remains a very beautiful object. Perfectly finished, the PX gives an excellent impression in hand, and always retains a touch of prestige thanks to the beautifully crafted leather covering its ear cups and its headband.

Better yet, this new construction allows the PX to be by far the most compact over-ear headphones designed by Bowers & Wilkins. A point necessarily very positive for a helmet above all intended for nomadism.

Compatible with Bluetooth 4.1 (SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX HD codecs), the PX can also be used wired, not only via an analog connection on 3.5 mm mini-jack, but also on computer via USB. This last mode of operation is done in plug & play on both Windows and macOS, and allows you to use the headset control buttons to adjust the sound level directly at the OS level. An excellent point.

For wireless use, the PX has a proximity sensor in the right ear cup and can therefore pause music automatically when removed. After 2 minutes, the headphones automatically go into a hibernation state and their energy consumption becomes almost zero. When you put the headphones back on, it automatically wakes up again, reconnects to the last device used and restarts the music where it left off. The concept recalls that already encountered on Parrot Ziks, but stands out here for its absolutely perfect efficiency and reliability. You can completely use the PX on a daily basis without ever worrying about turning it on or off manually, and without ever wasting more than an insignificant proportion of the battery charge. A real joy.

Unfortunately, comfort does not inspire the same compliments. First there is the arch, whose padding is extremely thin, and which tends to come to rest on an isolated point at the top of the skull; the point at which pain can begin to be felt after only a few tens of minutes of wearing.

Furthermore, if the opening of the ear cups is large enough to accommodate most of the ear flaps (6 cm high by 4 wide), this is done at the expense of the width of the memory foam pads. In fact, these concentrate their pressure on a very narrow surface encircling the ear, and can, depending on the morphology of their wearer, cause significant discomfort, especially at the base of the jaw. This can also prevent the pads from playing their role of acoustic insulation between the user's ears and the outside, which is obviously problematic for active noise reduction - we will come back to this point in the "Audio" section. "from this test.

For orders, B&W has chosen mechanical buttons placed on the right atrium. In addition to the three usual volume / play / pause buttons, there is a button to activate or deactivate the active noise reduction. Unfortunately, this button does not allow you to scroll through the different RBA modes offered by the headset ("office", "city" and "plane", modes to which is added to "voice amplification" slider): to make sound choice, it is essential to go through the Bowers & Wilkins Heapdhones mobile application, available on iOS and Android. It is in this same application that we can deactivate the proximity sensor if desired.

Obviously usable as a hands-free kit, the PX has a microphone offering very good voice pickup in a calm environment. The intelligibility and the naturalness of the voice, on the other hand, suffer clearly in noisy environments, but remain higher than what is usually seen on Bluetooth headsets.

and in a noisy street (right)

The headset's autonomy is promised at 22 hours in Bluetooth with noise reduction, and our measurement is a hair's throw from corroborating this value: we found 21 hours of continuous operation, with a sound volume set at around 50% and a source using the aptX codec - you can count on a few extra minutes of music in SBC or AAC. This autonomy increases to 29 hours in Bluetooth without RBA, 33 hours in wired with RBA, and 50 hours in wired without RBA. The latter is more important than it seems, because it should be noted that the PX is incapable of operating in passive mode: if its battery falls flat, it then becomes mutually silent, even in wired use.



While it is legitimate to expect from a brand like Bowers & Wilkins products with impeccable audio performance, the manufacturer has so far never managed to convince us fully with its wireless headsets. Unfortunately, the PX continues this trend.

We are certainly not surprised that the manufacturer has chosen to equip its headphones with a fairly soft sound, giving pride of place to the bass and midrange rather than the treble; but we would still have preferred it to be done in a slightly more subtle way. As it stands, the treble extremes, set back by more than 20 dB compared to the low mids, struggle to exist in the perceived sound message. By ear, on some songs, we sometimes even have the impression of not hearing anything above 10 kHz. The result is a dull, fairly metallic, and unnatural sound in its spatialization, despite the good stereophonic width provided by the angled transducers.

Added to this is far from ideal precision in the upper half of the spectrum, especially when noise reduction is activated: as soon as the signal becomes a little loaded above 1000 Hz, the sound takes a very turn draft copy. We sometimes come to dread every hit of a tom-tom or cymbal, these instruments becoming not very drinkable for the eardrums. This observation can be verified both wired and Bluetooth, regardless of the codec used - including aptX HD, a codec whose contribution is perfectly insignificant.

The lower part of the spectrum is doing much better, with a good extension in the sub-bass and a rather good reactivity. The bass does not drag, and the balance found between 20 and 300 Hz allows the timbre of low sounds to be restored with realism and a presence quite satisfactory. The lack of stability of the membranes is still expressed in this region, however, through a non-zero harmonic distortion, but the latter remains below the percent bar and therefore does not translate into really noticeable inconvenience.

The active noise reduction measurement shows absolutely excellent results, quite simply among the best ever achieved in our lab: with an attenuation of 25 dB or more over almost the entire spectrum, the PX manages to do better even than the references that are the Bose QC35 and the Sony MDR-1000X. Unfortunately, we must immediately temper this observation clearly: this performance is only valid when the morphology of the wearer adapts perfectly to the helmet - which turns out to be the case of Rick, our faithful measurement mannequin. But as mentioned in the first part of this test, the very narrow ear cushions rarely succeed in perfectly playing their role of acoustic insulation. In practice, a very significant part of the users will notice a reduction in noise significantly less impressive than what the curve promises. The only way to know whether or not we will be one of them is to find a way to try the headset in person, and compare it directly to its competitors ...

The different modes of active noise reduction prove to be of uneven relevance. The "city" mode, which limits the attenuation of outside noise to around -10 dB so as not to completely isolate the user from his environment, is in our opinion the most useful of all. The "desktop" mode promises to isolate the user from distant conversations while allowing close conversations to appear, but one cannot really say that this objective is achieved. The choice he makes to block the treble and let the bass pass may seem judicious, insofar as it thus blocks only the audio frequencies most stimulating for the human brain, therefore most likely to break the concentration; but with this in mind, we simply prefer to be content with the passive insulation provided by the helmet. As for the voice amplification functionality, it causes a very audible distortion peak around 1500 Hz, which makes its use quite unpleasant.

Finally comes the time to conclude with the latency in Bluetooth, which is around 180 ms, a value in the average of wireless headsets. It allows you to view videos with a clearly perceptible, but acceptable, sound / image offset, unless you are particularly sensitive to the phenomenon.



Despite the fine arguments that the Bowers & Wilkins PX has to make, it is difficult to overlook its few mistakes (which have the misfortune to relate to the two most important aspects of any headset): a perfectible sound reproduction, and far from universal comfort - we strongly recommend trying the helmet in person before making any purchase decision. The fact remains that it has for it its very neat design, its many ergonomic features, and an impressive active noise reduction.