If I had to list the most commonly requested features from readers looking for headphone-buying advice, it would look something like this: wireless, noise canceling, stylish, and preferably easy to hook up with something universal like a USB-C connector. Alright, so the last item on that list is primarily my own desire, but pardon me for getting excited to see that Bowers & Wilkins’ first noise-canceling cans, the PX, do indeed feature the same charging port as my phone and laptop. One charger to rule them all!
Beside moving away from the MicroUSB that you’ll find on its P7 Wireless headphones, Bowers & Wilkins is also introducing an updated design and aesthetic with its new PX pair. It’s still recognizably a part of the P series of cans, but it has a patterned ballistic nylon exterior to each cup and a more streamlined headband design. My colleagues Dan Seifert and Chris Welch, who got to try out the new PX ahead of their announcement, report that they feel well built and somewhat heavy (335g) — so they should withstand the test of time, but their fit might not be as forgiving as some of their competitors. Most people’s favorite noise-canceling headphones are either the Sony 1000X, which I favor, or the Bose QC35s, both of which stand out with their long-lasting comfort.
It’s a little surprising to see Bowers & Wilkins take this long to enter the noise-canceling fray, given how quickly the category’s popularity has grown and how much pedigree the company has in audio engineering. So now there’s a bit of extra pressure on the company to truly differentiate a product that comes relatively late: other than the USB-C convenience (which includes routing digital audio and firmware updates into the headphones), what sets the B&W PX apart?
One of the big marketing banners with these headphones is that they automatically detect when you pick them up and turn on to play the last song you had going. This sounds nice in theory, but it could grow aggravating if you don’t want to trigger the last track you played in iTunes every time you grab your headphones (which seems to be the thing they default to). I do like that the PX also automatically pause when you hang them around your neck or switch to standby mode when you don’t need them anymore. With 22 hours of battery life under wireless noise canceling conditions or 33 hours with wired NC, these headphones compete well in their category.
Spec geeks will appreciate Bowers & Wilkins’ support for Bluetooth AptX HD wireless connectivity, though I have yet to hear a sufficient difference in sound quality to urge anyone to make that a must-have feature. Nice to have? Sure! Also nice are the included protective pouch, memory foam cushions with soft leather coverings, and the angled driver design, which has trickled down from the company’s flagship Bowers & Wilkins P9 cans.
The B&W PX are shaping up to be an intriguing entrant into the increasingly crowded noise-canceling market. As usual, the one thing that can’t be put on a spec sheet is the actual sound quality, which requires more than just a quick listen. So stay tuned for my full review in the coming weeks to find out if they live up to the storied B&W brand’s pedigree.
Bowers & Wilkins is making the PX available straight away, at a price of £329.99 in the company’s native United Kingdom or $400 in the United States. Beside the demure Space Grey option pictured here, the company is also offering a more flamboyant Soft Gold variant, which can be purchased at the same price.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge