Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs AirPods Max: Which should you buy?

When you're asked to spend more than $500 for a pair of wireless headphones that will almost certainly become outdated within a few years, they better be extraordinary. Luckily, there's no loser between these two. In one corner, you have the latest and greatest from one of the most iconic audio companies on the planet. On the other, flagship headphones from the biggest technology company in the world. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs. AirPods Max: Let's compare

At first glance, there isn't much that separates the B&W Px8 from Apple AirPods Max. Both include active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, 40mm custom drivers, and come in a choice of colors. Both wearables are beyond excellent, as you must go deep into the weeds to find significant differences.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bowers & Wilkins Px8Apple AirPods Max
Release dateSeptember 2022December 2020
Weight320 grams384.8 grams
Battery life30 hours playback; 15 minute charge for 7 hours playback20 hours playback; 5 minute charge for 90 minutes playback
BluetoothBluetooth audio - Bluetooth 5.2 with apt AdaptiveBluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
ColorsBlack, Tan, 007 special editionSpace Gray, Silver, Pink, Green, Sky Blue
Audio technologyHybrid Noise Cancellation, Ambient Pass-ThroughActive Noise Cancelation, Transparency mode, Spatial audio
Microphones4 for ANC, 2 for telephony8 for ANC, 3 for voice pickup
Drivers40mm dynamic full range carbon drivers in each cup40mm dynamic driver in each cup
Carrying caseCarry Case"Smart" Case

Do you see the subtle differences between the two wearables above? Look closely. They are there, although, for many folks, the most crucial difference could be the price. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs. AirPods Max: Price and design

Airpods Max On End Hero

Airpods Max On End Hero (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

The AirPods Max was introduced in December 2020. The Px8 just arrived in September 2022. The former is available in five primarily bright colors, including Space Gray, silver, pink, green, and Sky Blue. The latter launches in three more muted colors, black, tan, and midnight blue (a 007 special edition).  

Even though the AirPods Max headphones are older, the design looks more modern, for better or worse. On the top is a fabric headband designed to relieve pressure; the earcups are made of aluminum with a solid, stainless steel frame. Each pair comes with a matching "smart" case that automatically activates a low-power mode when the headphones are inside. The case has been very controversial from the get-go, mainly because it's not really a case at all but rather a weirdly designed polyurethane material wrap.

You won't find buttons on the AirPods Max. There is a digital crown, however, that you can use for volume control. Digital crown presses allow you to play, pause, or answer phone calls and skip/forward/and reverse whatever is playing. You can also control things using Siri. 

The B&W Px8 is about as traditional as you can get in terms of headphones design, as it includes Nappa leather-covered earcups and aluminum diecast arms. Headphone controls are on both earpieces, including a power switch, volume buttons, a multi-function key, and a quick action button. 

Both headphones are incredibly comfortable; one isn't better than the other. From a design perspective, one thing does slightly stand out, however. The B&W headphones are a little bit lighter, although how the weight is distributed on the AirPods Max makes the difference less noticeable. 

Where there is a huge difference is with the price. The AirPods Max is much cheaper than the B&W Px8. Because of its age, the AirPods Max is often on sale, which brings the price down even further. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs. AirPods Max: Sound quality

Bowers & Wilkins Px8

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Both headphones offer active noise cancelation and a transparency mode. Thanks to these features, you can listen to your tunes and other audio, no matter the surroundings. 

So what's the most significant difference here? The AirPods Max's spatial audio. The technology brings some dizzying effects to the listening experience, including dynamic head tracking, surround sound, and 3D audio. Spatial audio is available through various Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, and Mac. 

Despite this, the Px8 also has excellent features of its own. With the Bowers & Wilkins Music app, for example, you can easily adjust bass and treble. The app also includes a wear sensor that gives you greater control over what happens when the headphones come off ever-so-slightly. The same app also offers TIDAL, Qubux, LastFM, and Soundcloud integration, so you only need one app to use these services. 

You can also make changes to the AirPods Max through the Bluetooth settings on your device, including all the best iPhones. I've always found Apple's audio setup somewhat wonky for its AirPods and Beats products, and I'd say the same about the AirPods Max, although this isn't the position of many users. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs. AirPods Max: Battery life and color choice

Regarding battery life, the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 is the winner. It offers 30 hours between charges and 20 hours for the AirPod Max. Additionally, the Px8 will give you seven hours of playback with just a 15-minute charge. Apple's product gives you 90 minutes after five minutes. These differences probably have a lot to do with the respective ages of the headphones (the AirPods Max are older) and charging ports (the Px8 comes with a USB-C port). 

Finally, let's talk about colors. When it arrived, one of the more interesting aspects of the AirPods Max was the color choices. The sometimes stuffy Apple boldly chose to include bright colors like pink, green, and Sky Blue to sit alongside space gray and silver options. By contrast, the Px8 is launching in two standard colors, black and tan, plus a special edition midnight blue model that celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first James Bond film Dr. No. 

When I originally purchased an AirPods Max, I went outside my comfort zone and purchase one in Sky Blue. I quickly got cold feet and returned it for a Space Gray model. And yet, I respect Apple for offering this color and all the others. They are bright and gorgeous and target different users. 

The Px8's black and midnight blue models are nearly identical and clearly target the most conservative headphone wearers. Bowers & Wilkins' tan option is the one to buy if you want to turn some heads. Spectacular is an understatement here. 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs. AirPods Max: The choice is yours

Grogu Airpods Max Iphone 12 Pro

Grogu Airpods Max Iphone 12 Pro (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

There's no "bad" choice between these headphones. Even if you plan on only using the headphones with Apple products, I would strongly recommend the Px8 despite the loss of spatial audio. Extra battery life is no joke and again, it's a newer wearable device. 

You should purchase the AirPods Max if ... 

  • You need spatial audio
  • Love brighter colors
  • Want to stick with Apple
  • Are looking for a discount

Consider the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 if ...

  • Newer is better in your book
  • Need more battery life
  • Less tied to Apple ecosystem
Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.