If you're in the market for noise cancelation headphones and have done even a little bit of research, you know the latest flagships from Sony and Bose typically lead the yearly best-of lists, including our own. And yet, this doesn't mean the current Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are the only game in town. And this says nothing about the new AirPods Max from Apple.
In 2019, audio powerhouse Bowers & Wilkins introduced the premium PX 7 active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones, then late last year, a special edition model was released. These use the same carbon-fiber construction as previously released space grey and silver editions, but with a new finish. We never reviewed either of those models, so I wanted to take the opportunity to do so now.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition
Bottom line: The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition is beautiful and provides terrific sounds for up to 30 hours between charges. It's also comfortable to wear.
- It includes an app
- 30 hours of battery life
- Durable finish
- Comfortable wear
- Pricier than some alternatives
- No voice assistant support
- Can't fold earpieces
Comfortable and long-lasting
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition review: What I like
The PX7 has a lot going for it, starting with its look and feel. Featuring a Bowers & Wilkins logo on each ear cup and the familiar diamond-cut design found on other B&W headphones, the PX7 is made to turn heads. The attention-grabbing design isn't just for show, however. Memory foam padding covers both the headband and ear cushions soft to the touch, making it one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones currently on the market.
The textured fabric around each cup is less spectacular because it can become a fast dust collector. The overall PX7 package, however, is outstanding.
Onboard controls for the PX7 are mostly found on the right earpiece, although one of the most important (the noise-canceling button) is on the left earpiece. You can also make changes with the B&W Headphones app for iOS and Android.
The media controls on the right earpiece are nicely arranged and feature a combination of buttons and switches. Phone call functionality is also found here, as well as the status LED indicator. For adaptive noise canceling, I recommend the auto setting, which intelligently adapts noise-canceling to match your current environment. The lone noise-canceling button, when hard-pressed, also controls an ambient pass-through feature that lets external noise flow from the outside environment. These useful tools lets you enjoy your music while also listening for outside announcements or alerts.
In 2021, all noise-canceling headphones should come with an app. They don't, unfortunately, which means those that do always get a well-deserved kudos in my reviews. The B&W Headphones app offers another way to control noise-canceling and ambient pass-through, plus check which devices have been set up for Bluetooth. Your headphones will remember up to eight paired devices. The app also includes a few soundscape recordings for relaxation, and other settings, including software update installations.
The PX7 offers 30 hours of battery life between charges with a 15-minute fast-charge adding five hours. These numbers blow past the Bose 700 and equal those of the Sony WH-1000XM4. B&W's headphones also include wear sensors in each earpiece. With the sensors, the headphones automatically enter standby mode when removed. Subsequently, they turn back on when worn again. You can adjust the wear sensors and turn them on/off through the B&W Headphone app.
But, what about the sound ...
In other PX7 reviews, you'll probably see the word accurate to describe the headphone's sounds. The lack of a signature sound goes against what other vendors do, such as Sony. This isn't bad or good as some signature sounds are extraordinary. Regardless, by focusing on accuracy, B&W lets you experience music much closer to how an artist intended. Think crisp and clear at most levels, with nothing too crazy at any level. Bass, which is most important for many users, is very prominent.
... and noise-canceling
Some headphones with noise-canceling features make an abrupt transition between modes that tend to degrade the sound for a few seconds. Not with the PX7, which goes across the four available modes (off, high, low, and auto) with ease and no disruption. I also couldn't hear any hissing sound that comes with some noise-canceling headphones.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 comes with a hard shell, zippered carry case, USB-C charging cable, 3.5mm audio cable, and document pack.
Funky storage, unavoidable price difference
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition review: What I don't like
The PX7 comes highly recommended, as the rating below shows. And yet, there are a few things that stand out on the albeit slightly negative side. The difficult-to-clean textured fabric around each cup is a minor annoyance compared to being unable to fold the PX7's earpieces when not in use. The included carrying case takes this into account by storing the headphones flat. And yet, I would imagine most users won't have this case at the ready each time the headphones aren't in use. Being unable to fold the earpieces could make them prone more to accidental damage.
And then there's the price of the PX7. At $400, these headphones are $50 more than the Sony WH-1000XM4 and $20 more than Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 before possible discounts. The differences are worth noting and could lead the PX7 at a disadvantage with some consumers who decide only on price.
I'd suggest B&W at least match the price of Bose's offering full-time or offer sales at regular intervals. (At the time of this writing, both the Bose 700 and Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are priced the same.)
Finally, keep in mind these headphones don't offer voice assistant support like similar products. For audiophiles, this shouldn't make much of a difference, however.
Besides the Sony WH-1000XM4, Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, and Apple AirPods Max, there are other noise-canceling headphones on the market, many worth considering. These include the low-priced COWIN E7.
You can also find the original B&W PX on Amazon. Lower priced than its successor, the B&W PX is still worth considering if you want something from Bowers & Wilkins but want to pay less.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition: Should you buy
You should buy this if ...
You want something different
If you're looking to join the crowd, there are other noise-canceling headphones on the market. However, if you're looking for something a tad more unique, go with the Bowers & Wilkins PX7. With more battery life than the Bose 700, the PX7 can go all day and then some without needing a charge. It will also turn more than a few heads when walking on the street (post-COVID, of course).
Comfort is important
Wearing headphones isn't always a comfortable experience. That isn't the case here. The PX7 headphones provide hours of entertainment without the need to take a break to rest your ears or head because of discomfort.
You should not buy this if ...
You want to save some cash
There are less expensive noise-canceling headphones on the market that offer similar features. Therefore, you might want to go with another brand — or wait for a sale.
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