Review: B&W PX Noise-Cancelling Wireless Headphones

Bowers and Wilkins is one of those fabled brands in the world of audio and is best known for its iconic speakers. The company also makes headphones – some very good ones in fact – but B&W PX stands out as the first wireless offering from the company to feature noise cancellation. This is a highly competitive segment, one where Bose, Beats, and Sony all have popular noise-cancelling offerings at price points that are in the same neighborhood as the new B&W PX model ($399).

Check out the the first look video review…

Outstanding features of the PX include three noise-cancelling modes: Flight (for reducing jet engine noise), City (for mitigating traffic noise), and Office (effective against the hum you typically hear in the workplace).  A voice pass-through function even lets you use the noise-cancelling mics to listen to outside sounds and works in conjunction with the noise reduction. Also, these headphones have a 22-hour battery life and sensors that stop music playback if you lift an earcup off your ear.

Since this is a Bowers & Wilkins product, audio fidelity is a crucial element of the design. These headphones feature aptX HD Bluetooth, which brings 24-bit hi-res quality to wireless. The angled 40mm drivers feature a design borrowed from flagship P9 headphones ($899), the idea is that sound enters your ears at the proper angle to recreate a realistic soundstage.

Frequency response for the B&W PX is specified at 10 Hz to 20 kHz, with under 0.3% THD at 1kHz/10mW. The battery is rated at 22 hours per charge, with noise cancellation active.

Check out the video for my first impressions of these comfortable, high-performance cans. I have not had them long enough to fully test noise cancellation—it clearly works but there are the three modes to try. However, I am flying this Friday and Saturday, and I will be in a busy office in Toronto during that trip, so in one fell swoop I’ll be able to test out all three noise-cancelling modes (Flight, City, Office) and I’ll add those observations to this written part of the review shortly thereafter. During my trip I’ll also see how long a full charge lasts under mixed use conditions.

Also still to come are impressions while listening to various music genres, etc. These PX cans are new to me, so please be patient and I’ll get around to covering the numerous features they offer.

One thing I did note during my very first listening session… when running corded on a decent headphone amp, the very deep bass sounded stronger and better defined than through Bluetooth. I’m talkin’ 20 Hz stuff. But notably, they pump air down to 15 Hz or so (I can feel the fluttering) with minimal harmonic distortion from the drivers. As a rule, if a driver can handle a pure sine wave playing that low with style and grace, it’s going to  deliver the goods with music, games, and other AV content.

Update:

One of my favorite parts of reviewing headphones is walking my dog around the neighborhood while listening to electronic music and hip-hop. I absolutely appreciated how the PX noise reduction, in City mode, wiped out the underlying hum of traffic and ventilation. Sometimes I like walking with no music playing, just noise reduction active on a good pair of headphones to enjoy the peaceful quiet.

Not only did I get the peace and quiet with the PX headphones, but with the voice pass-through feature I was also able to mix in the environment to taste, using the app.

But mostly I enjoy listening to music outdoors, with the added benefits of noise cancellation and the low noise floor that it creates. Right now the cartoons are coming courtesy of Sly and Robbie, Jamaican drum and bass due that have been dishing out incredibly catchy and well-produced tunes for decades.

With good headphones, I quickly get lost in the music. PX headphones offer a combination of comfort, noise isolation, and fidelity that allow me to get lost in the tunes whike enjoying a walk to the park and I truly appreciate that.

Anyhow, more to come but also already an obvious Top Choice 2017 pick for noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones.