Given this “excess” can, according to Merriam-Webster, mean either “reaching above or beyond” or “overcoming oneself by seeking to do or gain too much”, it is clear that context is everything. Whether its new Px8 wireless on-ear headphones represent “over-reach” from Bowers & Wilkins isn’t really up for debate. It’s really the the context of this overreach which is a live issue.
The acclaim that met the Px7 S2 wireless on-ear headphones with active noise cancellation when Bowers & Wilkins launched them in the summer of 2022 was almost universal. Certainly, we found a lot to love and admire. So, in what can only be a move of supreme confidence or dizzying corporate recklessness, Bowers & Wilkins took the Px7 S2 concept and attempted to upscale it.
At a glance, these new Px8s could very well pass for their more affordable Px7 S2 sibling. Look a little closer, however, and some significant differences become apparent. And then consider the asking price: Px8 suddenly becomes a very different proposition.
Although the Px8 shares the same fundamental silhouette as the Px7 S2, the material upgrades result in a helmet that looks, feels and, let’s not be shy, smells significantly more expensive. Which is probably just as well, given how much more expensive it is.
Px8 is available in two different finishes: black leather or beige and gray leather. The company-specified Nappa leather is soft, tough, and aromatic, and it’s perfectly matched to the memory foam ear cushions and inner and outer parts of the headband.
The arm structure and headband adjustment are made of cast aluminum – the look and feel of the metal elements of an on-ear headphone have rarely felt so oversized. The logo plaque on each ear cup has a diamond-cut edge, and the Bowers & Wilkins logo itself varies in appearance as the light changes. They weigh a reasonable 320 grams and are comfortable to wear for hours at a time, even for those of us who want to wear glasses at the same time.
It’s sometimes a fine line between “sophisticated” and “flash”, but it’s one that Bowers & Wilkins walks with confidence. Admittedly, when it comes to looks and overall lust, the Px8 does a lot to make its asking price seem fair enough. Compare these headphones to, say, Mark Levinson’s famous No.5909 wireless headphones (which sell for $999/£999) and (at least as far as showroom appeal goes) the Px8 has a step ahead.
Pretty dreamy cones
Given that the active noise canceling platform fitted to the Px7 S2 is one of the best on the market that doesn’t say “Bose” somewhere, Bowers & Wilkins’ decision to keep it unchanged for the Px8 is understandable. . Some users may yearn for more adjustability than the Px8 (you’re limited to “on”, “off” or “passthrough”), but it seems highly unlikely that anyone would yearn for more noise cancellation than this helmet. Certainly, the drone of an aircraft, as well as the drone of its passengers, is virtually eliminated when ANC is activated.