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Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e laying flat on desktop.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
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Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review

Evolution, not revolution, but nails the fundamentals.
By

Published onDecember 4, 2023

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8
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e
The bottom line
The updated entry point into B&W's headphone line looks familiar but promises an "evolved" experience over its predecessor. The iterative design process has paid off here because it's hard to find fault with these headphones.
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Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e

The updated entry point into B&W's headphone line looks familiar but promises an "evolved" experience over its predecessor. The iterative design process has paid off here because it's hard to find fault with these headphones.
Product release date
September 19, 2023
Price
$399
Dimensions
Case: 230x 180 x 50 mm
Ear cup: 55 mm x 40 mm x 18 mm depth
Cable length (USB): 1.2 m
Cable length (analog): 1.2 m
Weight
309 g
Model Number
FP44520
Waterproof
What we like
Excellent sound tuning
Good ANC
Good transparency mode
Low profile, stylish design
What we don't like
No water resistance
8
SoundGuys Rating
8
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Isolation / Attenuation
5.6
6.3
6.0
Active Noise Cancelling
8.4
7.8
8.0
Durability / Build Quality
6.8
9.8
10.0
Value
6.0
8.3
8.0
Design
7.8
9.8
10.0
Connectivity
9.5
9.0
9.0
Portability
7.5
8.5
9.0
Battery Life
9.8
7.0
7.0
Feature
7.0
6.3
6.0
Comfort
8.5
6.8
7.0
MDAQS rating
Learn more
Timbre
4.9
Distortion
3.4
Immersiveness
4.7
Overall
4.8

Hot on the heels of the Px7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins has released the Px7 S2e, which brings some under-the-hood refinements to its well-received entry-level wireless headphones. The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are closed-back Bluetooth headphones with active noise canceling (ANC), built with portability in mind. This all sounds promising, so let’s dig in and see if these make a bigger splash at SoundGuys than the original PX7 did.

Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

About this Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review: We tested Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e over 5 days. The headphones software was version 2.2.0, and the Bowers & Wilkins Music app ran version 2.3.0. SoundGuys purchased the unit for this review.

Anyone looking for a general-purpose set of ANC over-ear headphones will enjoy Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e, whether it’s for home listening, sitting at the computer, or commuting on a bus or plane. The premium price will be easiest to justify if you value the brand, the aesthetics, or the excellently tuned sound profile.

What’s it like to use the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e?

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e side view, held in hand.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The low-profile ear cups are a sleeker refinement of the original PX7.

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e arrives in a high-quality, color-matched, fitted semi-rigid fabric case that protects the headphones and keeps them secure in your bag or backpack. In the center of the case is a hinged compartment that houses the two cables you’ll need for charging and connecting to wired source devices. The headphones’ ear cups rotate to lay flat in the carrying case.

The 309-gram weight is well distributed between the memory foam ear pads and headband, making it easy to forget about wearing them. If, like me, you’ve ever experienced the loud bang of your headphones hitting on a door or other obstacle before, you’ll appreciate how low profile the ear cups on Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are. The fabric-covered headband has a nice, firm sliding action, and the metal components lend a sturdy, high-quality feel. Color options are Cloud Grey, Ocean Blue, Forest Green, and Anthracite Black.

A single small LED on the back of the right ear cup acts as a multipurpose indicator for battery status, Bluetooth, and incoming calls. While you can use the headphones wirelessly or wired with an analog or digital (USB) source, you get no sound if the battery is fully depleted.

How do you control the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e?

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e ear cup control detail.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The texturing on the multifunction button makes it easy to identify with your thumb when wearing the headphones.

All controls are on the backs of the ear cups, making them easy to access with your thumbs while maintaining a clean appearance when viewed from the front side. The left ear cup features a single “quick action” button, while the right houses a sliding toggle, a multifunction button, and two volume buttons. The multifunction is textured with tiny ridges, making it easy to identify by feel alone.

The slider is used for power on/off (middle position) or for activating Bluetooth pairing (top position).

By default, the buttons function as follows:

ActionQuick action button (left ear cup) - customizableMulti-function buttonVolume +Volume -
Action
Single tap
Quick action button (left ear cup) - customizable
ANC on - transparency - ANC off
Multi-function button
Play / pause, answer / end call
Volume +
Volume up
Volume -
Volume down
Action
Double tap
Quick action button (left ear cup) - customizable

Multi-function button
Next track, switch between 2 calls
Volume +

Volume -

Action
Triple tap
Quick action button (left ear cup) - customizable

Multi-function button
Previous track, toggle mute
Volume +

Volume -

Action
1 second hold
Quick action button (left ear cup) - customizable

Multi-function button
Merge 2 calls
Volume +

Volume -

The Quick Action button can be reallocated using the app to activate your voice assistant.

Should you use the Bowers & Wilkins Music app for the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e?

While it’s pretty basic and not much to look at, the Bowers & Wilkins Music app is helpful for a few reasons. Firstly, as is typical, product firmware updates are made available through the app. But importantly, I found it necessary to change some of the default settings in the app. Namely, I turned off the auto standby that powers the headphones off after 15 minutes of inactivity (I sometimes like to use headphones just for their ANC for long stints) and also enabled the wear sensor, which pauses playback when you lift the ear cups off your ears (three settings are provided but the low setting worked flawlessly for me).

There’s also a rudimentary bass and treble equalizer, Bluetooth connections management, and Quick Action button remapping.

How does the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e connect?

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e side ear cup detail.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The only connector on the headphones is a USB-C port, which can be driven with either digital or 3.5mm analog sources with the supplied cables.

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e can interface with analog 3.5mm jack sources or digital sources over USB-C using the supplied cables for physical connections. You might think that the included 3.5mm TRS jack to USB cable incorporates an analog-to-digital converter (ADC), but that doesn’t seem to be the case as the cable doesn’t work with other USB audio-capable headphones. When using the 3.5mm jack to USB cable, the headphones’ volume control doesn’t function, instead relying on the source component’s volume control, while other features like ANC and wearer detection still work (although the playback isn’t paused when you remove the headphones, it just mutes).

The fact that you can plug the headphones into a USB-audio capable source and not have to change any settings or lose any functionality to get a high-quality quality, lossless digital connection is a big plus. It is still rare in this day and age.

The headphones are built on Bluetooth 5.2 and are compatible with SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptX adaptive codecs for wireless connections. I found the connectivity to be excellent, although I did run into an issue: after pairing with multiple devices, the headphones would not automatically pair with the last device used (my iPhone); I had to reconnect using the phone each time manually. After a factory reset of the headphones (accessed through the app), they behaved as expected.

  1. On your source device, enable Bluetooth and scan for new devices.
  2. Slide the power switch on the headphones to the upper position and hold for 5 seconds to enter Bluetooth pairing mode.
  3. Choose the product from the list of available Bluetooth sinks on your source device.

How long does the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e’s battery last?

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The ear cups are relatively low-profile, but battery life isn’t compromised.

B&W specifies 30 hours of playback for the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e, although we were happy to find we could squeeze 41 hours and 10 minutes of playback with ANC out of a single charge using our standardized battery test.

According to B&W, 15 minutes of charge delivers seven hours of playback.

How well do the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e cancel noise?

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e flat, held in hands, inside ear cups visible.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
Thick memory foam ear pads make for an effective seal, maximizing noise attenuation.

Cycling through the environmental control on the headphones using the Quick Action button allows rapid comparison of the environmental modes. Ambient pass-through is what B&W calls its transparency mode, which sounds okay and doesn’t add any self-generated noise from the headphones. Active noise canceling (ANC) disabled shows that Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e does a good job of sealing around my ears and provides an effective barrier to high-frequency noise through passive acoustic isolation.

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Switching ANC on brings on the peace and quiet, removing low frequency rumbles with relatively uniform noise attenuation across the frequency spectrum. Looking at our measurement data, we can see that from 40Hz to 2kHz, the headphones consistently provide around 20dB of noise cancelation, which increases to almost 50dB of noise blocking at around 9kHz. While not up with the recent best noise cancelers we’ve tested, the performance is more than adequate for most situations you’ll encounter on commutes or outside walks.

How do the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e sound?

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e provides only basic bass and treble tone controls via the Bowers & Wilkins music app. In the chart below, you can see which frequencies are affected by those controls:

Bass control max setting (+6dB)

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Bass control min setting (-6dB)

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Treble control max setting (+6dB)

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Treble control min setting (-6dB)

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Yes, the low-end frequency response does change a little when ANC is disabled. The measurement below was made with ANC off:

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Here’s a comparison chart to compare the two responses:

A graph comparing the frequency response of B&W Px7 S2e with ANC on and off.
There’s a slight change in the headphones’ behavior with ANC off, mostly below 40Hz where there’s less emphasis with no ANC (yellow dotted line).

Loading chart ...

Can you use the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e for phone calls?

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e uses two of its six microphones for telephony, and this function is only available if you’re using them over Bluetooth. Here is how it sounds:

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

 

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e microphone demo (Office conditions):

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e microphone demo (Street conditions):

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e microphone demo (Reverberant space):

 

The mic signal processing reasonably handles typical noises found on a street or in an office environment but struggles to isolate speech sounds when presented with turbulence from wind. Reverb and room echo are still very noticeable.

Should you buy Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e?

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e worn by smiling person.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e left a positive impression on the SoundGuys team.

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e is a no-nonsense, over-the-ear Bluetooth headphone with ANC that sounds good. The app has no hearing test or advanced EQ, head-tracking for spatial audio, and no “immersive audio” settings. But by ignoring those features and focusing on what’s important to most people, these headphones do a great job of reproducing sound while looking more “grown up” than some of the other popular choices that are primarily made out of plastic.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2EBowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E
SG recommended
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E
Updated DSP • Premium finishes • Fine-tuning
MSRP: $399.00
A premium headphone experience
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2E is a compelling update to B&W's previous wireless headphones. Packing ANC, premium finishes, and all new software features to let you fine tune your listening experience.

What should you get instead of the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e?

A photo of the Focal Bathys sitting in its case, with ear cup backs facing the reader.
The Focal Bathys have a distinctive aesthetic and great sound.

Suppose you’re looking to spend less money, want a more even sound profile (closer to the SoundGuys preference), or want the ability to make greater modifications. In that case, we recommend the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 $289.23 at Amazon. They sound great out of the box, have better app control, excellent battery life (56 hours and 21 mins, or roughly 15 hours longer than the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e), but less than stellar ANC performance according to our data.

The excellent sounding, ANC heavy hitter Apple AirPods Max $429 at Amazon might be tempting as a higher priced alternative to the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e, and does offer many more advanced features to Apple users. Be aware that a replacement is likely waiting in the wings, so they will likely get heavily discounted and/or discontinued soon.

For something more future-facing with more advanced features, we recommend giving the Snapdragon Sound-equipped Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones $429 at Amazon a try. They offer superior ANC performance and a similar default tuning to the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e, although they offer a traditional functional Bose aesthetic, so they aren’t much to look at.

If you value sound quality and unique design, then the Focal Bathys are more of an ostentatious pick, but we wouldn’t blame you; they are one of the best-looking and performing options available, for $699 at Amazon, in this category.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e has ANC, and you can see our assessment in the section above.

Yes, Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e have a microphone, you can hear our recordings in the section above.

The button on the left ear cup toggles noise canceling by default, or you can set it to activate Alexa or Google Assistant in the app.

The headphones are not waterproof and should not be exposed to rain or moisture.

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