Bowers & Wilkins is known for its attention to detail, and the PX continues that tradition. Though the PX uses considerably less chrome finish and leather than its other offerings, the matte finish and coarse cloth accents are much less “classic car” than they are 21-st century chic—but it’s a welcome refresh to the classic aesthetic.
The build changes aren’t just skin-deep either. Bowers & Wilkins also marked a departure from its traditional ear pad design, for better or worse. There’s far less padding on the PX than the P7 wireless, but it definitely helps radiate heat better. However, those with larger heads will miss the extra padding, as the relative weight of the PX combined with the clamping force will make bigger noggins ache after long listening sessions. Smaller heads and shorter (think sub-2hr.) sessions will be A-OK, though.
Inside the ear cups are angled drivers to meet the natural tilt of your ears, which I always appreciate. It helps dispel unintentional phase issues and helps make a more realistic representation of 3D-space in your recordings. Additionally, the supplemental drivers that make the Active Noise Canceling possible reside right in the dead-center of the speaker units, raised so they’re closer to your ear canal. This is a smart choice, as it reduces the overall power each driver needs to output in order to cancel outside noise as it reaches your head.
All of the controls for the Bowers & Wilkins PX can be found on the right ear cup, on the back edge. Volume controls a multifunction button, a toggle for the “Environment filter” used by the app, and a power/connection slider all ring the right ear cup. On the bottom, a 3.5mm female jack along with a USB-C charging port sit rather unobtrusively next to the indicator LED.
You can use the included 3.5mm cable, but the Bowers & Wilkins PX are geared towards wireless listeners with aptX HD support. This is quite a step up from your standard Bluetooth codecs, and offers the latest profiles to handle headset functions with just about any smartphone out there.
However, I will point out that like the Bose QC35 II, you’ll need to download the app and turn location services on in order to get the most from your headphones. Seems more than a little unnecessary given there are other headphones on the market that don’t require you to share your location with the manufacturer in order to unlock the best features of your cans, but that seems to be pretty standard nowadays.
One feature that’s both useful and annoying is the auto-pause. These have a tiny sensor in them that pause whatever you’re listening to whenever you remove the headphones and then resume playback when you put them back on. In my experience, it was super sensitive to the point when music would pause just if the headphones moved a little. Luckily, you can tweak the sensitivity in the app if you’re having this problem but it never fully went away for me. Even when I went into the app to turn off that feature I found that music would still randomly pause when I didn’t want it to, though the frequency of instances definitely decreased when I did so.
The battery life depends greatly on how loudly you listen, the PX can handle just about any trip you throw at it. The battery timing is said to be 12 hours of listening.
The highs didn’t fare any better, with the crashing cymbals and hi-hats in the song Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men really lacking in strength when compared to everything going on in the mid. The male vocals that underlie every line of the song are all pretty much lost in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that these headphones sound like garbage. I still had a pleasant few days of singing along to a few choice songs, but when you compare them to some of the other options in their price range it becomes painfully clear that what you’re paying for are the quality build materials and modern design. Not sound quality.