Carbon fibre, the high-tech material that now makes up everything from car hoods to iPhone cases, is light and strong. When Bowers & Wilkins designed a Carbon Edition of its PX7 headphones, the goal was to create a pair of headphones that were rugged and streamlined with solid audio quality. They pulled it off.
B&W is a manufacturer out of West Sussex famous for its speakers. These mass-market headphones are a fairly new addition to the line — the company only launched its first PX headphones in 2017. They’ve been upgrading the headphones regula to keep up with their close competitors, but Bose and Sony still have a few years’ head start. That said, I can recommend these for folks who want a nice pair of headphones with great battery life, great noise cancellation, and competitive sound quality. They’ll definitely come with me on my next transatlantic flight, whenever that will be, and they’re already a great way to drown out a busy household in covid-19 lockdown.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition
WHAT IS IT?
A pair of high-end noise-cancelling headphones that use carbon fibre to keep things light.
Great sound, solid bass.
Tight fit on some heads.
These $US400 ($528) noise-cancelling headphones are aimed at the fashion-forward traveller. The smooth lines and clever use of matte carbon fibre in the headband add a bit of class to B&W’s iconic look, and the rigid, fibre-infused ear cups are on par with similarly-priced noise-cancelling cans. In terms of audio performance, the PX7s are bass-heavy but offer enough separation and stereo effect to counteract all that low end. Finally, they are light — weighing in at 310 grams — and feature 43.6mm drivers and USB-C and line-in inputs.
The PX7s last 30 hours on one charge, and I didn’t have to charge them after taking them out of the box, which is boon if you happen to buy these in an airport electronics boutique (one day). Pro travellers will want to know that these headphones don’t work without power, so there is no passive line-in mode that will give you passable audio if you run out of battery.
But let’s get down to audio quality: Everything I played on it, from Bob Dylan to Grant Green to Dua Lipa, sounded great. The right ear cup sports an on-off switch, and a dedicated button can turn the noise cancellation on and off. An “auto” mode sets the noise cancellation to a slightly less aggressive level. You can also use Siri or Google Assistant through the headphones by pressing a button between the volume buttons.
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art
As a long-time Bose user who switched over to Sony’s euphoniously named WH1000XM3s last year, these headphones bring similarly solid active noise cancellation in loud situations. I couldn’t test these in a plane, but they were able to drown out the din of piped-in brown noise and muted my work sessions at the dining room table with a loud grade-schooler and his constantly buzzing Chromebook. These are on par with the aforementioned brands in terms of sound reproduction as well, although I would argue Sony’s are a bit more equalised and flat when compared to the PX7s.
Sony Has Practically Perfected Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
With the release of the WH-1000XM2 headphones three years ago, Sony succeeded in besting the feature Bose’s headphones were best known for: noise-cancelling. A year after that, Sony’s WH-1000XM3 update included some welcome improvements when it came to comfort, and while the new WH-1000XM4 continue to refine the headphones’ ability…
The PX7s also have a few welcome features: They pause your music when you remove them and have multiple microphones for noise-cancelling and audio input. They cancelled background noise well while chatting on the phone. They don’t have Sony’s clever touch-to-mute feature, but simply taking these off gets the job done. These headphones use 24-bit/48kHz Bluetooth and have aptX HD capability which helps while syncing audio and video while watching movies.
My one gripe? These cans are a bit small for my oversized head, and the case, which comes in a smart tweed, is huge. This means you won’t be slipping these into a small bag or purse and instead will be lugging these guys around in a backpack or carry-on when you travel. The kit includes both a USB-C and a 3.5mm audio cable in the case. I still prefer the comfort of the Sony cans, but if you like a firm feel and solid foam ear cups, then you’ll like the B&W style.
These headphones feel high-end. Everything, from the lightly-padded headband to the cloth-clad cans, is made of firm plastic. You won’t mistake these for audiophile-quality headphones, but that’s not really the target audience. They’re designed to keep the world out while you work or rest.