Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition
“Excellent sound quality, extremely comfortable fit.”
Excellent sound quality
Solid battery life and fast charging
Can be used while charging
USB and cable connection
Disappointing call quality
No EQ in the app
The quarantine has certainly increased the number of times I use headphones on a daily basis – from playing games to zooming meetings to listening to music while working – and while I have plenty of headphones available, I grabbed the $ 400 Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon every time for the past few months. I love my Sony WH1000 XM4s, which are top-notch headphones, but there are some compelling reasons why I keep getting interested in the PX7 Carbon Edition.
Cases and accessories
While the PX7s aren’t the best collapsible headphones, they pack in a neat case that is both handy and fairly stiff, and offers additional protection. Inside the case are a few key accessories: one is a standard 3.5mm cable that plugs directly into a headphone jack, and the other is a USB to USB-C cable that is used for charging or listening or both can be used at the same time – something most wireless headphones just don’t do.
Battery life and charging
Bowers & Wilkins claims the PX7 Carbon can run for about 30 hours with noise cancellation turned on. I found that the ANC actually gave me a little less in high mode as opposed to auto. But the bonus is that you can save about five hours on a 15 minute charge, which is fantastic.
Design and comfort
Bowers & Wilkins didn’t call this the “Carbon Edition” just because it sounds cool. That’s because of the materials this version of the PX7 Carbon is made of. The headphones are made of woven carbon fiber composite that is both extremely light and stiff. They’re incredibly malleable – I don’t worry about twisting them or pulling them out of shape or breaking them. But more important (for me) than strength is lightness. These are extremely comfortable headphones that won’t weigh you down.
The other materials used also contribute to the comfort. The traditional synthetic leather material is found on the ear cuffs and covers a comfortable layer of memory foam. The same layer of comfortable memory foam is also under the headband, and the outer ear cuffs and top of the headband are made of comfortably woven fabric.
There is a small design feature on the outside of the ear cups that is unique to the Carbon Edition: the laser-cut accent on the outer ear cup that accompanies the Bowers & Wilkins nickname.
There are a number of controls on the back of the right ear cup, including the power button. The on / off switch is great as it is a sliding button that acts as a rocker switch and makes it very easy to use (as opposed to pressing and holding and hoping you pressed long enough).
Between the power buttons and the volume down button there is a multi-function button that allows you to control play, pause, move forward, skip, answer phone calls, etc. depending on how you press it. It’s a situation that takes some getting used to.
On the back of the left earbuds there is a single Active Noise Cancellation button that allows you to toggle between Off, Auto, Low and High with a quick click. A long press of the button takes you to the transparency mode, which is very good with the PX7 carbons. In fact, I’d say it’s the closest thing I’ve heard to the Air Pods Max (reigning transparency mode champions).
The noise cancellation on the PX7s is good, but not as good as the AirPods Max, Sony WH-1000XM4, or Bose Noise Canceling 700. Bowers & Wilkins may not have reached the height here, but did well with the tight seal around your ear and Music pumping through the headphones is most likely not to distract you from your surroundings.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 also have an app that lets you adjust the levels of transparency mode and manage your noise cancellation options. However, you cannot adjust the EQ curve at all. In other words, the PX7’s sound will stay exactly as Bowers & Wilkins designed it to be.
Audio connections and codecs
The PX7 Carbon are wireless and use the aptX HD audio codec with Android devices (unfortunately Apple users), so you get good sound quality with the wireless connection. It also comes with the standard 3.5mm wired audio port as well as a USB to USB-C cable for listening and charging. With the headphone cable you could use your own digital-to-analog converter (DAC) like the Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC, which I like to use. With the USB connection, the PSX7 Carbon uses the same internal DAC as with a wireless connection.
The PX7 Carbon can also be paired with multiple devices at the same time, so you can easily switch between your laptop and your phone. It feels like this is a feature all wireless headphones should have, but many just don’t. So this is a definite plus.
The call quality on the PX7 is… OK. They’re certainly not as good as Sony, Apple, or Bose, so I wouldn’t recommend them as your best bet for one of those upcoming Zoom calls. While they sensibly blocked out the outside noise during our test on the street, my voice sounded digitized and distant – and not just by wearing a mask.
I like the way these headphones sound – that’s why I keep reaching for them instead of Sony or Bose. It’s just fun to listen to. They have a much more natural sound than the Sony XM4s – the bass grunts less than the Sony XM4, but there’s still plenty of low-end. If you listen to these bass heavy tracks you will get it all. It’s very deep and very punchy, but not overwhelming.
The flesh in the middle is extremely clear. Crystal clear. It’s very present, but not arrogant in the mix. Vocals sound natural – no squeezing the sound or, on the other side of the spectrum, no chest.
Then there is the high altitude region which I think is aggressive at times. Normally I wouldn’t go for something that “sizzles” so high in the heights, but I have to admit it wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s just a little more than I’m used to – though in an odd twist it’s something I’m starting to enjoy. The brassiness of a trumpet or the hissing of a cymbal all have a brilliant, bright sheen that almost goes over the edge but reigns in the last second. And I think there is a lot of excitement going on for me. Oddly enough, published graphs of the PX7 Carbon’s frequency response curve do not support my subjective observation here, but I hear what I hear!
Overall, the frequency response of the PX7 Carbon seems like a roller coaster to me. It starts high in the bass, drops a little into the mid bass, comes back in the mid range, dips a little before the top end, and then climbs up into the treble range. It’s a really fun ride.
Price between the Sony XM4 and the Apple Air Pods max offer a great sound experience, even if they’re not that mind-blowing in the noise canceling and call quality departments. The PX7 Carbon Edition is more of a fun toy than a tool, but I don’t mind – I have a lot of fun listening to it.
Is there a better alternative?
For productivity and travel, the Sony WH-100xM4, Bose Noise Canceling 700 and Apple AirPods Max offer better noise cancellation and call quality, but have different sound profiles. The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Editions are best for those who prefer sound quality and comfort above all else.
How long it will take?
Due to the use of high-quality, robust materials, the PX7 Carbon Edition lasts as long as the battery lasts, which should last several years.
Bowers & Wilkins offers an above-average two-year warranty if the headphones are purchased from an authorized dealer. For more information, see the Bowers & Wilkins warranty information page.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Those who value sound quality and convenience above all other considerations will love these wireless headphones.