Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e vs Px8: which pair of premium headphones is better?

Bowers & Wilkins is still one of the biggest names in audio. The British brands's headphones are often some of the finest the market has to offer, and while their premium prices may put them out of reach of many, they frequently appear on our lists of the best wireless headphones

The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 are one of the finest examples of B&W's commitment to quality, albeit at a rather inflated price point. Tested at £599 / $699 / AU$1150, the luxury pair go for big money but have the performance to match, offering up outstanding clarity alongside punch, dynamism and a keen sense of musical comprehension. 

Now, though, there's a newer, cheaper alternative to the Px8. The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e wireless headphones "aim to end Sony's dynasty once and for all", with a price (£379 / $399 / AU$599) that puts them in a similar bracket as the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra over-ears. 

Our Px7 S2e review reveals another five-star performer capable of competing at the very toughest end of this extremely competitive market, but the S2e will have to above and beyond if they're to beat the Px8 to become our ultimate recommendation. Time to find out which pair is right for you.  

B&W Px7 S2e vs B&W Px8: price

Noise cancelling headphones: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 are certainly conceived as a pair of premium wireless headphones. While that hefty tag of £599 / $699 / AU$1150 might be a considerable sum, they certainly do enough to justify it in terms of performance. That's just as well, because we haven't really seen the Px8 budge much in terms of price, meaning discounts and deals are relatively few and far between. 

The Px7 S2e, meanwhile, are designed to be a more affordable set of cans, but that affordability is very much relative to the Px8. A price of £379 / $399 / AU$599 sticks the stylish cans firmly into what we usually consider to be the more premium end of the wireless headphone market, roughly matching the Sony WH-1000XM5 (£380 / $399 / AU$550) but not reaching the levels of either the Bose QuietComfort Ultra over-ears (£449 / $429 / AU$649) or the costly Apple AirPods Max (£549 / $549 / AU$899).

If you're simply looking for the lowest price, the new Px7 S2e may represent better value for money right now.

**Winner: B&W Px7 S2e**

B&W Px7 S2e vs B&W Px8: design 

Bowers and Wilkins Px8 cropped closeup shot

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Well, we can certainly award high marks for both of the competitors in this category. Both the Px8 and the Px7 Se are a sight to behold, offering a classy, luxury aesthetic that screams elegance and good taste. If you find the Apple AirPods Max a bit gaudy or the XM5 a little dull, we'd direct you straight over to Bowers & Wilkins any day of the week. 

The Px8, in particular, really look the part, sticking to the company’s trademark classy aesthetic that balances showy and luxurious with ease. They're such high quality, too, using premium quality materials which have taken a big step up over rival cans, and we're particularly keen on the beautifully finished cast aluminium arm structure which gleams alluringly in the right light. As something to simply look at, hold and admire, we can't think of anything more stylish and attractive at this price. 

The Px7 S2e, though, aren't exactly far off. Featuring those same raised earcup sections and the sort of elegant, graceful curves you'd normally associate with a classic British racing car, the newest B&W headphones are as sleek and stylish as a racing green Aston Martin. Rather fittingly, they're now available in a rather fetching 'Forest Green' colourway, so the metaphor stands up. 

With our review still hot off the press, we can attest to just how great the Px7 S2e look and feel, both in the hand and on the head. They're not quite on the level of the more expensive Px8, and lack those extra flourishes which make those premium cans really pop aesthetically, but by no means do they feel like they're not earning what is still a substantial £380 price tag. 

Both pairs are gorgeous, but some are just more gorgeous than others.

**Winner: B&W Px8 **

B&W Px7 S2e vs B&W Px8: features

Noise cancelling headphones: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Despite the price gap, there's a lot of overlap in terms of what these high-class headphones can do. They aren't worlds apart in terms of build and design, and those superficial similarities extend somewhat to features, too. Both pairs offer ANC and high-end voice calls, with the S2e utilising six microphones to block out noise to match the six offered by the Px8. Battery life for both is a very respectable 30 hours, as is each pair's offering of Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec as standard. 

The Bowers & Wilkins Music App is common to both models, offering users the chance to adjust their cans' EQ, activate the noise-cancelling transparency mode to let in more or less of the outside world, and provide direct access to music streaming services such as Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal and TuneIn. 

In the Px8's box, you're provided with a USB-C to USB-C cable for hooking up directly to your computer and also a USB-C to 3.5mm alternative for plugging into your music player or other compatible device. Similarly, you'll receive those same cable options when you pick up a pair of the Px7 S2e. 

As you'd expect, the Px8 just take things to that extra level. The more premium headphones are as lavishly furnished with features as they are luxuriously appointed with high-grade construction materials, offering up Ambient Pass-Through (allowing external noise from your surrounding environment, e.g. train announcements, to be heard without removing your headphones), as well as on/off head detection for automatic pausing when the Px8 are removed from your noggin. 

A close-run thing, but the Px8's truly premium extras just nudge them ahead.   

**Winner: B&W Px8 **

B&W Px7 S2e vs B&W Px8: sound quality

Bowers and Wilkins Px8 cropped closeup shot

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

In our original review, we lauded the wonderful Px8 over-ears for being "hugely capable performers that justify their price with a combination of build and sound quality that cheaper alternatives just can’t match". It's praise that remains well-earned, with B&W serving up a pair of performers with a sonic profile that treads the tightrope between clarity and dynamism with total ease. They're a real sonic delight. 

Yes, there are a few niggles, we can admit. The Px8 will show up shortcomings in more flawed recordings or sources, for instance, so you’ll need to make sure the signal feed into them is good enough to allow them to shine, as they won't fully smooth out the rough edges inherent in a slightly wonky track. Not a deal breaker, but something that's worth being aware of. 

Conversely, Bowers claims that its newer, cheaper headphones boast "significant advances in overall sound quality" compared to the outgoing Px7 S2, much of which is thanks to an "extensively upgraded DSP". Improved processing has allowed B&W to retune the acoustic platform, which is once again built around custom, slightly angled 40mm drivers, for an enhanced, more dynamic listening experience.

To our ears, the Px7 S2e are certainly an invigorating listen, and while it can be tough to match the enthusiasm and dynamic range of Bose and Sony, you'll find much to like about the classy cans as soon as you pop them over your ears and get listening. With an acute sense of timing and organisation, the S2e are adept at crafting a convincing musical soundscape that feels ordered and cohesive without falling into the dreaded realm of becoming cold and clinical. They're also astonishingly insightful, setting a new benchmark at this level with class-leading analysis and a sense of musical understanding that demands to be heard.

Ultimately, though, we have to go with our established five-star favourites. The Px8 are a razor-sharp, refined and deeply musical listen, and with the extra cash spent on refining them to become the best they can be, they just about take the win here. 

**Winner: B&W Px8 **

B&W Px7 S2e vs B&W Px8: verdict

Bowers and Wilkins Px8 cropped closeup shot

(Image credit: Bowers and Wilkins)

Both the B&W Px7 S2e vs B&W Px8 are truly high-grade headphones, boasting gorgeous designs crafted from premium-end materials, impressive feature sets and the sort of elegant, intuitive sound that has made Bowers such a respected name across the audio world.

With that in mind, we'd have no hesitation in recommending the awesome Px8 if (and it's a big if), money is no object. They're obviously a great deal more costly than the Px7 S2e, yet there's no question the high-end cans justify their sizable asking price with some truly remarkable sonic capabilities. If we had a spare £599 / $699 / AU$1150 knocking around, we can't think of much better we could end up spending it on. 

Don't disregard the Px7 S2e, though. If you don't want to stretch to the sizeable asking price of the Px8, the S2e are a five-star alternative, especially if you crave the careful construction, tasteful aesthetic and supreme sound profile that has helped B&W make its name.


Read our B&W Px8 review and our B&W Px7 S2e review

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Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.