Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: which wireless headphones are better?

Is it just us, or are over-ear wireless headphones getting more luxurious by the day? The Apple AirPods Max opened the floodgates to consumer-friendly pricy pairs – these were followed by the Mark Levinson No.5909 and now the Bowers & Wilkins Px8.

The Px8 follow B&W's Px7 S2, which only launched a couple of months previously. With launch dates so close together, these two pairs are pitched at different markets. But what's the difference between the two? Should you really pay all that more for the Px8, or would the Px7 S2 do you fine? Let's find out.

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: at a glance

  • The Px8 use more premium materials like leather to achieve a more luxurious feel
  • The Px7 S2 are quite a bit cheaper, and more widely available
  • Both have very similar feature sets and noise-cancelling systems
  • But the Px8 have a more polished sound quality

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: price

We know food, petrol and energy bills are all getting more expensive, but we didn't think wireless noise-cancelling headphones were as well. B&W's latest pair are even pricier than the AirPods Max, ringing the till at an eye-watering £599 / $699 / AU$1150. Ouch.

But as our five-star review showed, they're worth every penny.

The Px7 S2 are much more affordable. Their price tag of £379 / $399 / AU$600 puts them in the same league as the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Which is fine company to keep.

The Px7 S2 are also much more widely available, which raises your chances of grabbing a deal.

Winner: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: design

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: design

The Px8 look classier and more premium than their sibling. (Image credit: Future)

As you would expect for the price, the Px8 certainly look the part. Like much of B&W's output, their aesthetic walks a fine line between showy and luxurious, with premium materials very much the order of the day.

Nappa leather takes pride of place, featuring on the headband, earcups and earpads – it's velvety smooth, and soft to the touch. 

Elsewhere, the cast aluminium arm structure is beautifully finished and feels precisely engineered in the way it slides and pivots. These pricier materials don't add much weight, either, with the Px8 weighing 320g to the Px7 S2's 307g.

The Px7 S2 share much of the Px8's design language, albeit with cheaper materials. The headband sliders, for instance, are made of a composite material that certainly does the job, but doesn't feel as nice as aluminium. But while not as premium as the Px8, they look anything but cheap, with a moisture-repellent fabric covering the headband and outer shells and a C-shaped yoke that allows 180 degrees of horizontal rotation.

Both pairs feature equally intuitive controls, whether that's on the headphones or using the same B&W smartphone app. Both pairs are very comfortable to wear too, though those with larger ears might find the earcups on both a little snug.

Winner: Bowers & Wilkins Px8

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: features

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: features

The Px7 S2 lose nothing when it comes to features. (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

So both headphones have a similar build. But what about the feature set?

The biggest technical change is that the Px8 use a different cone material for their 40mm drivers. While the Px7 S2 used bio-cellulose (paper), the Px8 replace this with carbon fibre, which B&W claims is lighter, more rigid and better controlled, meaning less distortion and greater transparency. 

The rest of the drive unit is relatively unchanged bar tweaks to the motor system to account for the reduced mass of the new cone. 

Otherwise, the two headphones have very similar spec sheets. Both feature noise-cancelling, mics for handsfree calls, Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive compatibility and a 30-hour battery life. 

They both use the newly refreshed Bowers & Wilkins Music app, which lets you access streaming services without loading their respective apps, while also tweaking bass and treble tone controls and the sensitivity of the wear sensor.

Winner: Draw

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: noise-cancelling

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: noise-cancelling

The Px8's earcups fold flat, just like those on the Px7 S2. (Image credit: Future)

Just like with the feature set, the noise-cancelling is nigh-on identical for both pairs of headphones. They both have three modes – on, off and passthrough – that you toggle between using the on-ear-cup controls. Both ANC systems use six microphones: two measure the output of each drive unit, two react to ambient noise from the outside world, and two aim to boost voice clarity while suppressing noise.

Both pairs put in a solid noise-cancelling performance, too. General hubbub is hushed, though high frequencies (as well as sudden noises like pneumatic drills) do make more a dent in the ANC bubble.

While both perform well, it's worth noting they're not quite as effective as the Sony WH-1000XM5 at quieting outside sounds.

Winner: Draw

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: sound quality

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: sound quality

The Px7 S2 deliver a crisp, analytical sound for the money. (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

It's all well and good having a plush build quality, oodles of features and advanced noise-cancellation, but it's a bit useless if the cans don't sound any good. But this is B&W we're talking about, and we're happy to report that both pairs excel in the sound department.

The Px7 S2 deliver a slightly lean midrange and a crisp, refined top end. The sound is always forthright, with a directness that lends recordings a real sense of intimacy. But theirs is a controlled, composed presentation, that nearly tips over into being analytical. 

They also lack a little enthusiasm compared to the more buoyant Sony WH-1000XM5.

There are no such niggles with the Px8. They offer a level of clarity and insight that's unbeaten at this level. Performance is a clear step ahead of talented but cheaper alternatives such as the aforementioned Sonys or the new Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless in pretty much every area. There is more precision and clarity than the Apple AirPods Max too.

And enthusiasm? The Px8 pack bags of the stuff, provided you listen at higher volume levels. At lower settings, the sound can become a little bland. Regardless of volume level, its performance remains taut and controlled.

The Px8 prove themselves to be more revealing than the Px7 S2, proving a cleaner, more agile, and more informative listen.

Winner: Bowers & Wilkins Px8

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Px7 S2: verdict

B&W might have made its name with hi-fi speakers, but it's now a major player in the wireless headphone market. The Px7 S2 and Px8 are two of its finest models. Both offer great sound quality, useful features and excellent build quality, but the Px8 are the standout pair.

Their superior sound quality and more premium materials make it clear where your extra spend has gone. If you can afford them – a big if, admittedly, especially during these straitened economic times – they are the better choice. But you'd have to be a very demanding listener indeed to not feel satisfied with the five-star Px7 S2.

MORE:

Our pick of the best noise-cancelling headphones 

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 vs Apple AirPods Max: which wireless headphones are better?

Bargains ahoy? Best headphones deals

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.