Bowers & Wilkins isn't always first to the party but, when it does arrive, it certainly likes to make an entrance. Today, the company launches not one but two debut sets of true wireless headphones, the PI5 and PI7.
The latter are the more premium of the pair, with a six-microphone active noise-cancelling system. The built-in mics will work for voice calls, as well as smart functionality (Siri and Google Assistant are both supported).
Each earbud features a two-driver arrangement to offer what Bowers refers to as sound "comparable to loudspeakers". The two sides have a balanced armature tweeter for the top notes and a set of 9.2mm drive units for the mid/bass, all with their own dedicated amplifier.
The true wireless stereo transmission comes in through Bluetooth aptX Adaptive, allowing for 24-bit hi-res audio streams (when connected to a compatible source). Bowers has worked to provide a reliable and tightly synced connection between the left and right earbuds.
There's more to the PI7's charging case than just storage and battery life, too. Uniquely, it has USB and 3.5mm ports, allowing you to connect it direct to an audio source. The case sends that music to your ears wirelessly using AptX Low Latency. The idea behind it, according to Bowers, is to allow users to hook up to an inflight entertainment system without the need of trailing cables to their ears.
The B&W PI5 true wireless headphones, meanwhile, are a slight step down but still very much from the same stables. They're missing the dual-driver arrangement and instead come with a single 9.2mm Bowers-developed unit. TWS+ technology is used instead for the transmission of the audio from source to both buds simultaneously. There are also just the two microphones on each side for noise-cancelling and no inputs on the case.
The PI5 and PI7 have an earbuds battery life of 4.5 hours and 4 hours respectively, but the charging case stores four more full cycles, offering a reasonable (but not class-leasing) total of 22.5 hours or 20 hours from a single charge.
Bowers says it has championed driver technology and wireless transmission over battery life for a better audio experience. Explaining the company's late entry into true wireless, Bowers & Wilkins Director of Product Marketing, Andy Kerr, said: "We don’t pride ourself on being first but being the best. In each case we waited and watched the market. We chose to stay out of the market until we felt we could make a difference."
Both sets of Bowers & Wilkins true wireless headphones are available from today in a choice of white or charcoal. The B&W PI7 cost £349 (AU$699, €399, $399) – one of the most premium price tags we've seen attached to a pair of true wireless earbuds – while the PI5 are priced at a more democratic £199 (AU$369, €249, $249).
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