Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones Page 2

sqnote.jpgRelaxed And Open
Auditioned as plain-vanilla wired ’phones via Pro-Ject’s Pre Box DS2 Digital [HFN Nov ’17], the gentle acoustic sound of ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ by Damien Rice [O; 14th Floor Records 5050466-4788-5-6] had a lightness of touch via the PXs that captured the hesitancy in his vocals, and the warmth of the gently strummed guitar. There was a bitter-sweet edge to the sound, as the deep, wistful tone of the cello accompanied the chorus and then hung in the air as though afraid to let go. The angled design of the earpieces might seem like a bit of a gimmick, but the sound is relaxed and open, so that it felt as though Rice was sitting there, strumming away in front of me.

Cathedral Of Sound
The headphones also managed to cope with the soaring cathedral of sound invoked by the Pro Cantione Antiqua choral singers on their recording of ‘Spem In Alium’ [Tallis – Spem In Alium; Alto ALC1082]. The piece starts gently, and the PX tracked the intertwining melodies as each of the eight separate choirs joined in. The various groups of choristers remained clear and distinct, and even the quiet, whispered voices in the background remained audible throughout. Furthermore, while the tight fit and closed-back design of the earpieces can feel a little claustrophobic at times, the PX was still able to achieve a great sense of grandeur and scale as the piece built towards its peak.

Of course, the PX is primarily designed as a set of travelling headphones, and I was pleased to find they continued to perform well with my mobile music set-up, listening to the lossless music files on my iPhone via the sturdy RHA Dacamp L1 [HFN Apr ’17]. The PX kept the same clarity and detail in the layered voices, and the sense of space was impressive and dramatic for a portable set of headphones in this price range. But, as we’ve seen with other B&W headphones in the past, the PX does go a little overboard with the lower-mid and bass frequencies. To be fair, this didn’t seem like a glaring weakness – in fact, the deep rumble of the PX was quite effective with the ambient electronics of Max Richter’s ‘Shadow Journal’ [The Blue Notebooks; DG 479-4443], producing an ominous, subterranean rumble that was well suited to the mood of the piece.


But the PX did sound a little unbalanced when I turned to some more densely arranged tracks. I liked the firm thud of the slap-bass on ‘The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix)’ by Kate Bush [Hounds Of Love; EMI 7243-8-57978-2-8] and the crashing avalanche of drums, but the chanting vocals that lead towards the end of the song were a little overpowered by the bass-heavy sound and didn’t quite ring out as clearly as perhaps they should.

The Sound Of Silence
The wired connection worked well, so I stayed in wired mode when turning on the noise-cancelling feature for the first time (tested with a number of background noise files from As KH’s Lab Tests revealed [see here], the mildest ‘Office’ mode has little effect on frequency response, and the PX continues to deliver strong sound quality while allowing voices to stand out more in the background. I was less impressed by ‘City’ mode, which serves its safety-first purpose by letting in traffic noise, but sounded rather cluttered and did prove a bit distracting while listening to music.

But, of course, it’s the full noise-cancellation of ‘Flight’ mode that will appeal to the travelling audiophile. The soundstage of the PX did seem just a little more constrained in ‘Flight’ mode, but the detail and richness of instruments and voices remained impressive while it went about the task of blocking out the rumbling background noise very effectively indeed. Ultimate sound quality certainly takes a slight downturn with the NC DSP switched on, but the PX is otherwise a match for any of its rivals in this regard.

The headphones even performed well when I activated Bluetooth streaming and ‘Flight’ mode together. Ordinarily, I draw the line at using Bluetooth, yet the PX managed to avoid much of the muffling effect normally associated with this technology. In fact, the PX tempted me to go fully wireless for the first time, so while there are few mobile devices that currently support AptX HD, that option does mean that the PX also offers a degree of future-proofing, and holds out the prospect of real hi-fi quality wireless audio in the future.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The slightly heavy bass may not appeal to everyone, but B&W’s PX is still money well spent, even if you primarily use it as a set of wired headphones. But the PX will also earn its keep when travelling, thanks to its effective noise-cancellation that still manages to provide a detailed, attractive sound quality. And with AptX HD and USB-C, it provides good connectivity for the next generation of mobile devices too.

B&W Group Ltd
West Sussex
Supplied by: B&W Group Ltd
0800 232 1513