Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Lightning Review: High Quality Sound That’ll Cost A Limb

The Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) Px8 is, in more ways than one, a premium pair of wireless headphones that knows where its place on the totem pole of the personal audio market. It debuted early this year and is technically a better and more expensive upgrade to the Px7 S2.

What Am I Looking At?

The Px8 is a pair of wireless headphones that exudes the quality and renown that its parent company, B&W, is known for. It sports the asymmetrical yoke design that is synonymous with the brand’s product portfolio, and virtually every part of the headphone is precision milled. Hell, even the branding on the back of both earcups is purposely made to stand out, I can feel them whenever I hold them in my hands or put them on.

B&W didn’t spare any expense on the comfort of the Px8. Both the headband and earpads are wrapped in Napa leather for that extra comfort during long hours of use. On a side note, even the trim on the back of each earcup is wrapped in that same Napa leather, adding again to the overall luxury. For that matter, the entire frame is made from aluminium and solid, but not so taut that it squeezes your head like a vice.

For controls, all the buttons are built into the rear of the rims of the earcups of the Px8. The left earcup hosts the button that allows you to change between its ANC, Passthrough, and turn them off entirely. On the other, you get the power slider, the volume rocker and function button, and the USB-C that acts as both the headphone’s charging port and wired connectivity.

In regards to the latter, the carrying case of the Px8 also comes with two sets of cables: one USB-C to USB-C, and a USB-C to 3.5mm.

What’s Good About It?

If ever there is proof of B&W’s dedication to its craft, it would be how it does away with any touch-based control sensors, making the Px8 all buttons. I quite honestly prefer the ability to control my playback with this setup, as it means that I no longer activate features like Speak-to-Chat on Sony’s WH Series headphones, or accidentally pause the track I’m listening to.

Other premium features of the Px8 include the 40mm carbon cones, and improvement over the bio-cellulose drivers used in the Px7 S2, and they are now angled to better drive the sound into your ears. Of course, that brings us to the audio quality of these headphones.

As one would expect of a pair of RM3,299 headphones, the audio quality on the Px8 is nothing short of impressive. Both the high and mids, as well as vocals tend to take centre stage, with sound staging being absolutely accurate. This becomes evident whenever you listen to tracks like Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelt’s Digging My Potato where the harmonica really sings, or even Carla Bruni’s L’Amour, where you can really hear that sexy, raspiness in her voice ever so clearly.

That doesn’t mean the lows of the Px8 are sidelined. They still deliver that back-of-the-skull rattle that I look for in all personal audio devices and heavens above, it is sublime. Using Digging My Potato as one of the baselines, the bass percussions in the background aren’t banging on my eardrums and simply reverberate all around. The same goes for Austin Wintory’s entire score of Journey, Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, and Stacey Kent’s Venus de Milo. The latter is the most sublime for me, as you can actually hear the bass strings being individually plucked.

Another plus point to the quality of the Px8 is its battery life. On a full charge, these headphones can last nearly 30 hours with ANC turned on. I found myself using these headphones for at least two working days on and off, and only recharging them on the 3rd day. Lastly, these headphones have a simple-to-use equaliser that you can access via the dedicated B&W app.

What’s The Catch?

If I wasn’t already clear in the last two segments of this lightning review, I’ll make it clear here. The Px8 is a premium pair of wireless headphones, made by a premium audio brand renowned for providing several world-class studios, including Abbey Road Studios, with its hardware. Because of this, the brand sells these headphones at a very steep price tag of RM3,299.

And that’s not even the most expensive pair of Px8 headphones. If you feel obliged and you happen to have disposable income, you can opt for one of two limited edition models, the McLaren Edition or the 007 Edition. Both models cost RM4,299 respectively, making them RM1,000 more expensive than the standard edition.

Another gripe that I have with the Px8 is with its own ambient sound function, or Passthrough mode. While it is a default option for the headphones, it is honestly not quite as strong as I would like it to be. To that end, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 takes the crown on this function.

Then there is the intelligent playback function and more specifically, the time it takes for the Px8 to resume playback. To be clear, I am not bothered by the delay these headphones take when they are off my head, so as long as they stop. When I put them back on, though, it takes a good few seconds before the playback resumes. Worst, it sometimes fails to resume the playback, having detected inactivity for just five minutes.

Should I Get This?

The B&W Px8 are not the kind of headphones that I can just recommend to the general consumer, looking for just any pair of audio products. With an RM3,299 asking price, it’s not wrong that I expect such a pair of headphones to provide a near life-changing experience and to be fair, these actually do.

If you’re a true blue audiophile, you listen to your music either on Tidal or Apple Music because you absolutely insist on listening to your tracks in the Master or lossless audio format, and you have no qualms spending that kind of money, then the Px8 is for you. However, if this price tag is too rich for your palette and you’re looking for an alternative, the Sony WH-1000XM5 retails for slightly more than half the price but has proven to be a decent all-rounder.

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