“Superb sound quality, extremely comfortable fit.”
- Extremely comfortable
- Superb sound quality
- Solid battery life and quick-charge
- Usable while charging
- USB and wired connectivity
- Disappointing call quality
- No EQ in app
Quarantine has certainly increased how often I’m using headphones day to day — from gaming to Zoom meetings to listening to music while working — and while I’ve got plenty of headphones around to use, I’ve found myself grabbing the $400 Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon every single time for the last couple months. I love my Sony WH1000 XM4s, which are top-notch headphones, but there are some compelling reasons that I keep grabbing for the PX7 Carbon Edition.
While the PX7s aren’t the most collapsible headphone, they do manage to pack up into a tidy case, which is both manageable in size, but also fairly rigid, adding extra protection. Inside the case are a couple of important accessories: one is a standard 3.5mm cable to plug directly into a headphone jack, and the other is a USB-to-USB-C cable, which can be used for charging or listening or both at the same time — something most wireless headphones just won’t do.
Bowers & Wilkins claims the PX7 Carbon will operate for about 30 hours of playtime with noise canceling on. I’ve found that by having the ANC on High mode as opposed to Auto, I actually got a little bit less than that. But the bonus is that you can get about five hours off of a 15-minute charge, which is fantastic.
Bowers & Wilkins didn’t call this the “Carbon Edition” just because it sounds cool; it’s because of the materials they use to make this version of the PX7 Carbon. The headphones are made from woven carbon fiber composite that is both extremely light as well as rigid. They’re incredibly malleable — I never worry about twisting them or yanking them out of shape or breaking them. But more important (to me) than the strength is the lightness. These are extremely comfortable headphones that won’t weigh you down.
Adding to the comfort are the other materials used. On the ear cuffs, you have the traditional leatherette material covering a cushy layer of memory foam. That same layer of comfortable memory foam is also underneath the headband, and the outer ear cuffs and top of the headband are made from pleasant woven fabric.
On the exterior of the ear cups is a little design feature unique to the Carbon Edition: The laser-cut accent on the exterior earcup, accompanying the Bowers & Wilkins moniker.
On the backside of the right ear cup are a series of controls, including the power button. The power button is great since it’s a sliding button that acts as a rocker switch, making it very easy to use (as opposed to having to press and hold and hope you’ve held long enough).
In between the power and volume buttons is a multifunction button you can use to control play, pause, advance, skip, answer phone calls, etc., depending on how you press it. It’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation that takes some getting used to.
On the backside of the left headphone is a single button for Active Noise Cancellation, which cycles between Off, Auto, Low, and High with a quick click. A long press of the button puts you into Transparency Mode, which on the PX7 Carbons is very good. In fact, I’d say it’s the closest to the Air Pods Max (the reigning champs of Transparency Mode) as I’ve heard yet.
Noise cancellation on the PX7s is good, but not as good as the AirPods Max, Sony WH-1000XM4, or Bose Noise Canceling 700. While it may not reach the heights of those, Bowers & Wilkins did well here, and with the tight seal around your ear and music pumping through the headphones, you’re most likely not going to get distracted by your environment.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7s also have an app that allows you to adjust the levels of Transparency Mode and manage your noise cancellation options. However, it doesn’t allow you to adjust the EQ curve whatsoever. In other words, the sound of the PX7s will stay the way Bowers & Wilkins designed it to be.
The PX7 Carbon are wireless and use the aptX HD audio codec with Android devices (sorry Apple users), so you’ll get good sound quality with the wireless connection. It also comes with the standard 3.5mm wired audio connection, as well as a USB-to-USB-C cable for both listening and charging. With the headphone cable, one could use their own digital to analog converter (DAC) like the Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC, which I enjoy using. With the USB connection, the PSX7 Carbon use the same internal DAC as is used with a wireless connection.
The PX7 Carbon can pair to more than one device at a time as well, allowing easy switching between, say, your laptop and your phone. It feels like that’s a feature all wireless headphones should have, but many just don’t, so this a definite plus.
Call quality on the PX7s is … OK. They’re certainly not as good as Sony, Apple, or Bose, so I wouldn’t recommend them as the best choice for any of those upcoming Zoom calls. While they did a reasonable job of blocking out the exterior noise during our on-the-street test, my voice sounded digitized and distant — and that wasn’t just from wearing a mask.
I love the way these headphones sound — which is why I keep grabbing them instead of my Sony or Bose. They are just so fun to listen to. They have a much more natural sound than the Sony XM4s — there’s less “grunt” in the bass than the Sony XM4, but there is still plenty of low end there. When you listen to those bass-heavy tracks, you’re going to get all of it. It’s very deep, and it’s very punchy, but not overwhelming.
The meat of the midrange is extremely clear. Crystal clear. It’s very present, but not overbearing in the mix. Vocals come out sounding natural — no pinch to the sound or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, no chestiness.
Then there’s the treble region, which I feel is occasionally on the aggressive side. I normally wouldn’t go for something that’s quite so “sizzling” in the treble, but I do have to admit that it wasn’t displeasing. It’s just a bit more than I’m used to — although in a weird twist, it’s something that I’m starting to enjoy. The brassiness of a trumpet or the sizzle of a cymbal all have a brilliant, bright shimmer to it that almost goes over the edge, but gets reigned in right at the last second. And I think that’s where a lot of the excitement is coming for me. Curiously, published graphs of the PX7 Carbon’s frequency response curve don’t back up my subjective observation here, but I hear what I hear!
Overall, the frequency response on the PX7 Carbon to me comes off sort of like a roller coaster. It starts high in the bass, dips down a bit in the mid-bass, comes back up for the midrange, dips a bit before the high end, and then all the way up into the treble region. It’s a really fun ride.
Priced between the Sony XM4 and the Apple Air Pods Max. deliver a superb sonic experience, even if they aren’t as mind-blowing in the noise-canceling and call quality departments. The PX7 Carbon Edition are more of a fun toy than a tool, but I don’t mind that a bit — I’m having a blast listening to them.
Is there a better alternative?
For productivity and travel, the Sony WH-100xM4, Bose Noise Canceling 700, and Apple AirPods Max offer better noise cancellation and call quality, but come with different sound profiles. The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Editions are best suited for those who prioritize sound quality and comfort above all else.
How long will it last?
Given the use of high-quality, robust materials, the PX7 Carbon Edition will last as long as their battery holds out, which should be for several years.
Bowers & Wilkins offers a better-than-average two-year warranty, provided the headphones are purchased from an authorized retailer. More information can be found on the Bowers & Wilkins warranty info page.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Those who prize sound quality and comfort above all other considerations will love these wireless headphones.
- Bowers & Wilkins PI5 review: Sophisticated style, big bass sound
- Meters headphones hands-on review: Analog style with a digital twist
- B&W’s first true wireless earbuds come with their own Bluetooth transmitter
- V-Moda M-200 ANC review: Overpriced over-ear headphones
- Apple AirPods Max review: Most fun headphones ever