Bowers & Wilkins are always careful never to rush their new products to market. In the past, they have often benefited from this virtue, as it has enabled them to implement well-thought-out concepts in their products. With the new wireless headphones with active noise-canceling, this also comes to the fore again. Right from the start, they make a valuable impression with their successful design and the materials used. Available in both white/pink and black/gold, they fit comfortably in the ear and can be adjusted to any shell shape using the included interchangeable ear tips. Operation is comfortable and hassle-free. By means of the capacitive one-button operation, all necessary functions can be operated with the tap of a finger. The associated Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app also allows for more extensive settings in terms of ANC. Among other things, the noise suppression level can be adjusted to the prevailing ambient conditions. Thanks to the support of integrated voice assistants, Siri or Google Voice Assistant can also be put through, depending on the system used. Another feature that shows why Bowers & Wilkins has taken its time with the release of its own in-ear solution is the included charging cradle. This storage and charging cradle, which matches the color of the headphones, has a unique feature that clearly sets the PI5 and PI7 apart from the competition. The charging cradle can be used for integrated wireless audio transmission. That’s right: simply connect an external audio source to the charging cradle via the included USB-C cable and you can, for example, connect the headphone output of the amplifier to the wireless headphones. In addition to their active noise-canceling, this feature makes them the ideal travel companion. Any device with a jack output can be heard with the headphones in this way. The headphones have a battery life of up to four hours. The charging cradle allows, in charged condition four full charges of the headphones. Good, not only if, but that it is included — but enough about it for now and back to the headphones.
The PI5 uses a wireless TWS transmission system to send audio from the left ear to the right ear. From the phone to the headphones, the data transfer is in aptX audio quality. Depending on the device used, audio can be enjoyed in CD quality. A 9.2-millimeter diaphragm ensures impressive sound experiences on the go, even in the slimmed-down model. The headphones also have a built-in microphone that allows high-quality voice calls. A wear sensor registers whether the headphones are worn or not and switches them on or off to save power. This behavior can also be optionally turned off in the app. The PI5’s ANC keeps its promise and reliably filters out annoying ambient noise thanks to a total of four microphones, thus allowing for an undisturbed listening experience.
The flagship model takes the PI5 up a few notches. Thanks to adaptive Qualcomm aptX technology, the PI7s are even compatible with higher-resolution audio formats up to 48 kHz at 24 bits. Furthermore, the headphones are equipped with an ingenious arrangement of two drivers, each of which is powered by a designated amplifier. Similar to the PI5, the PI7 also features a 9.2-millimeter diaphragm. In addition, however, it has a Balanced Armature tweeter, which allows for better resolution, especially in the high frequencies. This is a similar configuration to that found in a loudspeaker. In its own way, Bowers & Wilkinson is thus taking advantage of its experience as a long-time manufacturer of high-quality speakers. The noise-canceling technology is also a bit more sophisticated than in the PI5s. In the PI7s, it comes in an adaptive version. A combination of three microphones on each earpiece is responsible for automatically monitoring and analyzing all ambient noise. Inside the headphones, adjustments can thus be made in real-time depending on the noise level. Within the app, the PI7 in-ear headphones from therefore also allow for a few more configuration settings. Especially in terms of noise suppression, personal preferences can be addressed in more detail here. The microphones also enable a high-quality call quality and intelligibility. This is an important feature, especially in times of zoom calls.
In terms of sound, the headphones are characterized in particular by an outstanding level of detail for in-ear headphones, rich, present bass and an overall very high quality, which is even higher with the PI7s than with the cheaper PI5s. The PI7s were quite capable of reproducing the complex soundscapes of Orbital’s Vision OnE, including the low bass characteristic of the genre, precisely and powerfully. It quickly becomes clear how much effort and thought must have gone into the headphones. And for Bowers & Wilkins, it has once again paid off not to go with all the manufacturers and hastily bring a product to market that might have been a lot better after a longer conception, but instead one that is already convincing as Mk1 and not only as 2 or 3.