It was in 2022 that Bowers & Wilkins released the Px7 S2 to critical acclaim as some of the best headphones money could buy. Indeed, T3's review heaped praise upon these over-ears and dished out a full-marks 5-star award thanks to the Series 2's seriously detailed audio performance.
A year on and, what's this, another pair of B&W headphones with almost the same name? That's right: the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are a tweaked update of the Series 2 headphones, promising even better sound thanks to new software for the DSP (digital signal processor) meaning engineers could re-tune for greater dynamics and detailed audio.
Otherwise, that's really your lot: this is Bowers & Wilkins pushing out an incremental upgrade in making the company's already spectacular headphones just a mite more mighty. They don't go off-piste and address the moderate active noise-cancellation (ANC) of the series, oh no, these headphones are sticking true to their formula – and gosh the results are pretty spectacular.
B&W PX7 S2e review: What's new?
If you were hoping this section would be particularly extensive then I'm here to disappoint you: the Px7 S2e's new additions over the original are literally the new digital signal processing tech, which is claimed to improve the already class-leading audio performance further with greater detail and dynamics.
Oh, and let's not forget that there's a Forest Green colourway option (not pictured, I was sent the standard and, to my eyes, much classier black finish). Nothing more to see here, this is otherwise Px7 S2 business as usual. And I'm just fine with that.
B&W PX7 S2e: Price & Availability
The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are available right now, priced at £379 in the UK, $399 in the USA, and AU$599 in Australia. That's effectively an echo of the original Px7 S2 upon launch.
Now that might seem logical – except you can now find the original Series 2 for much less, as you can see in the shopping widget embedded above, which for many will make them the more logical purchase given the minor differences.
B&W PX7 S2e review: Design & Usability
Bowers & Wilkins understands its strengths and plays to them, especially when it comes to design. The Px7 S2e are about carefully specified materials that are carefully assembled and deliver an aesthetic that’s just the right side of opulent. There's no doubting these are Bowers & Wilkins headphones, as the branding on both earcups tells you – I'm not sure it's totally necessary, but this is a prestige brand.
The way the Px7 S2e fit is fantastic, albeit sometimes a little slung forward across the hairline after longer periods of wear and wandering about, and the comfort is supreme: memory foam-filled leather that's opulent and soft sees to that (these are seriously cushy earcups, believe me).
Even in the hand you'll be able to tell these are top-notch cans: the hard-wearing materials, with a tactile feel and flawlessly applied fabric, make up the meat and bones. It's impeccable stuff that also adds a little weight: the 307g all-in is heavier than many comparable top-tier ANC headphones, but that's also a nod to the quality here.
While the Px7 S2e don't have any touch-controls, which I would personally prefer, a la Bose NC Headphones 700, the on-board controls that are present are easy to use, perfectly positioned and responsive. And no tapping or swiping of the earcups prevents any unwanted sonic feedback too, to be fair, so I can understand the use of physical buttons and switches here. The controls are small enough to not be an eyesore, unlike some of the competition.
In the included carry case you'll find USB-C-to-3.5mm cables, which is testament to the next part of the Px7 S2e's puzzle: the sound quality is impeccable. You can also use this USB-C port on the left earcup for recharging the battery, which is an obvious essential.
B&W PX7 S2e review: Features & Performance
Brace yourself for no surprises: I'll cut to the chase here and tell you that the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e, just like their predecessors, sound outstanding. Now, I don't have the originals with me to test side-by-side, which would be quite something, as I'd love to see the subtle variations this re-tuning brings for this 'e' version.
The Px7 S2e are masters at giving breadth to a full and wide frequency range, while retaining all of the details and clarity you need, yet keeping tonality even and convincing throughout, and delivering a soundstage as big and explicit as possible. Sold yet?
So yes, these are hi-fi headphones through and through, cable to deliver punchy yet textural low-end, right through to sparklingly fizzy top-end that's not overplayed, just deftly delivered. It's a very even delivery that's just right; dynamic yet well organised and able to cater for classic recordings right through to modern super-loud remasters.
As with so many of these kinds of headphones, it's the midrange performance where the Bowers & Wilkins continue to shine. Just as we said in the Px7 S2 review: "singers are given every possible chance to express themselves – the headphones carry so much information that a vocalist can’t help but sound like a characterful individual, able to express emotion and attitude explicitly". And it's more of the same here.
However, the Px7 S2e do walk a fine line when it comes to active noise-cancelling (ANC): as it's not especially strong, as per many of the competition. However, it's very capable in the right moments; and I've worn these headphones on a 7-hour night flight to get some sleep and can confidently tell you the difference in having ANC on versus not is substantial when it comes to evading the aural hiss atypical of a 777 aircraft. So I'm thankful for that.
I think what Bowers & Wilkins has long said about its ANC approach is that it doesn't want to go overboard. These headphones are about delivering a hi-fi clarity and pureness, so to push ANC to the nth degree would impact that sound profile – and that's just not what this brand is all about. Fancy that? Go buy the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones.
There's yet more to the sound profile, too, as the Bowers & Wilkins Music control app (for iOS and Android) provides the option to add +/-6dB (in 0.5dB increments) to treble and bass. It's no more complex than that: Bowers & Wilkins won't let you go to town on a multi-band EQ and shred your ears and their engineers' tuning to excess. Even with no adjustments they sound superb, so you may as well leave this alone except for specific recordings that demand it.
B&W PX7 S2e review: Verdict
In the more-than-a-decade that this storied loudspeaker brand has been involved in the headphones market, it has established quite a reputation for impressive audio performance, a luxurious aesthetic, and, all things considered, decent value for money. That's precisely what the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e represent: pure headphones perfection in many respects.
However, cynically it would be easy to say that the Px7 S2e are an unnecessary addition to the product line-up – pricier than their non-'e' sibling, while being so largely similar that they're not an 'upgrade' purchase for existing Px7 S2 users and that many would-be buyers could save a few quid in buying that original Series 2 model instead.
Well, I'm not going down the cynical route here: all I can do is review what's in front of me, and during the week I've been using the Px7 S2e almost non-stop, it's taken me through an overnight sleeper train journey in great comfort, blocked out airline excess noise to my great pleasure, been the wired headphones partner for my Nintendo Switch, and delivered stunning high-res audio when I've been sat working at home too.
Ultimately the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e are among the best-sounding headphones you could buy right now. Plus they're beautifully made and wonderfully comfortable to boot. No, you won't get the strongest active noise-cancellation on the market, but if you're keener on sonic brilliance over a vacuum-like world-blocking experience then these headphones will please you more than the top Sony or Bose options.
However, if you do want ANC that's truly block-out-the-world standard then buy the Bose QC Ultra Headphones, as they're second to none at that task and ideal travellers' headphones. Sony's WH-1000XM5 come a close second, arguably with better overall sound.
Or, as I've outlined above, keep it closer to home overall, save a bit of cash, and forego the 'e' version for the not-re-tuned DSP of the original PX7 S2 – which still sound superb, except cost less.