While Australia lagged some other countries in the release of the Bowers & Wilkins Formation wireless multiroom products, we’ll have no such wait for B&W’s new range of headphones, just announced.
And there’ll be no waiting for your Bluetooth signal either, as these are the first headphones to include aptX Adaptive, which combines the merits of aptX Low Latency with aptX HD to deliver a more robust Bluetooth for transmission of files up to 24-bit/48kHz.
Being B&W, though, the number one promise for the new over-ear, on-ear and in-ear ’phones is sound quality. The company accuses most headphones of either lacking “the technology know-how to enable a true "soundstage’ listening experience” or of prioritising “being a fashion accessory over sound quality”.
“This unique application of our proprietary driver technology, when coupled with the new and cutting-edge Qualcomm aptX Adaptive audio codec creates the most realistic, high-fidelity soundstage of any headphone on the market, reproducing sound just as it was created in the studio,” says Philip Newton, Head of Australia for Bowers & Wilkins. “We’ve worked extremely hard to create a line of headphones that deliver music the way the artists intended it to be heard.”
PX7 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation
The PX7 is the top new model, selling here for $599.95. It uses custom-designed oversized 43.6mm drivers developed specifically for the over-ear style, and have unusual woven carbon-fibre-composite arms and the luxurious level of design we’ve already seen from previous B&W headphone designs.
The Noise Cancellation uses four microphones (there are two others for making calls). A button on the left earpiece is used to cycle between four modes of noise cancellation: High (for consistently noisy environments such in an airplane cabin), Low (environments where you need awareness of your surroundings), Auto (which ‘intelligently’ adapts noise cancellation to your current environment) and Off (important, as sometimes headphones don’t let you turn NC off, which we reckon is often vital).
Holding the NC button for two seconds delivers an ‘Ambient Pass-Through’ mode where you can hear your surroundings.
There are ‘Wear Sensors’ in each ear-cup so that the PX7 will auto-pause when either earpiece is lifted from the ear, and resume when placed back.
Using them wirelessly, the PX7 supports SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, but also aptX Classic, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive. (In fact as our aptX Adaptive primer here indicates, if you support aptX Adaptive, you automatically have back-compatibility for aptX and aptX HD).
aptX Adaptive achieves its quoted 24-bit/48kHz streaming quality using remarkably low bit-rates, typically 279kbps to 420kbps, far below the actual 2304kbps of native 24/48 files. More info here.
In terms of power there is fast USB-C charging to deliver battery life quoted at up to 30 hours of uninterrupted play with noise-cancelling. on A 15-minute quick charge will fill enough power for five hours.
There is also cabled playback and indeed when attached to a computer by USB-C they will operate as a USB playback device, so you can listen as you charge. A USB-A to USB-C cable is provided.
PX7 price: $599.95
PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation
The $469.95 PX5 is a smaller, lighter on-ear design using a 35.6mm driver, and otherwise sharing nearly all the PX7’s abilities in terms of noise-cancellation, Ambient Pass-Through, codec support and playback, still a quoted 25 hours of play on a single charge and here three hours of audio playback from a 15-minute quick charge.
They even have the Wear Sensors, which we reckon is pretty brave on an on-ear model as opposed to over-ear; we look forward to testing their sensitivity in this regard!
But you can in any case customise these facilities, as with the PX7, using the Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app to set up and adjust Adaptive Noise Cancellation, Ambient Pass-Through, and the Wear Sensors.
The app also provides further customisations such as voice prompt, standby time, connection management and headphone software updates. The app is available as a free download on iOS and Android devices
PX5 price $469.95
More info: www.bowerswilkins.com/net