The renowned Bowers & Wilkins have been receiving recent accolades for their latest over-ear wireless headphones. In fact, I immediately fell in love with their Px8 over-ear model, which stood out for it’s notably refined and cohesive sound character. The true wireless earphones models, however, have received mixed reviews. But the company has just released its best and most advanced true wireless earbuds yet. The Pi7 S2. What can you expect in terms of sound performance and design?
In the Box
Look and Feel
Like a classy pair of cufflinks, the Pi7 S2 earbuds mimic a polished, masculine piece of jewelry. Very Bowers & Wilkinsish. In addition to the black and silver model (featured in this review) the earbuds also come white and midnight blue. Despite their solid look, the earpieces are very light and fit snugly, yet unobtrusively in the ear. The charging case is perhaps a little on the larger side, but still sleek in appearance, and the slender shape slips easily into a pocket.
For the Pi7 S2, Bowers & Wilkins boasts a dual hybrid driver design. A 9.2mm dynamic driver is combined with a balanced armature driver for the highs, setting this model apart from the Pi5 S2, which uses a single dynamic driver to cover the entire frequency range.
Much like it’s competitors, the Pi7 S2 incorporates active noise-cancellation technology. It’s reasonably effective, and did a good job of eliminating the sound of our office heater, as well as other minor ambient sounds. Although I usually don’t value ANC on in-ear headphones, the natural/passive isolation on the Pi7 S2 is not significant. So, in this case, it’s a nice feature to have in a city environment or airplane. The earbuds also feature a transparency mode which can be adjusted on the accompanying app. At its max volume, I was able to hear someone taking a tinkle in the nearby bathroom.
Although call clarity is great, the microphone also tends to pick up a lot of ambient sound. But I never experienced any dropouts, either while on the phone or while listening to music.
Battery life is less than astounding, offering 5 hours of play on a single charge and an additional 16 hours in the charging case. But this is with the ANC off. So, if you’re planning on using ANC for most of your listening, you can expect less than that time. Luckily, a quick 15 minute charge will give you 2 hours of extra battery life.
With respect to Bluetooth codecs, the Pi7 S2 supports aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, aptX Classic, AAC and SBC.
One neat feature that I haven’t seen in most competing true wireless models is the Pi7’s audio retransmission capability, allowing you to connect an outside source to the charging case to wirelessly transmit the sound to the earbuds. This means that if you’re on an airplane, and you want to watch the onboard video system, you can connect the included 3.5mm to USB-C cable from the output provided on the seat in front of you (or armrest) to your charging case and listen wirelessly to your movie. No more cheap airplane earbuds.
One thing missing from the accompanying app was an equalizer. To some audiophiles, the lack of this feature may be a deal breaker, especially given the relatively heavy low-end of this sound signature. But personally, I hate to fiddle around with the EQ, being a firm believer that the earphones should sound fantastic right out of the box.
There’s some decent scale to this soundstage, though the heavy bass makes the mix feel a little insulated at times. The Pi7 S2 projected some nice height, and gradations along the vertical axis felt cleanly delineated and accurately placed. The sense of depth was less apparent, but there was enough going on below and above the head to give the space an overall feeling of color and dimension.
The low end is warm and grand with a meaty bass. At the same time, the sub bass frequencies don’t extend low enough to create a significant rumble in your belly. But certainly, the Pi7 S2 is not a dry, grippy sound that smacks you on the face with speed and discipline. In fact, the bass feels a bit bloated at times, especially when playing anything pop. Listening to strings in this range, the transparency is surprisingly good, considering the thick bass profile. And the fleshy character gives majesty to cellos and double basses. But again, don’t expect a tight and tidy sound in the low-end. This range is designed to feel rich and indulgent.
At times, the bass and low mids bleed into each other a bit, making the low mids feel a little cloudy at times. Acoustic guitar strums in the lower midrange, for instance are less than immaculate. But once we creep up into the higher frequencies, the clouds part and there’s a lot more clarity and focus. The upper mids feel clean, controlled and yes, refined. And this is where it starts to sound more like a Bowers & Wilkins headphone. Restrained and elegant; acoustic instruments are handled delicately, vocals avoid protruding too much and snares refrain from sounding too active. It’s like a smooth drive in a brand new Cadillac. So, if you’re looking for a sound that’s super lively and energetic, keep looking. These buds are meant to chill out the ears.
You’ll hear highly detailed, yet fluid highs that bring out all the subtle modulations and tonal nuances of strings, vocals and brass instruments. There’s also some great sparkle here that really shines when listening to funk music and other tracks with busy percussion in the highs. So, the treble is in no way rolled off, despite the heavy low-end. At the same time, the high-end retains the same easy listening profile as it does in the mids, never offending the ears.
Many elements of the Pi7 S2 are unmistakably Bowers & Wilkins, from the sleek physical design of the earphones themselves, to the tasteful and understated sound characteristics that make the Company so famous. If you can forgive the Pi7 S2 for its broad low-end and forego the option of equalizer control, then these earbuds are a solid (albeit somewhat pricey) choice. Finally, for those who do a lot of air travel, the audio retransmission feature is a huge draw, and will certainly save you some precious packing space.
You can buy the Bowers & Wlkins Pi7 S2 at Audio 46.