Given that “overreach” can, according to Merriam-Webster, mean either “to reach above or beyond” or “to defeat (oneself) by seeking to do or gain too much,” it’s clear that context is everything. That its new Px8 wireless over-ear active noise-canceling headphones represent “overreach” on the part of Bowers & Wilkins is not really up for debate. It’s really the context of this overreach that’s a live question.
The acclaim that met the Px7 S2 wireless over-ear active noise-canceling headphones when Bowers & Wilkins launched them back in the summer of 2022 was close to universal. Certainly we found plenty to both like and admire. So in what can only be a move either of supreme confidence or giddy corporate recklessness, Bowers & Wilkins has taken the Px7 S2 concept and attempted to move it upmarket.
At a glance, these new Px8 could quite easily pass for their more affordable Px7 S2 sibling. Look a little closer, though, and some significant differences become apparent. And then consider the asking price: Px8 suddenly becomes a very different proposition.
Though the Px8 shares the same fundamental silhouette with the Px7 S2, upgrades in materials result in a headphone that looks, feels, and—let’s not be timid—smells considerably more expensive. Which is probably just as well, given how much more expensive it actually is.
Px8 is available in a couple of different finishes: black leather, or tan and gray leather. The Nappa leather the company has specified is soft, resilient, and aromatic, and it’s fitted to the memory-foam ear cushions and both the inner and outer portions of the headband flawlessly.
The arm structure and headband adjustment are of cast aluminum—the appearance and the tactility of the metal elements of a pair of over-ear headphones has seldom seemed so immoderate. The logo plate on each ear cup has a diamond-cut edge, and the Bowers & Wilkins logo itself varies in appearance as the light on it changes. They weigh in at a reasonably trim 320 grams, and are comfortable to wear for hours at a time, even for those of us who want to wear spectacles at the same time .
It’s a fine line between “sophisticated” and “flash” sometimes, but it’s one Bowers & Wilkins walks confidently. Certainly as far as appearance and all-around covetability are concerned, the Px8 go a very long way toward making their asking price seem fair enough. Compare these headphones to, say, Mark Levinson’s acclaimed No.5909 wireless headphones (which sell for $999 / £999) and (at least as far as showroom appeal goes) the Px8 are streets ahead.
Nice Dream Cones
Given that the active noise-cancellation platform fitted to the Px7 S2 is one of the very best around that doesn’t say “Bose” on it somewhere, Bowers & Wilkins’ decision to carry it over unchanged for the Px8 is understandable. Some users may hanker after more adjustability than the Px8 provides (you’re restricted to “on,” “off,” or “passthrough”), but it seems very unlikely anyone will hanker after more noise cancellation than these headphones achieve. Certainly the drone of an aircraft, as well as the drone of its passengers, is all but eliminated when ANC is switched on.