You can get audiophile-style sounds, but this comes at a price.
Bowers & Wilkins already has a reputation commensurate with a reliable audio brand, so the company is bound to join the competition with a pair of exquisite wireless earplugs. Its audiophile voice can almost infer that you have entered a more luxurious level in terms of quality and performance.
This is the premise of the beginning of PI7, because they are the best Bowers & Wilkins currently. You can use a lot of things out of the box, but you also have to be calm about what is missing, which is why it’s clear who wants to wear them in the end.
At first glance
Bowles Wilkins PI7
Bottom line: Bowers & Wilkins maintains its reputation by using PI7 earplugs to provide superior sound, placing them on the same base as everyone else. The outer shell has a dual purpose and is very useful, but the rest of the package makes you have to compromise.
- Excellent sound quality
- Comfortable fit
- High-resolution audio support
- Excellent call quality
- Housing and cables can be streamed
- Good ANC performance
- No emotional intelligence
- No LDAC
- Average battery life
Bowers & Wilkins $399 Amazon $380 B&H $399
Bowers & Wilkins PI7: Price and availability
Bowers & Wilkins launched PI7 in April 2021, priced at US$399. For the brand, they did not see a sharp drop in prices, except for the strange 5% drop here and there. It is difficult to say whether this change will happen in 2022, but for now, their prices are definitely at the high end. They are available in charcoal or white versions.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7: What’s good
Obviously, Bowers & Wilkins has embarked on a practical route from the beginning to adapt to the original intention of these earplugs. This will explain why the housing and earbuds look larger than your average setting. However, the appearance is a bit deceptive, because the earplugs themselves are not as bulky as they seem. After careful observation, the protruding round part has almost no contact with the inner ear.
This means that the part that does bear most of the weight is, therefore, better than you expected. The design of PI7 also makes it easier to handle touch controls. I found a lot of reliable feedback, including single, two and three taps, and hold to cycle between ANC and Ambient Mode. Overall, this is my experience, but I can see that the build may not be suitable for others. In any case, this case is not big, but it is obviously larger than other competitors, which has a lot to do with the look and feel of the earplugs themselves.
Although the audio fidelity is high, it is not surprising.
With a listen, it’s obvious that the 9.2mm drive is not disposable. B&W engineers pursue a smooth, crisp sound and always maintain balance. The treble and midrange have fine details, while the bass adds the necessary impact, making the music sound rich and vivid. Although the audio fidelity is high, it is not surprising. Part of the reason for this is the excellent Bluetooth codec support, beginning and ending with aptX.
This includes support for aptX HD, aptX Low Latency and aptX Adaptive to add to the AAC and SBC codecs. Unfortunately, there is no LDAC, but adding aptX helps a lot. It provides a higher quality stream and enables some cool features that I will introduce. This is also how you can enjoy high-resolution music wherever available, which is what distinguishes these headphones from other earbuds.
With these parts, they sound more natural than other earplugs, and you can’t make any adjustments unless you feel you need more. The clarity is very good, no matter what genre I listen to, the default sound profile can handle them calmly. I find it easier to notice this with high-resolution content, such as Tidemaster. I know this is very subjective and your ears may not be able to discern the same difference, but if you desire a better sound, these earplugs will indeed strive to achieve this.
I just hope there is an equalizer to further adjust it. Not many earplugs are required to be expensive, even if they are designed in the right way. Tastes vary, and PI7 should reflect this. The sound quality also has a certain relationship with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). It is quite good, but it does not reach the level of Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. They do a good job of suppressing low-frequency sounds, but others do make squeaking noises. Ambient mode can very well introduce these external noises when you need it, and find that it has been working well.
The shell comes with a very cool feature, it can double as a streaming media module. B&W comes with a USB-C to 3.5 mm cable in the box, allowing you to plug the USB end into the case and plug the 3.5 mm cable into the headphone jack on any playback device. The housing then transmits the audio to the earbuds. Very useful for systems without Bluetooth connection, I did manage to make it work with PlayStation 4. One caveat is that connection stability can vary greatly. I have achieved great results with an older iMac, but I have seen unstable cuts on modern Chromebooks.
Not surprisingly, the call quality is very good. You can also pair with multiple devices at once, allowing you to switch between your phone and computer/tablet. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is a weakness here because it is not as durable as the later 5.1 and 5.2 versions. This partly explains why the case may freeze when transmitting audio through a USB-C-to-3.5mm cable.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7: What’s not good
The lack of EQ is one thing, and I do hope that B&W can somehow include LDAC support here. It really makes these earplugs more unique than them. However, on the other hand, adding another codec with power requirements will have a negative impact on the already limited battery life.
Wearing PI7 will not last more than four hours per charge. B&W scored them for four hours, and the other three expenses came from the case. You can quickly charge them for 15 minutes to get up to two hours of playing time, and then put them on the wireless charger or you can charge them in this way. Either way, these numbers are not very good, which does mean that if you listen to them every day, you will often be charged for them. For something so expensive-and a big case-more power would be great.
B&W made these for those who want audio fidelity to surpass all other aspects. As I have already pointed out, in order to achieve this goal, it must sacrifice something to achieve it. I don’t recommend wearing them while running or exercising because they cannot withstand sweat and punishment.This is not a knock on the door, as it is common in high-end earbuds, but if you are looking for good audio, you need to consider and Durability.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7: competition
B&W’s earplugs are likely to compete with the best wireless earplugs, mainly because of their sound quality and the audio transmission capabilities of the housing. With reliable ANC and environment mode, coupled with beautiful design, this bag has many things to like.
But relative to some competitors, their prices should stop you. Sony WF-1000XM4 is also expensive, but at a lower cost, has excellent ANC performance, and provides you with an equalizer to adjust the sound according to your needs. Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless supports aptX Adaptive at a lower cost and lacks some of the same functions as B&W PI7.
Technics EAH-AZ60 is great in many right ways, and considering their cost, it is also worth a look. And you can’t miss the Jabra Elite 7 Pro. It’s more comfortable and calls are clearer. If you want to be active, the effect will be better.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if…
- You hate dangling cables
- You care about audio fidelity
- You want aptX support
- You want active noise reduction
You shouldn’t buy this if…
- You want better battery life
- You need LDAC support
- You want more durability
- You want to spend less money
It’s hard to argue with out-of-the-box voices. It’s just as easy to lobby an equalizer to further personalize the sound. Bowers & Wilkins chose to maintain the status quo, for better or worse. This is not necessarily wrong, but it did stop me when I saw the high price tag. Everything here is about sound and codec support, and unique cases. It is very cool to transmit audio through it, hope we can see something from the whole industry.
If you do get these products, you can expect B&W to continue to provide solid support in the foreseeable future. High-end products should always receive this treatment, and it will be interesting to see where this might go.
Bowles Wilkins PI7
About the sound
Bowers & Wilkins is known for its good sound quality in PI7 earplugs, which becomes clearer when listening to the clarity of the playback. They did a lot of the right things to adapt to this, but you have to accept what is missing on top of the higher price tag.
Bowers & Wilkins $399 Amazon $380 B&H $399