There are many moot things in a review, inevitably. For example, the Bowers And Wilkins Pi7 headphones can be said to be beautiful, with that metal cylinder sticking out of the ears (and perhaps reminiscent of certain science fiction movies). Or you can say that they are bulky, but even in this case the opinion is subjective, and depends on the shape of the ear. In our case, for example, they are perfect: they stand still, without effort, without pressure, transmitting a reassuring feeling of stability.
Of the Pi7 it can be said that they sound good, and many of those who have reviewed them have done so, from simple amateurs on Amazon to specialized magazines. This is also a subjective opinion, of course, but we might as well anticipate it immediately: they are among the true wireless headphones that sound better than ever, as we have seen in a long test.
Bowers and Wilkins is one of the most famous British loudspeaker and loudspeaker companies: born in 1966, it is a symbol of excellence in every price range, from the cheapest to the top models, even used in Abbey Studios in London. For some time, B&W has opened up to the lifestyle market, with a series of products that are always of great sound quality, but even more refined in design and easier to use. This is also the case with the Pi7, launched in the spring together with a smaller model, the Pi5. Well finished, as expected from a top model, with a not particularly flashy design, inside they are different from almost all competitors; they have a dual speaker system for each ear: a 9.2 mm driver and a high frequency “balanced armature” driver, each with its own separate amplifier. For noise cancellation, but also for the best intelligibility of audio and video calls, each headset also includes three microphones.
By touching the outside of the earphones, you can start or pause playback, change tracks, answer or end a call. The commands work well, but sometimes they are too sensitive and happen to activate them inadvertently. In addition, it is not possible to adjust the volume (you have to ask the voice assistant of the phone) or activate the transparency mode, which allows you to temporarily highlight external sounds, especially voices: to do this you need to use the app.
The active noise cancellation system automatically adjusts the intervention according to the external environment. It is activated with a touch of a second on the left earphone or from the Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app, where it is also possible to exclude the sensor that pauses playback if the PI7s are removed from the ear (by default it is active). The application also includes six different “soundscapes” with noises from nature, but it is not clear what they are used for (reconciling sleep?), While there is no, and it seems inexplicable, an equalizer.
PI7s must be in the case the first time they are connected to a playback device; the procedure is very simple, just press the button inside and start pairing when the light on the outside flashes blue. The next time the connection is established automatically, and a preferred device can be selected from the connection history in the app. In our test, we used them with two Android smartphones, two iPhones, an iPad, a MacBook via Bluetooth, without any problems. The maximum range of the Bluetooth seemed to us a little shorter than usual, about nine meters, but still stable and safe.
A special case
The PI7s have a rather large case than the competitors, but the curved shape allows it to be kept in your pocket without difficulty. It can be recharged wirelessly, or using the USB-C cable included in the package. With fast charging, 15 minutes are enough for two hours of autonomy; the case is capable of charging the earbuds four times, up to 16 hours in total.
The package includes a USB-C – mini jack cable, which transforms the case into an analog digital converter with bluetooth transmitter, useful for example for connecting the Bowers and Wilkins to an aircraft entertainment system or to a game console. What’s more: the case can also be connected via Usb-C to a computer and used as an external sound card, transmitting the signal to the earphones via Bluetooth AptX at low latency, which is the best possible quality for the Bluetooth standard.
PI7s can handle SBC, AAC, aptX Classic, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency and aptX Adaptive codecs (but not LDAC), which means they can play high resolution audio files, if the device they are connected to allows. Device, attention: the Pi7, unlike many even cheaper competitors, do not manage more than one bluetooth connection at a time.
Let’s start with Like a Hurricane by Neil Young, in the masterful live version of Roxy Music. There is everything: the finesse of the percussion, the overwhelming impact of the choir, every nuance of Bryan Ferry’s voice, the sparkling sax of Andy Mackay.
Sails in the Wind by Cosmo, from the last The Third Summer of Love starts with a slow but powerful crescendo, which Bowers And Wilkins reproduce in detail at the beginning, when it is still very far away, but render without any compression when it approaches. The overlapping of rhythms, sounds, effects is well perceived, even if sometimes a pinch of extra clarity would not hurt.
You don’t get the same feeling in Royal Morning Blue, from Damon Albarn’s upcoming album. The voice of the former Blur (and Gorillaz) singer is perfectly intelligible, that hoarse and a little melancholy nuance that makes it so typical is reproduced with delicacy and precision, the words of the text are understood without difficulty. And the percussion is sparkling when needed.
Girl In Amber by Nick Cave, on the cover of Flaming Lips it is a little gem, and Bowers And Wilkins manage to return Nell Smith’s voice perfectly capturing the mix of electronic treatments and the spontaneity of interpretation.
The sound is not colored, but neither is it completely neutral: to us it seemed to tend more towards dark tones, which however translates into an advantage in prolonged use, which does not involve listening fatigue. The Pi7s also play orchestral music well: the wave pattern of the Third Symphony by Henryk Górecki produces massive sonic volumes, which Bowers And Wilkins reproduce credibly (apart of course the lack of physical impact). And, most importantly, managing to isolate Beth Gibbons’ voice very well against the background of the Polish Radio National Orchestra, conducted without rhetoric by Krysztof Penderecki. Spatiality and richness of detail are excellent.
Good performance with calls, especially in reception: the speaker’s voice, on the other hand, is very clear in silent environments, but in extreme situations it tends to be dominated by noises.
What we like
- The sound
- The ability to use them also with the audio system of an airplane or a console
- The stable position in the ears
What we don’t like
- Spatial Audio support is missing
- Noise cancellation is good, but it’s not the best on the market
- You can’t adjust the volume yourself, you need the voice assistant
The PI7s don’t just sound good, they sound phenomenal. If they are compatible with your ears, if the music for you is more than just a background, if you are fascinated by English high fidelity, then the amount required (399 euros), however high, could even become reasonable. Also because with an update to the app it would be possible to introduce both the equalizer and the Spatial Audio, the only two shortcomings of these Bowers And Wilkins. Which for the rest are, from a strictly sound point of view, the best true wireless headphones we have tried.