Less race car, more luxury vehicle
“Inspired by race cars.” A bold statement made by Bowers & Wilkins about their new PX5 headphones seems not only bold and intimidating but also a little bit extreme.
Sure, luxurious as Bowers & Wilkins can be, and so the same can be said about their target demographic, a sports car never really strikes the image of luxury in our minds. Instead, visions of an F1 race car spring up, which these headphones bear no resemblance to.
It’s quite the marketing catchphrase, although after spending some time with the headphones, we have realized that they are less “sporty,” like an F1 car, and more luxurious like a Bentley.
So, let’s take a deeper dive into our in-depth Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Review to get a better idea…
Out the box
Considering these headphones are not as expensive as some of their higher-end products, we were still impressed by the packaging. It feels premium, as it should, and the semi-hard carrying bag is a great addition. It all looks and feels premium, like unboxing an Apple product.
Inside there is also an included USB-A to USB-C that is fast charge capable. There is also an option for wired playback with the included 3.5mm cable.
The PX5 looks good, and both color variations are tastefully designed. A lot of the build materials are premium materials like carbon and aluminum, but you can find some plastic parts on the headset like the earcup yokes that keep the earcups in place. The plastic parts are coated in a matte-finish, giving it a premium feel and makes it blend in a little easier.
The outer edges of the ear pads and headband are both made of a soft mesh fabric. These imitate the same feeling that you would get from a luxury car seat, which is kind of the design aesthetic of the headphones anyway. These mesh fabric parts are in the accentuated colors, giving a two-tone vibe to the headset, especially if you go with the blue option.
The outer cups are made of metal and have the classic Bowers & Wilkins lettering on them. The text is raised; it looks and feels great.
The inner earpads are covered in leatherette, like most modern headphones these days. These are on-ear headphones, which should be noted. They do not go over your ears and instead will push your ears back, which could cause a lot of ear sweat, especially in warm climates. If you can get past the extra heat, you will find that they are nicely padded and soft.
The only design issue we really had was the headband. Depending on how large your head is, you will find different degrees of success. The headband was on the tight side for us since the earcups did not extend down far enough to find a comfortable fit. This means that if you have a large head, they might not even fit you, so bear that in mind.
Connectivity and features
The PX5 comes with Bluetooth 5 connectivity, which means you won’t ever have connection issues with these. Walking around the office and house was a breeze, and we never had any interruptions, even when going into a different room. As mentioned before, if wireless is not your thing, these still have wired support with a cable included.
The headphones also come with hi-res codec support for aptX, aptX HD, and aptX adaptive. This is great if you enjoy streaming hi-res music off of apps like TIDAL or Deezer wirelessly.
Long battery life…
Charging is done via USB-C, and the device supports fast charging, which is a major plus in our books. The headphones can go on wirelessly for 25 hours before running out of battery. That makes them the perfect long flight or road trip companion.
Another excellent feature is the on-head sensing feature, which pauses music when you take the headset off and plays it again when you put the headset back on again.
The active noise canceling is nowhere near that of the Sony WH-1000XM3 or XM4. It does isolate some low rumbles from the air-conditioning, wind, and cars, but anything in a higher register is still audible.
Everything you love about the Bowers & Wilkins sound is still here. It’s a warm, buttery smooth tone that suites all genres well and should appease any listener. These aren’t studio monitors, so don’t expect to be able to pick apart every fine detail in a song. Instead, expect a pleasant, inoffensive listening experience that is virtually flawless with no abrasive frequencies, grain, or harshness.
However, we would have liked to see some sort of option for audiophiles to get a more neutral tone out of the headphones. Sure, if you use a second-party equalizer, you can sculpt a tone that suits you, but with such well-crafted and sounding headphones, we would have loved to hear what a neutral mix sounds like on them. Oh well.
The low end sinks its teeth in deep. Providing a low, tight rumble that is particularly present when listening to EDM or Trap. These headphones really do well when the bass is harsher, louder, and longer. Where it does start to show some weakness is with genres like funk and rock, where the bass isn’t always mixed as heavy-handedly as something like EDM.
It’s also important to note that these are on ear, which definitely has an effect on how the bass sounds in your ears. Isolation is good, but not as good as with a pair of over-ears, closed back headphones, which has an effect on how prominent the bass comes through.
This is where the warmth of the headphones really comes through. The mid-range frequencies are beautifully accentuated with strings and guitar sounding full-depth and warm as if it is being played right in front of you in the room.
The laid-back nature of the headphones really suits the lower-mid range frequencies, which is where that extra warmth comes from. The upper-mid range frequencies, although not boosted as much as the lower-mid, they still sound great, albeit a little bland. This makes music genres like classical, where a lot of strings and piano sits at the higher register, sound a little boring or lifeless.
The mix seems to have turned down the high-end a little bit since not only is the upper-midrange frequencies lacking, but the high-end as well. It’s not completely gone, but just missing something. Cymbals don’t sound shiny or bright but instead seem lifeless and without detail.
That said, for general consumers, this might be preferable. Especially if you do not like the harshness that comes from a bright cymbal crashing.
Considering again, these are closed-back, on-ear headphones, the soundstage is pretty decent. No, they are not as good as open-back, over-ears, nothing is. But if you just want to relax and pop on some tunes, you won’t find these lacking any clarity or stereo separation. Everything seems to be where it should be, albeit in a tighter room than usual.
Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Review Pros and Cons
- Great, warm sound.
- Hi-res audio codecs.
- ANC is not good.
- Small design can be uncomfortable.
Looking for more superb headphone options?
If so, check out our in-depth Skullcandy Indy True Wireless Review, our SteelSeries Arctis 7 Review, our KG K240 Studio Review, our Sony MDR-7506 Review, or our Monolith M1060 Headphone Review for amazing headphones you can buy in 2021.
Or take a look at our reviews of the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Karaoke Microphones, the Best Wireless Workout Headphones, the Best Waterproof Headphones for Swimming, or the Best Keyboard Amps currently on the market.
Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Review – Final Thoughts
If you are looking to join the Bowers & Wilkins family, but don’t want to pay up for one of their premium headphones like their PX7 headset, then this is a great first buy, if it fits. The small-ish design can be a turn off, especially if you have a big head like us.
If it does fit, though, you’re in for an excellent listening experience with a warm, full sound. The long battery life and fast charging are also big plus points for us.
Considering it’s priced very close to the WH-1000XM3 and XM4, it boils down to what you want. If you want the best ANC, Sony’s options are better. But if you want a better-sounding headset, Bowers & Wilkins have you covered.