Bowers & Wilkins updated its premium P7 headphones, adding sumptuous bass while cutting the cord from the yesteryear model that the Wireless edition replaces. Originally introduced in late 2016, the P7 Wireless delivers a pleasing comfortable and pleasing experience—like its wired predecessor—thanks to an over-the-ear design, luxuriously supple leather trim and the company’s minimal, yet, sturdy metal design.
Larger than the P5 Wireless that we recently reviewed, Bowers & Wilkins addressed some of the complaints from its smaller sibling, making the P7 Wireless one of the most comfortable headphones for long listening sessions. If you’re a fan of Bowers & Wilkins’ designs or have used the wired P7 in the past, you’ll find plenty to love with the larger Wireless version.
At $399, wireless connectivity comes at a $50 premium over the wired counterpart, but it’s not just cables that you’re giving up for the higher cost. In fact, the wired and wireless editions of the P7 offer different sound experiences. There are some notable improvements that the more expensive Wireless option offers, making its price difference justifiable.
With a design largely unchanged since the wired P7 was introduced in 2013, the wireless model boasts the same signature black and chrome aesthetics with exposed metal and leather. While some may bemoan the lack of design evolution, this really isn’t a bad thing—the P7 was an already beautiful set of headphones with premium materials. Leather surrounds the headband and earcups, which are cushioned with memory foam for extra comfort at the updated Wireless edition.
The memory foam helps to alleviate fatigue, especially when wearing the P7 Wireless for long periods. I had the headphones on close to eight hours continuously during a work day, and I had no issues with discomfort. However, because the earpads are surrounded by soft leather, your ears do get sweaty after a while, a problem common with headphones with leather earpads and not specific to the P7 Wireless’s design.
Whereas the smaller P5 Wireless offer a swiveling earcup design, allowing the headphones to lay flat for travel, the cups fold in on the P7 Wireless for portability. Although this reduces the overall footprint the headphones occupy in a bag, the folding design takes up a bit more space than the flatter travel design of the P5 Wireless. A soft, quilted U-shaped leatherette carrying case with contrast edge stitching is included, but at this price range, I would have loved to see a hard-sided travel case.
Like the P5 Wireless, the design is clean and minimalist. You have a small strip of three buttons for tactile control of music playback, discrete holes for the microphones—you can use the P7 Wireless to answer a call when you have it connected to your smartphone—and a power toggle. Slide the power button to turn it on or power the headphones down, and you can push in on the button to make the headphones discoverable to other Bluetooth devices nearby. The top and bottom music control buttons are used to adjust volume, while the center button is used to start or stop music playback. You can also use the middle button to answer a call or even activate Siri on your iPhone.
The earpads attach to the rest of the headphones via magnets, and they can be removed with a tug. This makes it easy to replace the earpads when the memory foam and cushioning wear out over time, and removing the earpads also exposes the audio jack connection to attach the 3.5mm headphone wires to convert the P7 Wireless into a wired set of headphones.
Given its target at the premium segment of the headphone market, the exposed cables on the headphones are reinforced and covered in a nice fabric material, while the bundled audio cable to convert the P7 Wireless into a set of wired cans is finished in a soft rubberized coating.
The P7 Wireless model delivers more punchiness with larger transducers and what sounds to me like a more refined tuning of the headphones. With two full-range 40mm drivers, Bowers & Wilkins claims that the headphones offer a frequency range of 10Hz to 20KHz.
Audiophiles listening to classical music will be drawn in with the new focus on bass, something that was lacking on the P5 Wireless and the old, wired P7 headphones. With an emphasis on bass, I was able to hear the throaty, raspy vocals and the reverberations from the beats of drums.
Lower notes were punchy and responsive, and you’ll get more a more natural bass response than some competing overly-tuned headphones. Still, at times, the P7’s bass delivery felt a bit heavy, but for the most part, B&W’s tuning still sounds refined and is delivered in a tasteful way.
I tried the P7 Wireless over the last few months with various music genres ranging from classical to country, rap to R&B and dance and electronic. The Wireless edition retains the wired version’s clarity on the mid and high notes. Vocals popped with emotion and clean mids made you feel like you’re at a concert hall.
As a wireless headphone connected over Bluetooth, the aptX standard sounds clear, but you do lose some of the detail that came from being tethered with an audio cable. Fortunately, you do have the option of going wired or wireless with the P7 Wireless, and given how rich the wireless experience is, most people will likely choose to go wireless when out—during a commute or walking about town, for example—and saving the wires for when you’re really looking to blow your ears away.
Unlike headphones with active noise cancelation technology—like select models from Bose, Samsung and Sony—the P7 Wireless comes with noise isolation to help block out the world around you.
The memory foam—which helps cushion your ears for more comfortable wear—also serves to surround your ears and seal them off from the outside world. I found that a little bit of ambient noise leaked in when listening at low volumes, but mid and high volumes generated enough sound to overpower any noise from the environment.
As an example, when I played music through my headphones, the crying of a baby in the seat behind me on the train quickly becomes muted, and the cries sounded like they came from a distant. Even though I could still hear the cries, the baby became much less bothersome. The closed back design of these headphones also means that whatever music you’re thumping to won’t be heard by those around you.
While the aptX protocol delivers audio fidelity that is nearly as good wireless when compared to wired listening, the Bluetooth connection itself did cut out and in while I was listening to the P7 Wireless. I found the Bluetooth connection to be fickle at times, and music playback drops if I am moving phone around from pocket to pocket, or if I leave my phone in one room and step into an adjacent room.
That said, the connection always picked up and I never had to re-connect with the headphones from my smartphone’s settings. It’s just reliability and range feels limited for a premium headphone from Bowers & Wilkins.
Bluetooth connectivity seems more reliable than on the P5 Wireless, but it didn’t match the Master & Dynamic MW60, which costs $150 more than the P7 Wireless. Bluetooth stability isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Bowers & Wilkins’ headphones, and it’s an issue I’ve encountered on a few other brands that I’ve tested.
For Master & Dynamic’s price premium, there’s also more color options for personalization with the MW60, whereas the P7 Wireless is available in any color you want, to paraphrase Henry Ford, as long as what you’re seeking is black.
Given that there’s a lot to love about the P7 Wireless’s sonic experience, Bowers & Wilkins has, thankfully, blessed the headphones with long battery life for a cordless listening experience. The audio company lists the headphones at 17 hours of battery life, and the cans can easily be recharged with a standard micro USB cable.
In my experience listening the headphones from several hours to almost a full working day, I lasted for a full work week of listening on a single charge. If you deplete the battery, you can still connect the audio wires—if you carry those with you—and listen with the cables. Likely, however, you’ll deplete your phone’s battery before your headphones run out of juice.
In the P7 Wireless, Bowers & Wilkins took the stunning good looks of the P7, cut the cord and injected punchy, yet controlled, bass tuning. It’s a set of headphones that impresses, with stunning sounds across the highs, mids and lows in a stylish, premium package with metal and leather.
Even with punchier tuning, the P7 Wireless manages to sound natural and convincing, delivering a wide soundstage and pleasing listening experience. There’s comfort in the familiarity of B&W’s high-end design aesthetics, and the experience will please even discerning audiophiles.