Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones review

The high performance Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Bluetooth headphones bring studio grade sound home… at a price

Bowers & Wilkins Px8
(Image: © Bowers & Wilkins)

Louder Verdict

They may be disturbingly expensive, but with the Px8, Bowers & Wilkins has produced audiophile grade headphones that merit flagship status. Offering superb resolution, controlled bass and a mid-range that rocks, they set a high benchmark. Design and finish are commensurate with the price tag. The only niggle is they don’t fold down, which brings some practical challenges, but that’s a small price to pay for such finesse.


  • +

    Rounded musical performance

  • +

    Stylish design

  • +

    Excellent battery life


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    Your friends will think you’ve won the lottery

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    They don’t fold down

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Bowers & Wilkins Px8 over-ear headphones are a force to be reckoned with in the world of head-fi audio. These high-end headphones boast premium craftsmanship, with a sumptuous padded Nappa leather headband and ear cups and deliver an appropriately rich sonic performance.

Much of their clarity can be attributed to bespoke 40mm Carbon Cone drive units, which take inspiration from Bowers & Wilkins' reference-quality loudspeakers. These offer controlled, accurate bass, superb vocal tonality and a veritable treasure chest of toppy treble detail. Proprietary Digital Signal Processing ensures 24-bit high-resolution sound from supporting streaming services.

The Px8 employ Qualcomm’s aptXTM Adaptive wireless technology, for hi-res streaming with low latency. They also have effective active noise cancelling, efficiently silencing intrusive ambient hubbub on the daily commute while battery life is impressive, topping out 30 hours. 

Read on for a more in-depth look at what you can expect from the Bowers & Wilkins Px8.

Bowers & Wilkins Px8: Design

With their heavily padded Nappa leather headband and ear pads and chrome trim, the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 look unapologetically premium. The fit is snug but comfortable, and those earpads are soft and inviting. 

Available in black or tan / grey colour variations, the Px8 are a tad chunky but actually weigh a reasonable 320g. While the aluminium hinge allows the pads to be laid flat, they don’t fold down, which means they’re a bit of a handful to manage in transit. 

They ship with a discus-style carry case, a 1.2m USB-C to 3.5mm stereo jack, and USB-C cable.

Bowers & Wilkins Px8: Features

Rather than resort to touch controls, physical buttons are provided on the right ear cup. There are Bluetooth, volume, and transport controls, with a Customisable button on the left ear cup. 

Noise cancellation is the key feature attraction and it comes with ambient pass through. There’s also a simple wear detection sensor, while Bluetooth compatibility is good with support for aptX, aptX Adaptive, hi-resolution aptXHD, SBC, and AAC (but not LDAC).

You’re unlikely to run out of juice when out and about with the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 as battery life is a generous at 30 hours with noise cancelling engaged. If you're in a rush and in need of a quick top up, then a 15-minute charge will give you a whopping seven hours of play time.

Setup for the headphones is via the Bowers & Wilkins Music app where you can adjust EQ or configure your preferred level of noise-cancelling. You can also use this to connect to music streaming services directly, and that includes Deezer, Qobuz and TIDAL.

Bowers & Wilkins Px8: Sound

Bowers & Wilkins Px8: Woman listening to music on a pair of Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

The staccato slam of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name’ is velvet edged and spacious. The track isn’t content to just sit between your ears, it slam dances around your head. One thing I realised very quickly is that these headphones like to be played loud, sounding ever more dynamic as you crank the volume. I was happy to oblige.

The staccato slam of Rage Against the Machine’s’ Killing In The Name is velvet-edged and spacious. The track isn’t content to just sit between your ears, it slam dances around your head. One thing I realised very quickly is that these headphones like to be played loud, sounding ever more dynamic as you crank the volume. I was happy to oblige.

The heart and soul of the Px8 is provided by their bespoke 40mm Carbon Cone drive units, inspired by the brand’s reference-quality loudspeakers. They’re a big upgrade on the paper cones used by the similar looking Px7. Bowers & Wilkins' engineers have angled these carbon drive units to ensure a consistent distance to your ear from every point across the surface of each driver. The benefits can be heard in the scale of the soundstage they create.

This uniformity of delivery works well with the drop C riffing of Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness. The track applies inexorable pressure, yet that opening animalistic, ‘ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah’ chatter sits cleanly apart. Very impressive.

I love the simple musicality of the Px8s too. They’re as happy grinding out Pantera’s 2012 remaster of Walk, as they are playing the wistful elegance of Steely Dan’s Home At Last. The guitar on the latter, partnered with Gary Katz’ sublimely produced saxophone, sounds exquisite.  

Can the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 hold things together when things get complicated? Of course! Creeper’s Cry to Heaven is layered like filo pastry, and these headphones don’t miss a crumb.

Bass performance is considered in the best sense. The Px8 can certainly drop deep, but they never sound sluggish. Hot Milk’s Over Your Dead Body lands low blows like a featherweight with scant regard for the Queensbury rules. It’s a knockout.

Noise cancelling is up there with the very best, effectively closing the door on intrusive ambient sounds. The headphones use six microphones, two of which react to ambient noise while two more measure the output of each drive unit. The final pair are assigned voice clarity duties. 

As an aside: if you run the headphones without noise cancelling, you’ll notice a subtle uplift in treble. Try it, you may like it.

For those that want to tweak, the Bowers & Wilkins app offers Environmental Control and Pass through noise cancelling settings. You can also quickly set quality thresholds for Data and Wi-Fi streaming, or manually alter treble and bass levels.

Bowers & Wilkins Px8: The alternatives

The Bowers & Wilkins Px8 may operate at the rarefied end of the market, but there’s no shortage of impressive competition. The Shure Aonic 50 are a stylish alternative, with leather-padded headband and similarly chunky earcups. They’re heavier at 334g and like the Px8, don’t fold flat. However, their sonic performance and noise cancelling is comparable - and they're also considerably cheaper.  

Also earning a hard recommendation from me are the JBL Tour Mk2. More comfortable than either the Px8 or the Aonic 50, they’re well balanced and exciting to listen to - and again they undercut the Px8 by some margin.

Steve May

Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist who contributes to a variety of UK websites and mags, including Louder Sound, Yahoo UK, Trusted Reviews, T3, The Luxe Review and Home Cinema Choice. Steve began his career as a music journo, writing for legendary rock weekly Sounds, under the nom de plume Steve Keaton. His coverage of post punk music was cited in the 2015 British Library exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, as a seminal influence on the Goth music scene.