Bower & Wilkins’ P7 wireless headphones are all luxe and great performance

It was announced on the second day of the month, and, well, here it is: The wireless version of Bower & Wilkins’ P7 headphones.

Well, how are they? As great as I’d hoped, but there are some changes that were made that seem out of place. But rest assured: Despite being tailored to the mid and high frequencies, they still have those warm, roomy lows for bass.

Price as reviewed: $399 at B&W

At a glance

  • Impedance: 23 ohms (passive)
  • Bluetooth codes: aptX, AAC, SBC
  • Weight: 323 grams
  • 370mAh battery
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Comes with leather case and audio/charging cables

It’s about luxury and sound

dsc_2565Taking them right out of the box, you’ll understand what you paid for. Leather, metal and plush memory foam ear cups are the basis for the wireless P7’s aesthetic. Like, look at those hinges!

Being worn for extended periods of time, I find that they’re comfortable.

Like, look at those hinges!

You might think this is a very subjective opinion, but over-ear headphone comfort can be boiled down to three points: not causing an immense amount of pressure on the temples; encapsulating the ear (and not resting on it); not leaving a massive imprint (again, pressure) on the top of your head.

A delicate balance between these three characteristics usually means that the headphones can balance themselves on your head, rather than being worn like some sort of audio helmet.

And all of these observations are made using the Bluetooth mode, which is important if you’ve purchased an iPhone 7 recently.

Now, with comfort out of the way, let’s talk about audio quality: It’s what $400 in audio hardware should usually provide. Punchy bass, clarity and a feeling of isolation that is not to be confused with noise-cancelling headphones — after all, these aren’t — but more akin to being in a very quiet room that’s always filled with music. No matter the genre of music, it sounds like it’s been enriched while not losing any of the inherent qualities of the music.

And all of these observations are made using the Bluetooth mode, which is important if you’ve purchased an iPhone 7 recently. Speaking of which: battery life. B&W says the P7 wireless lasts 17 hours, and it turns out they’re not entirely wrong: Depending on whether or not I make calls using the (very solid) built-in microphone, I find myself squeezing out 15 hours of collective — not continuous — usage.

Now that I’ve praised the auditory experience of Bower & Wilkins’ P7 wireless headphones, it’s time to take it down a notch and come to terms with its shortcomings. There aren’t too many, but they are there.

dsc_2591While not an immense setback, the lack of touch-based controls can be considered bland, considering the variety of “clever” solutions that rival companies like Bang & Olufsen and Harman Kardon employ in their higher-end headphones. Here, B&W gives you three rather indistinct buttons: volume up/down and play/pause.

The sliding power button also doubles as the pairing button if you hold it down for three seconds. None of these approaches are inherently wrong or non-functional, but they’re not novel, and not what I expect from a company like Bower & Wilkins.

While some might argue that touch-based controls are hit-and-miss, they’ve become accurate nowadays, even with the threat of wireless interference from the Bluetooth headphones they are mounted on.

Bottom line

dsc_2580-2Now it’s time for honesty: Not everyone is in the market for a $400 pair of headphones. But, if you happen to be, love the color black (which you should) and are conscious about Bluetooth’s inevitable rise (hopefully), then they’re worth a look. Or, perhaps you haven’t a choice, because you bought an iPhone 7; woe is you.

Regardless of what your reasons are for buying into Bluetooth headphones, B&W has a winning product with the P7 wireless. I’ll be glad to keep using them until I find something better.

Or maybe, something with touch controls.