I’ll cut right to the chase: Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earphones At $399, they’re not as thin as your typical earphones, and you probably won’t cut it The best active noise cancellation sprouts in the market.
But for what they are and not what they could be, these are some of the best-sounding headphones I’ve ever listened to, period.
The Pi7 S2 is the second version of Bowers & Wilkin’s flagship earphones, retaining the Hi-Res Audio output of its predecessor is the Pi7 Thanks to Qualcomm aptX Adaptive and the company’s proprietary 9.2mm driver unit in each earbud.
Combined with a high-frequency balanced armature driver and a bit of back-tuning, the Pi7 S2 earphones sound brilliantly, keeping the underlying instruments resonant and distinct while remaining vocals clear-sounding.
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I’ve tested the earbuds across several genres and found myself back in the ’70s because of Perry Como’s And I Love You So. This turned out to be the ideal path for evaluating the Pi7 S2’s audio system, which proved to be very capable. From the percussive chords filling out the background to the heightened presence of the horns, the Pi7 S2 was able to reproduce the sound layer upon layer in a harmonious fashion. No musician ever beats the other.
This V-shaped sound signature isn’t the easiest to achieve, especially before you touch the equalizer or set an audio profile. In fact, you couldn’t tweak the Pi7 S2’s audio settings even if you wanted to, not in the Bowers & Wilkins Music app, at least. The companion app only allows you to switch between noise canceling modes and other simple playback settings.
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New to the Pi7 S2 this year is improved battery life — the earbuds are now rated for 5 hours of playback (up to 4 hours) per charge — and an increased Bluetooth range of up to 25 meters. Together, you get upgrades that aren’t as flashy as one would expect from a next-generation model, but do bring quality-of-life improvements to the everyday experience.
The rest of the Pi7 S2 experience is a replay of what the Pi7 was, and I’m not complaining. Installing the earbuds still required a twist-and-lock mechanic; And the charging case with its rounded corners, while taller than other mounts, slips easily into a jeans pocket, backpack, or tote bag and holds the dual purpose of being an audio transmitter.
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That’s right — besides keeping the speakers powered up and ready, the charging case doubles as a wireless adapter, like a dongle that you plug into your Nintendo Switch or in-flight entertainment system so you can Pair the earphones with it. I found the feature particularly useful when connecting the Pi7 S2 to a device gaming computer, which suffers from occasional wireless audio loss when the system spends its bandwidth processing graphics above all else. Why don’t more wireless earbuds have this feature?
As I mentioned at the beginning, the The Pi7 S2 price point is $399 is what essentially prevents the Pi7 S2 from being an impulse purchase. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great, and it tops off the output AirPods Pro from Apple, $250 and the $230 off Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro which I usually use. But are they $150 better? I don’t think so, unless you value raw, high-quality audio playback above better active noise cancellation and have a use for the charging case’s audio transmitter function.
To Bowers & Wilkins’ credit, they now also offer the Pi5 S2, which was tested by ZDNET’s Christina Darby. The earphones are $100 less than the Pi7 S2, don’t have audio transmission functionality, and rely on a single driver instead of dual drivers. From what Christina heard, the sound coming from the Pi5 S2 is as crisp as an autumn day. Every guitar chord is vocalized and I was able to hear background vocals that had gone unnoticed for dozens of previous listens. From what I hear, it is Pi5 S2 It may be the better buy of the two for most users.