Bowers & Wilkins are committed to always wanting to do things right. Be it the new PX5 the current PX7, or the PI3, which is a neckband in-ear with dual hybrid drivers, the latest aptX adaptive codec, and of course, wireless connectivity via Bluetooth.
Ah & !
First of all, the impressive packaging. Peeling off the massive lid against gentle vacuum resistance reveals the PI3 in all its beautifully designed glory. “Ah!” Breathtaking!
Taking the pleasantly velvety silicone band in your hand, you will immediately succumb to the appeal of the quality that these PI3s exude: be it the metal pushbuttons on the controls or the magnetic earpieces, which, although not exactly delicate, fit well into the overall look of these in-ears, which are marketed as sporty. Furthermore, the box contains the usual selection of extras, such as three pairs of ear moulds, ear hooks, charging cable and a storage bag with snap closure, all contained in an attractive protective foam.
Control & Integration
Not included, but available in the usual stores, is the “Headphones” app, which I immediately installed on my iOS device to be ready for the moment when I switched on the PI3 for the first time. In doing this, I noticed that the key touchpoints – whether the main button or the three control buttons – were not quite as sexy as their appearance first promised. I can’t say exactly what bothered me – but somehow half a millimetre of stroke was missing or the click was a bit too spongy.
The app itself seems not to do very much, but on closer inspection, it is enough. First it looks for the PI3 and then offers to connect it to a second source, in my case a MacBook Pro, which I did and, thanks to Multipoint, I was able to connect two players, allowing me to switch back and forth according to my mood, or to mute the computer while putting a call through on my iPhone.
The app can switch off the voice prompts and perform a software update, but this was not necessary during my test. A good feature was the ability to set a shutdown timer after xx minutes of inactivity. This is a function that I have not found with nearly any other all devices that I’ve tested so far; usually, the product runs through to battery death or initiates a shutdown after an unknown time.
Finally, I can rename the PI3 headphones via the app. I thought I’d call mine “Gunther”. This new name is then displayed in the device list in macOS and in iOS, but only after a Bluetooth restart.
How does Gunther sound?
My first auditory impressions of the newly renamed Gunther PI3 is impressive. Right from the start and without EQ addition, the bass, midrange and treble are set up in such a successful relationship to each other that it is difficult for me to detect any disturbances or negative issues. Full and velvety, fluffy and sublime, dazzling and penetrating. Just name the most beautiful attributes yourself and leave me alone to get on with enjoying listening!
When I listened with the PI3 for a longer time, I noticed a small imbalance in the sound pattern, which was caused by a slightly too present bass, which radiated a slight murmuring into the midrange and treble, and forces them into the background. Of course, this also depends on the music you’re listening to. But if I had to criticize something, it would be exactly this: the bass was a bit too emphasized for me.
Clear and multi-layered, the stage presents itself widely in front of the inner ear, leaving behind the pleasant feeling of wearing the right in-ears, which also make a good tonal impression during sport, i.e. under increased strain.
What is the secret of Bowers and Wilkins?
The dual hybrid drivers (one dynamic full-range and one balanced armature driver per headphone), which are driven by separate amplifiers, deliver thick bass, full mid-range and beautiful treble to your astonished ears. The current aptX adaptive codec, enables streaming of up to 24Bit at 48kHz and generates very little latency, enabling lip-synchronous video viewing.
So the PI3s feel pretty damn good. The optimal isolation of outside noise by the high density helps a lot, especially in the bass range. The fact that Bowers & Wilkins can’t conjure away the sound of footsteps is only mentioned here for the sake of completeness, the vibrations running through the body to these in-ears when firmly placed in the ear aren’t felt any more clearly than with all other tightly fitting in-ears.
Until I made a phone call, I need to mention the remote on the right side of the band only briefly; despite a minimal irritation caused by the spongy pressure point of the three buttons, everything here is fine. While the central button takes over all communication and telephone functions, two additional buttons accurately control the volume.
When I called the editor in chief to inquire about the quality of my voice as transmitted by the microphones built into the PI3, I heard the following: “Somewhat dull” and “Yes, I’m fine” up to “There are better things!”
A few words about the battery life, which with 8 hours is quite decent but not sensational; you have to consider how much battery can be built into a neckband of this size. The charging port comes with an up to date USB C port.
When Bowers & Wilkins do something, they want to do it well. With the PI3, they succeed, but with some slight limitations, which are what such a high-priced product is supposed to address: spongy pressure points, average voice quality during telephone calls, and the somewhat heavy bass alignment of the in-ears overall. The latter in particular could, of course, be judged as a quality feature and not as a defect. That’s why I will give these in-ears a good mark; apart from quality, texture and appearance – which, by the way, all interact very well – the positive sound impressions are more important than my rather petty complaining about the bass. Bowers & Wilkins PI3 are excellent, modern and outstanding sounding in-ears that give the brand-conscious customer what they want: the quality sound and hardware you’ve come to expect from this manufacturer.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principleDual drivers: Dynamic & Balanced Armature
- Frequency response (headphones)10 - 30.000 Hz
- Weight with cable31 g
- Cable length20 cm
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of earpieces (S, M, L)
- 3 pairs of earhooks (S, M, L)
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- Carrying pouch
- available in black, blue and gold
- can also be used as audio interface via USB-C
- BT version: 5.0
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, aptX Classic
- BT profiles: A2DP v1.3.1, AVRCP v1.6.1, HFP v1.7.1, HSP v1.2, BLE GATT (Generic Attribute Profile)