Model maintenance is apparently high on the agenda for Bowers & Wilkins’ premium in-ears this year. Because compared to version 1 (our review), the new Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 dispense with some ground-breaking new features. On the other hand, their battery life, Bluetooth range and connected app have all been optimised. Is it worth your while to upgrade?
The Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 convinced us in our review with their sound quality and the clever idea of feeding analogue audio signals to wireless headphones via a charging case. The latter feature alone opened up completely new possibilities for integrating True-Wireless headphones into existing (sound) setups.
The differences between the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 and the previous model the Pi7
- Instead of black or white, the new headphones and charging cases come in Satin Black, Canvas White and Midnight Blue
- The battery life of these headphones has been extended to up to five hours. The case continues to provide three cycles of recharging capacity
- The Bluetooth audio connection range has been extended – in optimal conditions – to up to 25 metres
- The new Bowers & Wilkins “Music” app offers management and control of the Pi7 S2 as well as integration of various hi-res streaming platforms
How long do the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2s last?
The Pi7 S2’s battery life, with a maximum of five hours without ANC, is longer than that of their predecessor, but this can’t compete with some rival models of True Wireless in-ears, which offer up to 18 hours of music at a stretch.
Thanks to the quick-charge function, 15 minutes of charging time is enough for another two hours of listening pleasure. Furthermore, the charging case provides an additional battery life of up to 16 hours. Identical in form and function to its predecessor, the charging and storage case can also be recharged wirelessly via induction.
The Bowers & Wilkins Music App
When we tested the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 we found that the Bowers & Wilkins’ new “Music” app not only managed the functions of your registered devices, but it also acts as an integral tool for mobile music listening by skilfully building a bridge to hi-res streaming services such as Qobuz, TIDAL and Deezer, as well as including Soundcloud and the radio provider Tuneln. The whole thing is similar to the concept of Sonos, whose network products link home audio systems quite cleverly and, most importantly, smartly. We have already heard from Sonos that new headphones are to be expected soon (News). Now Bowers & Wilkins also connects its cosmos of audio devices such as TV soundbars, speakers and headphones via an app.
For managing registered headphones such as the Pi7 S2, “Music” offers the most necessary setting options among its small range. I will come back to this in the practical part of this review.
By the way, the app is personalised, so you absolutely need to create an account. Without an account, the headphones can be used (play/pause, ANC, answering calls, etc.), but if you want to use the transparency mode, you need to register.
Here, you can also authorise the available streaming portals with the corresponding account, and you can then happily flick back and forth between the services. This worked fine in our test. Playlists and favourites can also be managed – it will be interesting to see how Bower & Wilkins will further develop this platform strategy.
Bluetooth and codecs: What do the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 have on board?
Like their predecessors, the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 rely on Bluetooth version 5.0, which was released in 2016. In terms of codecs, they again use SBC, AAC, aptX Classic, aptX HD and aptX Adaptive. Qualcomm’s lowest-latency codec, aptX Low Latency, is missing – in contrast to Pi7 version 1. At first glance, this is a pity, but at second glance, the omission makes sense: While all aptX codecs supported by the Pi7 S2 without exception rely on a sampling rate of 48 kHz, aptX LL is only capable of 44.1 kHz. Here, Bower & Wilkins has decided in favour of sound quality, although it is fair to say that the (theoretical) latency of an aptX Adaptive Codec is around 80 milliseconds.
Our opinion, from today’s perspective, was more affected by the fact that the second edition of the Pi7 does not support multipoint. It was not possible to easily switch between two devices, such as a laptop and a smartphone, without an intermediate step. Bower & Wilkins also does not offer pairing of two pairs of headphones to listen to music in parallel (“audio sharing” – as with Apple & Beats). However, I can imagine that this will soon be possible via the Music App and the supported B&W devices, similar to the Sonos multi-room functionality. At least Google’s Fast Pair offers Android phones the fastest possible connection. With devices that are already known, prioritisation can also be defined in the app.
Noise cancelling of the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2
Compared to the previous model, the noise cancelling has not changed as far as I could tell (unfortunately, the Pi7 version 1 was not available to me for comparison). The ANC did a good job in our test; compared to the Apple AirPods Pro 2 or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, the cancellation was not as striking. But there were too many factors in play here, such as the fit of the silicone attachments or the optional use of memory foams.
The integrated transparency mode also did a good job and transmitted voices and acoustic events whether in road traffic or forest (approaching herds of wild boar or e-bike riders) well. Sound changes were marginal or not perceptible during the use of noise cancelling as well as the transparency mode.
The sound of the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2
As with version 1, the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2s feature one dynamic and one balanced-armature driver per side, which together can reproduce frequencies between 10 Hz and 20 kHz
Not much has changed here in terms of sound, and that’s a good thing because two years ago, we gave it a top rating of 5 stars, and the brand-new model earns the same score equally well.
At first listen, the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 were able to match the pleasure of listening sessions of yesteryear, which is why I’d like to repeat the statements I made back then: The new Pi7 S2 also rely on neutral reproduction and present bass with astonishing definition and depth. The midrange is rounded rather than aggressive, and I found the treble to be clear and open.
The Pat Metheny Group has a live recording of “Goin’ Ahead / As Fall Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls”, in which just about everything that can happen musically/acoustically happens, and this requires the music to be rendered by good reproduction systems like the Pi7 S2. Jazz guitars and cascades of piano and synth sounds layer up with percussion and vocal interludes to create a sonic universe that demands the full skill of the playback system. Each melodic line retained its meaning, basses took only the energy they needed, and percussion retained its spatial determination. No acoustic event was suppressed here, and none was exaggerated.
The Pi7 S2’s charging case – a unique selling point
“Wireless Retransmission” is the name Bowers & Wilkins gives to their charging case’s main feature, which – connected to a USB-C cable – can process audio streams via USB audio protocol and transmit them to the Pi7 S2 headphones without loss. This means that HiRes audio files can be played out from a computer, but also from other players via USB – but not the other way round.
The Pi7 S2 also performed well in media production, of course, as you can easily produce audio productions with low latency with these wireless in-ears. Due to the low latency, however, direct monitoring is not advisable because your own voice comes back to your ear a few milliseconds too late.
Another included cable can be used to connect any analogue audio signals via stereo mini jack to USB-C and forward them to the in-ears via the charging case. This is, of course, great for various applications that are otherwise not possible with True Wireless in-ears: Listening to your own music collection via the headphone output of a CD player, watching the in-flight programme wirelessly on a plane, watching TV without disturbing anyone else or even bringing old music players with your once expensively purchased HiRes audio music collection to life – all these things are possible!
The Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 in practice
I used the S2 version of the Pi7 in every conceivable everyday situation. Pairing was quick, and reconnecting with iPhone, iPad, and MacBook went smoothly and without a hitch. The fast pair function also worked well with my Android mobile phone.
Control via the touch-sensitive surfaces worked well. However, volume changes have to be made on the player itself as, unfortunately, the Pi7 S2 does not have gesture control for volume.
Voice control is initiated with a one-second “touch” on the right, while ANC “Off” and “Auto” can be switched on the left. However, the transparency mode can only be activated in the app, as can the level of sound transparency.
After hours and days of wearing and listening, the permanent activation of ANC Auto Mode, including the transparency level in the middle position proved to be the most practical setting for my everyday life. This got me through the day in the best possible way.
The wearing comfort of the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 was very good. However, the earpieces did protrude a little from my ears, so they won’t necessarily suit wearers of hats who should seek out a flatter model. Thanks to IP54, these in-ears (but not the charging case) are dust- and water-proof, but we wouldn’t recommend them as headphones for active people, as their design means they can slip out of the ears when you are running. However, they can certainly handle a leisurely stroll, even in bad weather.
I could not quite confirm the improvement of the Bluetooth connection to 25 metres thanks to a “new antenna design”. Indoors, it was maybe two to three metres further with one or two partition walls, while in open spaces, it was sometimes 20 metres before there was a hiccup in the stream. In my opinion, these values were at a pretty high level.
Speaking of level: The sound quality remained at the highest level and convinced me again, even two years after I first tested the Pi7. The Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 mastered all musical styles and requirements with aplomb – in handling and in sound.
There are two good reasons to choose the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2: Firstly, if you don’t yet have the Pi7 and you want uncompromisingly good sound quality. Secondly, if you want to use the audio transmitter function of the charging case. This opens up many possibilities, such as wireless TV sound or listening to music from your old CD or record collection.
If you love the latest Bluetooth features or need multipoint, the Pi7 S2 from Bowers & Wilkins will not serve your needs. The noise cancelling works well, and the maximum battery life of five hours is ok but is topped by the competitors. However, the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 score 100% in terms of sound and are also a superior accessory for everyday use.
- very good sound
- High-Res audio via Bluetooth
- charging case enables analogue signals and USB audio steaming
- high price
- no multipoint
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamisch + balanced-armature
- Frequency response (headphones)10 - 20.000 Hz
- Weight without cable7 g each, case 47 g
- Cable length80 cm
- Available in black, white and blue
- BT version: 5.0
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Classic, aptX Adaptive, aptX HD
- BT profiles: A2DP v1.3.1, AVRCP v1.6.1, HFP v1.7.1, HSP v1.2
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