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Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Top-notch sound but at a price

Our Rating :
£349.00 from
Price when reviewed : £349
inc VAT

The B&W Pi7 S2 improve on their predecessors and sound fantastic but are a bit of an outlier in the current true wireless climate


  • Premium sound quality
  • Luxurious appearance
  • Bluetooth transmitter functionality


  • Noise cancellation is middling
  • Fit can be fiddly
  • Very expensive

I was very fond of the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 when they launched in early 2021. They paired exceptional sound quality with gorgeous design and brought something truly innovative to the table: the ability to use their charging case as a Bluetooth transmitter. The second-generation Pi7 S2 use the same formula but have improved Bluetooth stability and range, better battery life and have received a new lick of paint.

You’d think those upgrades would ensure the S2 were a big success, but the true wireless landscape has changed a lot in two years. Bluetooth retransmission is no longer unique to the Pi7 series, better noise cancellation can be found elsewhere and the S2 lack many of the customisation options offered by their rivals. Lingering issues surrounding the fit and a price tag that dwarfs much of the competition don’t help either, especially at a time when people are seeking to cut costs.

They may still be some of the best-sounding and best-looking wireless earbuds around, but the B&W Pi7 S2 aren’t quite as easy to recommend as their predecessors were at the height of the pandemic.

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: What do you get for the money?

The Pi7 S2 cost the same as the first-generation model and are among the most expensive earbuds on the market at £349. That’s significantly more than you’ll pay for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (£280), Apple AirPods Pro 2 (£250) and Sony WF-1000XM4 (£250), all of which feature in our roundup of the best wireless earbuds.

It’s a price that’s in line with Bowers & Wilkins’ position as a luxury audiophile brand, however, and little expense has been spared in the Pi7 S2’s construction. The design is near identical to that of the Pi7 and, while a distinct departure from the style popularised by the AirPods, is one that encapsulates B&W’s brand identity perfectly.

The earbud housings are crafted from matte plastic, with a metal ring separating them from reflective discs that house the S2’s touch-sensitive panels. They come with an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance and you have a choice of three new colourways – Satin Black, Canvas White and Midnight Blue – all of which use materials cleverly to create attractive points of contrast.

The Pi7 S2 operate over the same Bluetooth version as their predecessors (5.0), which is slightly surprising given the existence of versions 5.2 and 5.3, both of which support Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Codec support remains impressive, however, with SBC, AAC, aptX and the Hi-Res certified aptX HD and aptX Adaptive all available to those with a compatible device.

The rest of their feature set is very similar, too, with noise cancellation and Bluetooth retransmission the major attractions. Noise cancellation comes in two forms: static attenuation, and automatic attenuation based on the amount of ambient noise in your environment. There’s also a transparency option that lets you control how much of the outside world is piped in, and you can adjust this on a 15-point scale.

Audio retransmission comes courtesy of the charging case and it’s extremely simple to use. Once plugged into your source via the included USB-C to USB-C or USB-C to 3.5mm cables, audio will automatically be streamed to your buds over aptX Low Latency. You can also use it to transmit audio to other B&W headphones, including the PX7 s2 and PX8 over-ears.

The main upgrades from the original Pi7 are to Bluetooth connectivity and battery life. The Bluetooth antennas have been redesigned to improve connection stability, and connection range has been extended to a very impressive 25 metres. On the battery life front, the buds now last up to five hours with ANC turned on, up from the four hours delivered by their predecessors. The capacity of the charging case, which can be topped up wirelessly or via USB-C, is unchanged, however, with a further 16 hours available.

READ NEXT: The best Bluetooth headphones to buy this year

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: What did we like about them?

The Pi7 S2’s greatest strength remains their sound quality. They use the same two-way speaker arrangement as their predecessor, with 9.2mm dynamic drive units working in tandem with balanced armature drivers.

And no matter what kind of content you throw at them, the Pi7 S2 deliver confident, articulate sound. There’s poise and precision in the way they treat complex orchestral arrangements and impressive muscle in their handling of tracks with a greater low-end focus. The bassline on Dr Dre and Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre” bounced along with plenty of punch but was controlled with a very steady hand. At no stage did the low-end overshadow or overwhelm the strings, electric guitar or rapper during Eminem’s verse.

While the Pi7 S2 demonstrate great capability across the frequency spectrum, I was particularly struck by their brightness in the upper registers. They reap the rewards of their use of balanced armature drivers, with treble delivered in crystal-clear fashion, though again, there’s a harmony to the sound; the S2 don’t overextend themselves to the point where they distort or sound forced or harsh.

The soundstage is broad and instrument separation highly impressive, so it never feels like you’re missing out on any key audio information. Quite the opposite, in fact: the Pi7 S2 reveal an immense amount of detail, regardless of musical genre. The layering of vocals, guitars and drums on the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Spellbinding” was cohesive and brought clarity to sometimes hard-to-hear lyrics, while the buds communicated the intimacy and immediacy of the acoustic version of Taylor Swift’s “Lavender Haze” highly effectively.

Few earbuds are as sonically illuminating as the Pi7 S2 and few look as good, either, particularly in their snazzy new Midnight Blue hue. This is a luxury purchase and, to my eyes, the S2 definitely look the part. The gold accents add a touch of class to the aesthetic and the reflective touch surfaces glimmer appealingly when sunlight catches them.

Bluetooth retransmission may no longer be unique to Bowers & Wilkins – LG’s Tone Free T90 are among a handful of other earbuds offering it – but it’s far from commonplace and is seriously useful. While you’re still going to be spending most of your time streaming from your phone, being able to stream from non-Bluetooth sources is a trick well worth having up your sleeve.

READ NEXT: Our favourite over-ear headphones

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: What could be improved?

While I’m a big fan of their sound quality, the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 are a little restrained in terms of sonic output. Their maximum volume doesn’t hit the same heights as many other buds out there, which is a good thing if you’re looking to protect your ears from long-term damage, but there were a few occasions when I was left craving greater volume.

I also have a slight grumble about the fit. In my review of the original Pi7, I noted the size and shape of the buds might pose a problem for users with smaller ears. This remains true although I didn’t have a problem with them and, after a little adjustment, they sat in my ears comfortably.

I did experience another relatively minor issue, however. Bowers suggests you twist the buds in your ears to angle their external microphones downwards so they line up with your incisura intertragica – the small notch above your earlobes. But doing so negatively impacted the in-ear seal and didn’t feel as comfortable, so I had to accept the mics being partially blocked. Fortunately, this didn’t affect how well the S2 picked up my voice on calls in any significant way, but it’s worth noting nonetheless as your mileage may vary.

The two areas in which the Pi7 S2 lose the most ground on other premium earbuds are noise cancellation and customisation. The ANC on the original Pi7 was effective, and it remains so here where low-end frequencies are concerned. But they’re playing catch-up to options such as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Apple’s AirPods Pro 2, which have pushed the envelope in terms of what’s possible with in-ear noise cancellation and attenuate a wider range of frequencies more effectively. They’ll do the job well enough in most scenarios but fail to deliver the class-leading performance you might hope given their price.

The options available in the B&W Music app are rather limited compared with most premium wireless earbuds, too. You can turn wear detection on or off, switch between paired devices and select streaming quality for when you’re using mobile data or Wi-Fi, but that’s it. There’s no way to adjust the EQ, nor are there any EQ presets, and you can’t reassign any of the touch controls.

And while those capacitive controls work well they do omit a couple of key actions, namely volume adjustment and transparency activation, meaning you’ll have to interact with your phone if you want to access everything the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 have to offer.

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Should you buy them?

When the original Pi7 were released, I described them as the best-sounding noise-cancelling earbuds I’d tested. The S2 sound just as good and I can’t think of any buds I’d rather listen to for hours on end.

They’re also among the most handsome earbuds around (if you don’t mind them protruding a little way out of your ears), while the new colourways – particularly the Midnight Blue – only serve to enhance their aesthetic appeal. The improvements to in-ear stamina, connection range and stability are welcome, too, although in the case of battery life, the increase is relatively small.

If exceptional sound is your primary concern and you have no budgetary constraints, I’d recommend the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 very highly. However, they don’t offer the level of customisation you’d expect from modern true wireless earbuds, can’t cancel out external sound as well as market-leading options and cost a great deal more than most of the competition. So, those after a value-for-money package that ticks every box will definitely want to look elsewhere.

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