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Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: A small leap for sound kind

bowers and wilkins px7 se review headphones leaning against white background
Our Rating :
£378.00 from
Price when reviewed : £379
inc VAT

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e are a slight improvement on an already winning formula – but aren’t a must-have for owners of the originals


  • Beautifully balanced sound
  • Very comfortable
  • Super stylish


  • ANC could be better
  • Not very customisable

The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e are the “evolved” version of the British manufacturer’s five-star PX7 S2 over-ear headphones.

As an iterative update, the evolutionary jump isn’t massive. An upgraded DSP sees slight improvements in the audio and noise-cancelling departments but everything else remains identical.

Just as fitting for fans of neutral sound, the S2e are our pick of the two if you have the choice, remaining one of the most stylish headphones around – even if they probably aren’t worth the investment for owners of the original PX7 S2.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: Price and competition

The PX7 S2e have the same £379 list price as the outgoing PX7 S2, which are still available from a few retailers. The only reason to buy the originals over the upgraded model would be if you’re able to find them at a sizable discount.

The S2e’s price puts them in direct competition with some of the best headphones around. Our favourite over-ears, the Sony WH-1000XM5, originally retailed for similar money but were available for a very appealing £273 at the time of writing. The XM5’s codec support is more limited (but does include LDAC compatibility) and they benefit enormously from exclusive Sony features including Speak-to-Chat and Adaptive Sound Control.

Pricier options include the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, which will set you back £449, and the ubiquitous Apple AirPods Max (£499). Bose’s flagship over-ears offer unmatched active noise cancellation but we felt their look and feel didn’t live up to their hefty price tag. The AirPods Max, meanwhile, are also strong performers where noise cancellation is concerned and benefit from seamless integration into Apple’s iOS ecosystem.

Fans of Bowers & Wilkins should also consider the Bowers & Wilkins PX8. The PX8 are B&W’s flagship over-ear option, offering superior sound quality and a more luxurious build and aesthetic. You’ll be paying quite a bit extra for the upgrade, however, with the PX8 priced at £599.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: S2 vs S2e

The PX7 S2e are the sequel to the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2, which were released in 2022. The key difference between the two pairs of headphones is that the new model uses an upgraded 24-bit digital signal processor (DSP) that takes its cues from the PX8. DSP aside, the specifications of the two models are identical, as you can see in the table below.

PX7 S2PX7 S2e
Battery life30 hrs30 hrs
ChargingFull to flat in two hours; seven hours from 15 minsFull to flat in two hours; seven hours from 15 mins
Bluetooth version5.25.2
Bluetooth codec supportSBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX AdaptiveSBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive

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Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: Design, controls and features

The PX7 S2 and S2e both have a very elegant design. They also have the same tilted, matte ear cups lined with supremely supple padding and this allows them to be worn for hours without discomfort.

A decent level of clamping force meant I could wear them without worrying about them slipping off, too. They still don’t fold but I didn’t find this a problem as I carried them around in the supplied case when not in use.

There’s one very minor difference relating to design worth noting: while the S2 were released in blue, black and grey colourways, the S2e are also available in a rather fetching forest green.

Physical controls are unchanged, with a sliding power button, volume controls and play/pause functionality on the right earcup, and a “Quick Action” button on the left. By jumping into the B&W Music app you can choose to have this button toggle between noise cancellation, pass-through and default modes or, as I had it, summon your device’s voice assistant. There’s also a USB-C port on the right earcup for charging or using a wired audio connection, the latter being something many other headphones don’t offer. In my testing, both models’ controls functioned in the same manner.

Alongside noise cancelling and pass-through features, all other features – discussed in detail in our review of the Bowers and Wilkins PX7 S2 – are present and correct and worked the same during testing.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: Noise cancellation

When comparing the S2 and S2e side-by-side in our bustling office, I noticed a slight uptick in noise-cancelling performance on the S2e. Voices around me and the weekly playlist blaring out from a Bluetooth speaker were more muffled and while the difference wasn’t night and day, the improvement was discernible.

There remains a gap in attenuation effectiveness between the PX7 S2e and class-leading options from Bose and, to a lesser extent, Sony. The chasm isn’t large enough to rule out recommending the S2e; you’ll get plenty of protection, especially with music playing. But it doesn’t match those top performers if that’s your priority.

You might pine for some extra smarts, too. The PX7 S2e only allow you to turn noise cancelling on or off, or use the pass-through mode; there are no adjustment levels or extra features. Sony’s WH-1000XM5, meanwhile, are capable of automatically switching noise-cancelling levels based on your actions and location, which is incredibly useful. While lagging in other areas, the mid-range Sennheiser Accentum Plus offer similar functionality, adapting EQ and ANC based on your location at a sub-£200 price point.

READ NEXT: Best noise-cancelling headphones

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: Sound quality

One of the PX7 S2e’s biggest boons is sound quality. Like the S2, they are articulate performers that retrieve plenty of detail.

Low frequencies are slightly punchier on the S2e than the S2 and trebles are given a little more prominence too. When listening to a variety of musical genres using every codec available to me, I found that the S2e displayed a better balance across the board. I also noticed that the S2e provided me with a lot more headroom, which was especially evident at higher volumes on more instrumentally complex tracks.

Despite these differences, I don’t recommend that S2 owners go rushing out to buy the S2e. Yes, they do sound slightly better, but both are pleasingly neutral and precise, so if you already own the S2 you’re not missing out on too much.

To alter their tuning, there are bass and treble sliders in the B&W Music App, allowing +/- 6dB adjustments, which is limiting by comparison to other rival applications’ multi-band graphic equalisers. Still, it does effectively alter things if required.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e review: Verdict

Just like the PX7 S2, the Bowers and Wilkins PX7 S2e are an impressive set of over-ear headphones. Attractive on the eye, they remain a firm favourite at Expert Reviews in terms of design and also offer superb comfort, appealing neutral sound and decent noise cancellation.

For those who prefer physical buttons over the tap and swipe gestures of the Sony WH-1000XM5, they are an excellent alternative. That said, those Sony headphones offer a much wider range of smart features and better noise cancellation for similar money.

If you’ve already purchased the S2, I don’t think there’s enough change to warrant upgrading to the S2e. You’ll be better served picking up the PX8 or waiting for the next evolutionary leap from Bowers & Wilkins. But with improved noise cancelling and sonic balance, the PX7 S2e are the better pick if it’s a straight shootout.

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