Headphone wearers are divided into two camps: the in-ear fans and the rest. While some folks hate having something in their ear canal, for other’s its the only way to go when you want to be discrete—or if you’re trying to block everything out. I’ve recently gotten the chance to try out some headphones from Bowers & Wilkins, and this week I’m reviewing the new PI7 in-ear true wireless headphones. I’ll tell you what the fit feel and sound quality is like, about battery life, and if these have any special features. And I’m going to give you a bit of a spoiler here because these headphones do have one remarkable feature: They will connect with any TV or other device with an Aux jack or USB-C output for wireless headphone listening.
Review: Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds
Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds
The sound quality is outstanding, the looks and styling are beautiful, and the special features including the ability to stream audio from televisions and other devices is an absolute game changer. I can see these headphones being a must have for a lot of folks, simply for that media streaming ability alone. When they find out the PI7 are also amazing sounding, multiple charging options, noise cancellation and pass-through, and they’re comfortable, they’ll be wowed as I was.
- Sounds great
- Connects to TV, streaming device
- Wireless & fast charging
- Noise cancellation + passthrough
- Battery life could be better
These headphones are quite attractive; the pair I got is black, and silver and the overall look is sleek and minimalist. Brushed metal elements give the PI7 a high end look and feel.
The earbuds are kind of bullet shaped, with brushed silver tops. They do stick out of the ear noticeably, but they feel secure. Different sets of ear tips in the box let you get a good fit.
These are IP54 waterproof and dust resistant meaning they should be very durable.
Set up and pairing
The Bowers & Wilkins PI7 should be in pairing mode when you open them up for the first time. If by chance they’re jot or you want to connect them to another device at any time, just push the small Bluetooth button inside the lid near the status light. When it flashes blue, you can hit your phone’s Bluetooth settings and tap to connect. I was paired and listening in under a minute.
To get access to some of the headphones’ features you’ll want to also download the Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app from the App store or Google Play.The app will probably recognize and find your headphones right away, as it did for me.
Inside the app you can view battery percentage, noise cancellation status, adjust audio passthrough or access Soundscapes (more on all this later).
Sound quality: Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds
I was extremely impressed by the sound quality in these earbuds. They come across as very well balanced and allow a lot of nuance through in the music. The bass is strong and vibrant, and there’s no discernible lean towards either the high or low end. I checked out a variety of music on the PI7, from jazz to rap, pop to punk and everything sounded great. I really enjoyed the overall listening experience.
Streaming Connections/Audio Retransmission
These headphones will allow you to connect wirelessly to audio from other source devices, like a laptop, airplane audio outlet, or even a TV streaming box (if it has the right connection) and pipe it directly into your headphones. To do this you’ll need to connect the included USB-C or 3.5 mm aux cable to the case and the source device.
The charging case for the PI7 acts as a streaming dongle, and will pipe whatever audio it’s physically connected to into your earbuds. I tried this with a TV and it’s remarkably effective. These headphones are an absolute game-changer for anyone who doesn’t have a televsion with Bluetooth, but who wants to listen to the TV without disturbing others.
I haven’t had the chance to ever try out a feature like this before so I’m blown away by how effective and easy it is.
The PI7 also has Wear Sensing which is quite responsive and smart. When I’d pull our an earbud to hear what’s happening around me, the music automatically stops. Put it back in and the music resumes. This feature was a welcome addition to the headphones, and it worked very well.
There is imbedded touch controls in the top of each earbud, and they actually worked quite well.
You can tap once on either earbud to play or pause your music twice to skip the next track or three times to go back. Tap either earbud wants to answer an incoming call or twice to reject or end an incoming active call. If you want to access the noise cancelling press and hold the left earbud to toggle this on or off. Pressing and holding the right earbud Will summon or dismiss your voice assistant of choice.
Noise cancellation and Pass-Through
How’s the noise cancellation & passthrough?
These headphones have both noise cancellation, which is supposed to block out almost all sound using digital signals designed to listen for and cancel out exterior noise, and what’s called Pass-Through which allows you to control some audio coming into the headphones. The Noise cancellation in these headphones is either on or off.
For me the truest test of earbuds like these is to use them without any audio playing; it lets you really see how good the noise cancellation is, since it’s not surprising that with music playing it’s easier to block out external sounds.
The noise cancelling on the PI7 is actually pretty good, and a bit better than the noise cancelling on the PX 7 headphones I tested previously. There is a bit more of a muting, and it’s possible to almost hear the low digital whisp of sound that helps cancel outside noise. OF course, the passive sound isolation from the earbuds’ tight fit also helps.
I’ve had the opportunity to test a lot of noise cancelling so I know its possible to have a perfect cone of silence (my top noise cancelling pick. Right now is Apple AirPods Max) I’d say the PI7 cancel out 80-85% of outside noise, while the AirPods Max get to about 90-95%.
An Auto mode or adaptive noise cancelling option, which claims to automatically adjust the noise cancelling to the sounds around you didn’t seem to my ears to to make any kind of adjustments based on external noise.
Pass-Through worked a lot better. I was easily able to hear around me as the headphones piped in ambient sound that would otherwise not get through the earbuds’ seal. That external audio does come with a bit of an ambient hum, but this is not uncommon in pass-through.
Battery life & charging
The battery life in the PI7 is what I’d call average to low, and it’s here that they lose a few points for me. With just 4 hours in the buds and 16 hours in the recharging case, these aren’t breaking any records when it comes to longevity. Even so, there is both fast charging (15 minute charge = 2 hours battery) and wireless Qi charging too.
Overall review: Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds
Overall I am blown away by these earbuds. The sound quality is outstanding, the looks and styling are beautiful, and the special features including the ability to stream audio from televisions and other devices is an absolute game changer. I can see these headphones being a must have for a lot of folks, simply for that media streaming ability alone. When they find out the PI7 are also amazing sounding, multiple charging options, noise cancellation and pass-through, and they’re comfortable, they’ll be wowed as I was.
So what are the downsides?
For me it’s the battery life. While you’re getting kind of an average battery in these headphones, I would like to see Bowers & Wilkins take it to the next level by delivering even more battery power in future generations.
I can definitely recommend the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds to you… and these are definitely going on my list of top 5 favourite new headphones.
They sell for about $399USD/$499 which does put them in the higher end range, but for me these are worth it.
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