Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones

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Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless ($399)
Oh boy, I love it when a headphone ticks all the boxes and doesn't have a fatal flaw shiv strapped to its ankle ready to strike at an inopportune moment. Yep, the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless is a dandy daily driver for all your mobile headphone needs.

Build Quality and Styling
Ever lust for an ambling bimble through the countryside on a bluebird day with perforated lambskin driving gloves grasping the wood and chrome steering wheel of a vintage English sports car? If you even understood that last sentence, these might be just the headphone for you.

The P7 Wireless has a classic, masculine look appointed in glove leather, anodized aluminum, and chromed steel. The are a few plastic bits visible, like the buttons and baffle plate edges, but to my eyes it's only used when it is, in fact, the best material to use. The only thing even close to a gripe I have is the black leather padded headband is just a bit on the bulky side. This is a terrific looking and well built headphone.

Ergonomics and Comfort
At 321 grams I'd call this a middle weight headphone. Headband pad is ample but slightly too stiff and doesn't conform to the shape of my head, so it does tend to touch a fairly small spot on the top of my head.

Earpads are possibly dual-density memory foam with glove leather covers. Earpad openings are rectangular and a cozy 35mm X 56mm; depth is 16mm. The size was roomy for my slightly smaller than average male pinna, but I do think people with large ears might find them touching. Fortunately, the soft leather interior of the pad is comfy, and the baffle plate is perfectly flat with no pokey features to annoy.

I found the ear pads initially a bit stiff, but as they warm and take on shape they became quite comfortable. Similarly at first I thought the headband touching the top of my head might be troublesome, but I found extended listening reasonably comfortable though present.

Headband adjustment is accomplished with two chromed steel rods on either side sliding in and out of the headband with a friction fit (no detents). I found the slightly stiff friction of the adjustment readily adjustable yet secure when in place.

Front to back ear capsule rotation is elegantly accomplished by the springy action of the gracefully sweeping chrome metal bars of the single sided yoke. Up/down tilt adjustment is effected by a single pivot on the oval aluminum part of the outer earpiece.

In my experience headphone comfort is a fine balance between weight, caliper pressure, earpad fit, and weight distribution across the top of my head. The P7 feels like it is securely hugging my head without excess pressure; though its presence is always felt, it didn't become bothersome over time. It's relatively easy to make a plastic headphone light and comfortable. The P7 is a headphone of substance and high quality materials; I think B&W did an above average job making it comfortable to wear...above average, but not great.

The P7 has hinges on either side of the adjustment rods that allow it to be folded for storage and transport. There is an included carry pouch with magnetic closure. The case provides ample padding to protect the headphones, but is clearly a artificial leather material and is slightly disappointing given the very high quality of the headphone materials. It is perfectly adequate to the task, however.

Also included is a 50" cable for wired, passive use. The player end is a straight, 3.5mm TRS plug; the headphone end is a 2.5mm TRS plug with specially molded strain relief. The headphone end of the cable can be removed and reinserted by removing the magnetically attached left earpad and using the unique jack hidden beneath. I like this design because it provide very good strain relief on the headphone end of the cable and probably reduces the likelihood of damage from an inadvertent yank on the cable.

One downside of this cable for wired use of the P7 is that it doesn't not have the needed connections nor cable mounted mic/remote to allow use as a smartphone headset when in wired mode. Just like the Bose QC35, I think this is a silly oversight. Yes, I know they'd need to offer two cables to be compatible for all phones, but hey, that's not too hard. Tisk tisk.

Wireless Mode
To enter wireless mode on the P7 you must first remove the magnetically attached left earpad with a simple, firm tug, and then remove the cable. The headphones will not turn on with the cable attached. The P7 are charged though its USB port on the right earpiece; charging USB cable is included.

Wireless controls are intuitive and simple. The main power button is a small momentary slide switch on the bottom of the right ear capsule. Momentarily sliding the switch forward will turn the headphones on; pushing the button inward for two seconds instantiates initial pairing.

Three narrow buttons in a vertical row on the rear of the right earpiece provide play, pause, and volume control, as well as phone answering and volume control. These button act exactly as one would assume; a full description of button actions is on page 5 of the P7 manual.

The center control button has a sculpted bump on it, and I found all controls, though visually discrete, were very easy to find and and actuate by fingertip feel. All headphone audio notifications (power on/off, Bluetooth paired, call incoming, etc) are done with pleasent and reasonably indicative chimes. Personally, I like voice prompts, this may be an unusual bias as I have to test so many wireless headphones that I never get used to what the chimes mean, but I always know what the voice prompt means. At any rate I liked the chimes in the P7; thier meaning seemed reasonably intuitive.

Battery life is claimed to be 17 hours, and takes about three hours to charge.

54 Concord Street
North Reading, MA
(978) 664 2870