NewsTechonologyTrending News

How good is the ANC in Bowers & Wilkins’ luxe headphones? I wore them at a live gig to find out

How good is the ANC in Bowers & Wilkins’ luxe headphones? I wore them at a live gig to find out

Bowers & Wilkins is known for its luxury high-end headphones that look as stunning as they sound – we rate its flagship over-ear offering, the Bowers & Wilkins PX8, as the best headphones for design. The one downside is that they only come in black and tan Nappa leather finishes. Not anymore. 

There’s now a brand new color up for grabs, which B&W is calling a “Royal Burgundy” and for good reason too. It’s a beautiful deep tone, and is complemented by new gold detailing on the single-cast aluminum headband arm, which extends to the outside of the diamond-cut earcups.

James Blake at the Tate Modern

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins )

Aside from the new finish, the hardware itself of the PX8s is the same, meaning it still has “oodles of detail, agility and expanse on offer, all underpinned by a gloriously weighty bass” that we fell in love with in our Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review. However, the team at Bowers & Wilkins has upgraded the firmware inside of the PX8 range at the same time as releasing this new color.

The acoustic tuning update is claimed to “ensure even more detail, giving an unparalleled combination of ultra-fast response plus exceptionally low distortion throughout the frequency range” according to B&W. The company is even going as far to say that the PX8 now offer the best sound quality that the company’s headphones have ever delivered.

Hands on with the new burgundy Bowers & Wilkins PX8  

The B&W PX8 at the tate modern

(Image credit: Future)

I was lucky enough to get to try out the newly enhanced burgundy Bowers & Wilkins PX8 headphones the day they were released, but I wasn’t in the best of environments for testing the sound quality in terms of fine detail. You see, I was at the Tate Modern, an art gallery in London, and while you might be thinking a gallery is great quiet space, it wasn’t on this occasion. 

Down in the Vaults of the former Bankside Power Station, Bowers & Wilkins hosted a live gig turned art exhibition with James Blake to celebrate his new album Playing Robots into Heaven. In it, there were two video installations (you can see one of these in the video below) that each had a row of PX8 headphones in front of them. 

The first thing you notice about them is their minimalist design. They have an understated profile about them from afar but as you get close, there’s an undeniable premium flare that is immediately noticeable from the wide earcups that house angled drivers. Even in the dark, the gold detailing of the new color reflected the lights in a way that was simply stunning.

Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing art at the Tate, but the PX8 headphones really did look like sonic sculptures hanging beside each other. Of course, I was able to pick a pair up and try them on – unlike the giant ear/shell-shaped speaker that was in the middle of the room (or most art in general). The first thing that is hard to miss is just how soft the Nappa leather makes them. They’re extremely comfortable and easy to adjust to fit the size of your head – the arm band had a smooth feel to it as you slide it on.

The B&W PX8 headphones at the Tate Modern with James Blake

People wearing the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 headphones at the Tate Modern.   (Image credit: Future)

But what really stood out to me was the active noise cancellation. We said in our PX8 review that we thought this was pretty average, but with the new firmware out, it was good that I really got to put it through its paces at this event, because behind me was the infamous Bowers & Wilkins Sound System that hardly ever gets let out. 

Built more than five years ago as a passion project among sound engineers at the company and said to cost a staggering amount – I’ve been told that the company won’t part with it or make another one even after being offered an obscene amount for it – the system is truly something unique and special.

The Bowers & Wilkins Sound System at the Tate Modern

It’s not a great picture of it, but the Bowers & Wilkins Sound System is truly something special.  (Image credit: Future)

The system is said to be capable of reaching 120dB, so I was basically standing in the middle of a concert. Switching from Transparency mode to Active Noise Cancellation, I heard the voices and music around me fade away until the bass was completely gone. While I could still hear some high frequencies leaking through, everything else was drowned out. 

The ANC was extremely effective considering the environment I was in. Let me tell you, it’s a strange experience, feeling bass vibrations without actually hearing them. But the noise cancellation was effective enough to make that happen. 

I don’t normally wear ear plugs to a concert, even though I probably should considering the ringing I have in my ears afterwards, which is a sign of your ears being damaged (in some cases where you have prolonged exposure to higher decibels this can lead to hearing loss). But this experiment has given me the idea that I could at least protect my hearing between sessions with a pair of the best noise cancelling headphones.   

You might also like

More blog post here