Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 Review

At $399, Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship Pi7 S2 noise-cancelling true wireless earphones cost $100 more than the already expensive Pi5 S2, placing them among the priciest models we’ve tested. For the extra money, you get top-notch tuning and an additional balanced armature in each earpiece that enables superior sound quality. An excellent default audio signature, a solid array of codec support, and a charging case with the ability to transmit audio are all marks in the Pi7 S2’s favor, but the lack of an EQ in the companion app and uncompetitive active noise cancellation (ANC) are disappointing at this high price. We ultimately prefer the Apple AirPods Pro ($249) and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ($299) because they’re substantially more effective at blocking noise and offer more customization options.


Impressive Internals:

Available in black, blue, or white, the attractive Pi7 S2 earpieces have circular outer panels with a metallic finish. They fit securely and feel comfortable even over long listening sessions. You get three pairs of silicone eartips (small, medium, and large) in the package.

Internally, each earpiece houses a 9.2mm dynamic driver and a balanced armature that covers the higher frequencies—each driver also gets a separate amplifier. Unfortunately, Bowers & Wilkins doesn’t share frequency range specs.

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 accessories

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

The earphones support the slightly outdated Bluetooth 5.0 standard. That’s a notable limitation because we sometimes encountered problems when trying to connect the earbuds to the companion app. That aside, they work with the AAC, AptX, AptX Adaptive, AptX HD, and SBC Bluetooth codecs. If you have a compatible Android phone, AptX Adaptive and AptX HD support means you can stream at up to 24-bit/48KHz quality. But the more affordable Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds ($279.99) have the advantage of LDAC support, which allows for an even higher streaming bitrate.

The outer panels of each earbud feature capacitive touch controls. Tap once on either side to handle playback and calls. Tap twice to skip to the next track or three times to go to the previous one. A press-and-hold gesture on the left and right earpieces respectively toggles the ANC mode or summons your device’s voice assistant. The controls are responsive and intuitive, but it’s still easy to accidentally trigger a function when you simply mean to adjust the fit.

An IP54 rating is modest, but typical for noise-cancelling earbuds. The first digit (5) means they are almost dustproof, while the second digit (4) means they can withstand only light water splashes from any direction. They should be fine for sweaty workouts or in light rain, but don’t try submerging them or exposing them to the pressure of a faucet.

The bulky charging case isn’t at all waterproof, so make sure to dry the earpieces before you place them inside. It sports a metallic lid that flips open to reveal the charging docks and a manual pairing button. The front has a status LED and an additional button that enables an innovative audio transmission feature. In essence, you can connect the case (with the included USB-C-to-3.5mm cable) to an external source (such as a touch-screen console on a plane) to stream audio to your earbuds. In practice, we had to turn off Bluetooth on the original device we paired the earphones with to get this feature to work.

Bowers & Wilkins estimates the earbuds can last roughly five hours per charge with ANC off and that the case holds an additional 16 hours of charge. Of course, your results will vary based on your volume levels and use of ANC. These numbers aren’t very impressive, but we’re not surprised that it takes so much power to drive a total of four drivers, each with a dedicated amp. The company claims that you get roughly two hours of playback from 15 minutes of charging, which should at least take the edge off your battery life concerns.


Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 App Experience

The Bowers & Wilkins Music app (available for Android and iOS) is the weakest part of the experience. For starters, we often had trouble trying to connect the earbuds to the app, despite a reliable connection to our test phone. We had to repeat the process several times to get them to appear.

Once you get past that hurdle, the main screen shows an image of the product, along with battery life readouts for both earpieces and the case. Below this, there’s a Noise Cancellation section—you can switch between ANC On, Auto (the ANC adapts automatically to the ambient noise levels in your environment), and Off settings. Further down, you can toggle the ambient (Passthrough) mode and adjust its intensity with a fader.

Bowers & Wilkins Music app:

(Credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Additionally, you can manage device connections, adjust the Wear Sensor settings, and change the audio quality (standard, medium, high, or highest) for both cellular and Wi-Fi streaming scenarios. For people who don’t need to worry about data limits or are on Wi-Fi most of the time, we recommend sticking with the top-level quality. If you subscribe to music streaming services such as Qobuz, Tidal, or Deezer, you can further set up integrations that enable in-app streaming controls.

Otherwise, the app lets you install firmware updates and contact support. You don’t get an EQ anywhere, which is severely disappointing in light of the high price. Many companion apps for far more affordable models have that feature.


Underwhelming Noise Cancellation

The six-mic array here produced merely decent results in our noise cancellation tests. The earbuds dial back powerful low-frequency rumble (like from an airplane) to a degree, but those sounds remain mostly audible. The earphones were slightly effective at cutting back lower frequencies from a recording of a busy restaurant with clanging dishes and boisterous conversation, but most of the highs passed through cleanly.

We did not notice much of a difference between the regular and adaptive ANC modes in testing. But more concerning is the amount of hiss these modes add to the signal—they effectively amplify the noise floor of a quiet room and make it sound louder than if they were inactive. This is a common flaw of less expensive noise-cancelling earbuds, but not something we expect at this price.

Bowers & Wilkins simply does not compete with Apple and Bose here. The aforementioned models from those companies almost completely cancel out loud low-frequency rumble and other ambient noises.


Vibrant, Balanced Sound

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earbuds deliver a powerful low-frequency response that’s robust at moderate volumes and free of distortion at maximum levels. They also have no issues reproducing the sub-bass at the 34-second mark of Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty.” The synth line gets progressively deeper, but the dynamic drivers don’t struggle to output any of this low-end rumble. The balanced armatures further ensure a solid clarity in the vocals here.

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 in case

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, better reveals the sound signature. The drums and Callahan’s baritone vocals benefit from a full, robust delivery with low-mid richness and high-mid clarity. The balanced armatures enable additional definition in everything from the vocals to the acoustic strums to the higher-register percussive hits. The sound signature has some sculpting, but the balanced presentation works wonderfully for most genres. For instance, we quite enjoyed the higher-frequency detail on excellent recordings like Broadcast’s “Pendulum” and Miles Davis’ “Pharaoh’s Dance.”

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, have a slightly bass-forward delivery. However, the crisp treatment of the upper frequencies means that the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals still sound clear and full of detail.

We’re very happy with the Bowers & Wilkins signature, even if it isn’t clinically accurate. Most listeners are likely to prefer this type of sound to a flatter response. The lack of an EQ remains a shortcoming, however, because it prevents you from adjusting the signature to taste.

The mic array offers strong intelligibility. We didn’t have any problem understanding every word from a test recording on an iPhone and the signal sounded relatively strong. You shouldn’t experience any call clarity issues over a reliable signal.


Style and Sound Above All Else

The Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earphones excel in the audio department—their dual-driver approach results in fantastic sound and support for hi-res streaming should appeal to audiophiles. We’re not thrilled about the absence of an in-app EQ, but the default sound signature is simply top-notch. The substandard active noise cancellation is less forgivable, however, especially for $399. The aforementioned Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II remain more well-rounded options, particularly because they offer far greater customization options and noise cancellation. And if you want to spend less, you might want to consider the dual-driver Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 earphones ($149.99), which also support the LDAC codec.

Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.”,”first_published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:24:30.000000Z”,”published_at”:”2022-08-31T18:36:19.000000Z”,”last_published_at”:”2022-08-31T18:36:16.000000Z”,”created_at”:null,”updated_at”:”2022-08-31T18:36:19.000000Z”})” x-show=”showEmailSignUp()” class=”rounded bg-gray-lightest text-center md:px-32 md:py-8 p-4 mt-8 container-xs”>

Like What Are You Reading?

Sign up for: Lab Report: to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.