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Bowers & Wilkins first True Wireless earbuds put performance first, offer a cool trick for travellers

Man relaxes in car wearing Bowers & Wilkins PI7 earbuds

High-end Hi-Fi outfit Bowers & Wilkins has launched its first True Wireless earbuds. The PI7 and PI5 enjoy a predictably premium design and support high-res audio and noise cancelling. 

Both look impressive, but it’s the high-spec PI7 model, which features an advanced driver configuration and a cool new wireless audio retransmission feature via its Smartcase, which has really caught our attention. 

Available in either white or charcoal finishes, both new True Wireless models use Qualcomm aptX Adaptive which supports high-resolution audio.

The flagship PI7 model adds 24-bit/48kHz wireless transmission between each earbud, ensuring 24-bit hi-res audio from source to each earbud. 

The PI7 employs a 9.2mm bespoke Bowers & Wilkins drive unit, joined by a high-frequency ‘balanced armature’ driver, with each of the four drive units in the system (two in each earbud) actively driven by its own amplifier.

This Dual Hybrid Drive headphone system is said to work just like high-performance loudspeakers, says the manufacturer, and ensures exceptional control, dynamics and deep bass.

The PI7 also features Adaptive Noise Cancellation, which automatically adapts in real-time to its surroundings to produce the best listening experience. This ANC system is driven by six microphones, three in each earbud, for phone call clarity.

The PI7’s Dual Hybrid Drive headphone system is said to work just like high performance loudspeakers…

Close up view of Bowers & Wilkins PI7 True Wireless PI7 headphones
Bowers & Wilkins PI7 feature a Dual Hybrid Drive system

The cheaper PI5, which uses TWS+ technology for earbud-to-earbud synchronisation, is built around a single Bowers drive unit, and supports CD-quality playback via aptX from compatible devices. It also has user-selectable noise- cancelling, with an ambient pass-through mode, courtesy of twin built-in microphones.

Developed by the same team behind Bowers & Wilkins world renowned 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers, as used by Abbey  Road Studios, both models can be configured using the Bowers & Wilkins companion app, and have a one-button user interface, coupled to voice assistant support via either Siri or Google Assistant.

So far, so impressive. The caveat is conspicuously short battery life. In full flight, the PI5 runs for four and a half hours before it requires a recharge, with four hours for the PI7. Their respective charging cases offer up to four full recharges.

By way of comparison, Panasonic’s RZ-S500W and RZ-S300W boast 6.5 and 7.5 hours of playtime respectively. Doubtless, the designers will argue higher performance demands more juice.

Uniquely though, the PI7 Smart charging case can connect to an external audio source,  such as an in-flight entertainment system, by 3.5mm or USB cable and then wirelessly retransmit audio from that source to the earbuds. 

This innovation gives the PI7 an edge over rival True Wireless earbuds which typically can’t be used with in-flight entertainment systems. 
Bowers & Wilkins PI5 and PI7 True Wireless earbuds sell for £199 and £349 respectively.

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About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice, Ideal Home, The Luxe Review, Channel News and the i newspaper. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI, and contributor to industry trade magazine ERT. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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