Bowers & Wilkins was somewhat late to the true wireless earbuds game. However, when it finally climbed on board with the flagship Pi7 and more budget-friendly Pi5 in spring 2021, it mostly impressed. Nearly two years later, the second generation earbuds are here, the Pi7 S2 and Pi5 S2.
The Pi7 S2, the focus of this review, is as exciting as the previous model in terms of sound and features. But, unfortunately, very little has changed between one generation and the next. This stagnation makes the newer model a tougher sell against similar products such as Apple’s AirPods Pro 2, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds 2, and many more, which offer a few premium features missing here.
Here’s our look at the Pi7 S2 true wireless earbuds from British-based Bowers & Wilkins.
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2: Price and availability
You can find the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds at launch through the B&W website, Amazon, and other retailers. They are priced at $399 and available in three colors, Satin Black, Canvas White, and Midnight Blue. This price is much higher than the AirPods Pro 2, although you’ll be able to find discounts — eventually.
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds: What’s good
We received our Satin Black Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review unit before it was officially announced. It shipped with an 80 cm USB-C to USB-C charging cable, an 80 cm 3.5 mm jack to USB-C audio cable, and a set of small, medium, and large ear tips.
From the get-go, it was noticeable how similar the earbuds were to the previous version. However, there are two key differences: the microphone grilles are ever-so-slightly bigger, and there’s a new sensor just below one of the microphones.
Before setting up the new Bowers & Wilkins earbuds, save yourself some time and install the company’s official Music app (opens in new tab) on your mobile device. The app is relatively new and has been designed to control an entire Bowers & Wilkins wireless audio system. It’s also where you’ll pair the earbuds to your first device. To do so, open the rechargeable case with the earbuds inside and follow the directions.
During my tests, I also needed to set up the earbuds via Bluetooth using the Settings app on my iPhone before using them with Apple Music and similar apps. This extra step only added about 30 seconds to the setup time.
The Pi7 S2 doesn’t use multipoint Bluetooth pairing. As such, you can’t pair it to two devices simultaneously. It’s a minor annoyance at best, although Bowers & Wilkins should have considered it.
One area with Bluetooth that has been improved is distance. The Pi7 S2 now reaches up to 25 meters, double the range of the previous model. The earbuds are also noted for now, offering five hours of entertainment on a single charge and 16 hours more on the charging case. You can also add two extra hours of playing time with just a 15-minute charge.
One unique perk that comes with the charging case is its ability to work as a transceiver. This, for example, makes it easy to listen to an airplane’s inflight system wirelessly. In addition, the case features wireless and USB-C-connected charging.
Beyond this, most of the features found on the Pi7 have made the jump to the new model. This includes impressive touch controls on both earbuds that allow you to play and stop music, activate and deactivate voice control, and the built-in adaptive active noise-cancellation (ANC), splashproof, and dust-resistance.
What about the sound?
Not surprisingly, the Pi7 S2 provides excellent sound, regardless of genre. From a full-ranged bass to a highly detailed treble to comfortable mids, these earbuds can keep pace with similar products on the market, including ones from Apple, Bose, Bang and Olufsen BeoPlay, and more. During my testing, I listened to music through Apple Music on my iPhone 14 Pro and HomePod mini exclusively. This means music is streamed through the AAC codec, not aptX Adaptive, which is supported on most Android-based devices. Other reviewers have noted the earbuds sound better on those devices since they can take advantage of some features not available when paired with Apple products.
There’s much to love about the Pi7 S2, but it loses a few points for the concerns mentioned below. However, for many, these issues will be easy to overcome, especially if the main goal is to buy earbuds from Bowers & Wilkins.
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds: What’s not good
It isn’t easy to judge the Pi7 S2 without looking at its predecessor. Although we didn’t review the Pi7, others did, and those ratings were spectacular. This puts the Pi7 S2 in an odd place. It’s a great product with few misses, yet it could have been so much more. Take, for example, its Qualcomm ACC5126 chipset. It’s a great chipset, yet it’s the same one found on the previous model and not one of Qualcomm’s newer ones, such as the QCC5141 or QCC5144. The design is also the same except for the minor changes mentioned above. It’s an excellent design, yet even a slight change would have been nice.
The Pi7 S2 also lacks Bluetooth LE Audio with Auracast capabilities and doesn’t support Qualcomm’s upcoming spatial audio feature.
Are you looking for an equalizer in the Bowers & Wilkins app? It’s not there.
And then there’s a slight but important issue with the Pi7 S2’s adaptive noise cancelation feature. It works. And yet, it won’t work all that well if you aren’t using the correct-sized silicon earbuds. Luckily, it comes with three sets from which to choose.
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds: Competition
Undoubtedly, many will look at the Apple AirPods Pro 2 when considering the Pi7 S2. Those earbuds are nearly perfect, especially if you only use Apple products. In addition, they offer better battery life, support Apple’s Find My functionality, spatial audio, and much more. Other products worth considering against the Pi7 S2 (and AirPods Pro 2) include Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3, Sony’s WF-1000XM4, and Bang and Olufsen Beoplay EX, and our list of the best true wireless earbuds.
Here’s a comparison between the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds and AirPods Pro 2:
|Header Cell – Column 0||Pi7 S2||AirPods Pro 2|
|Colors||Satin Black, Canvas White, Midnight Blue||White|
|Battery life||Up to 5 hours of listening time||Up to 6 hours of listening time|
|Battery life (case)||up to 16 hours of listening time||Up to 30 hours of listening time|
|Fast charge||15 minutes in the case provides 2 hours of listening time||5 minutes in the case provides around 1 hour of listening time|
|Chip||Qualcomm QCC5126 chipset||Apple H2 headphone chip|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX Adaptive||Bluetooth 5.3|
|Active Noise Cancelation (ANC)||Yes||Yes|
|Tracking functionality||No||Yes (Find My)|
|Weight (earphones)||7 grams each||5.3 grams each|
|Weight (charging case)||47 grams||50.8 grams|
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds: Should you buy them?
You should buy this if …
If you mostly use Android products, the Pi7 S2 is definitely worth considering. Offering good battery life and incredible sound, these earbuds will challenge others on the market for years to come.
- You only use Android-based devices
- Are tied to the Bowers & Wilkins name
- Like to go back and forth between different mobile devices (Android and iOS).
You shouldn’t buy this if…
Do you only have Apple products in your household? They your best best is likely the AirPods Pro 2. They are high-quality — and cheaper than what Bowers & Wilkins is offering.
- You live only in Apple’s playground
- Own a pair of Pi7 earbuds (not much as changed)
- Are budget conscious
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds: Verdict
Bowers & Wilkin’s latest flagship earbuds are the latest in a long line of high-quality products. These aren’t perfect earbuds or ones that are all that different from their predecessor. Additionally, if you’re an Apple-only device user, they might be a hard pass. And yet, they are worth considering if you use multiple devices, like the Bowers & Wilkins name, and want a colorful alternative to the Apple AirPods Pro 2.