Last I checked in on the true wireless earbuds front, I was taking a look at all of the options from last year and sorting through the best of the best to pick some favorites. And while I praised plenty of offerings from 2022 for having unique feature sets, comfy in-ear builds, and of course just sounding great, there’s a new pair of earbuds on the market that has quickly become my favorite. You may balk at the seriously steep price tag of the new Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2, but I’m here to tell you just why these high-end buds are worth a listen.
Hands-on with the new Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 earbuds
Having launched back in February with a $399 price tag, the latest addition to the Bowers & Wilkins stable hit the scene as some of the brand’s first true wireless earbuds. We’ve seen a few previous debuts into the true wireless category from the brand in the past, but these really do scream latest and greatest in everything from form to function.
In particular, these are the second-generation pair of the original Pi7 earbuds, and Bowers & Wilkins has delivered some notable improvements. The sound quality is seeing an improvement, while the actual package is just a tad lighter than before, too. Though the biggest has to be on reliability, with the company putting in some work to make these more consistently the best cord-free listening experience around. And from my usage over the past month, that has certainly paid off.
Everything with the new Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 starts with the charging case. It’s one of the larger builds on the market, but is in fact a bit lighter than the previous iteration. There’s three colorways available, with a pretty standard white or black pair being joined by the blue stylings that Bowers & Wilkins sent over to me. I simply love the blue and gold color scheme, and find these to be some of the best-looking earbuds around. I included them in a charging station review earlier in the year, and received so many questions as to what shiny new earbuds made a debut in some of the photos. So already, the Pi7 S2 seem to impress.
The case itself has an integrated Qi charging coil that lets you refuel the internal battery that offers 24 hours of playback. There’s also USB-C, which enables another feature we’ll circle back on in a moment, as well as offering wired refueling. One thing to note about that more premium looking design though is that it does tend to scratch a bit. I wouldn’t say more than the likes of AirPods or other models, but the shimmery aesthetic does show it off a bit more distinctly than the classic white plastic on Apple’s flagships.
Then there’s the earbuds themselves, which take on a fairly compact form-factor. More AirPods Pro than the earbuds with a stick-like design, I’ve found that the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 are also some of the more comfortable buds out there. Included in the box are an assortment of ear tips that let you get the right fit, and designs that stay in my ears quite well.
Packed into that design are 9.2mm dual hybrid drives that each come powered by their own individual amplifiers. There are onboard touch controls that are more reliable than I’ve found the competition to be, though there isn’t all too much customization out of the box from Bowers & Wilkins’ presets. And as every pair of premium earbuds should have, there are wear detection sensors that automatically play and pause music when you put the buds in or take them out.
That’s all to say that the hardware all stacks up to deliver one of the most balanced listening experiences I’ve heard from a pair of true wireless earbuds. The Bowers & Wilkins signature sound is something I’ve written home about before like in my review of its Zeppelin speaker. And it’s paying off so well in this form-factor, too! There’s rocking bass and extremely clear vocals, all packed into an expansive soundstage that gives Spatial Audio a run for its money. I’ve found that somme of the mids get lost in playback, but sound does still manage to stay crisp even at the highest volume level.
I’ve ran the earbuds through everything from acoustic performances and punk rock to space-y ambient tracks and the donk-iest J-core sets imaginable, all of which sounded great. The Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 have a knack for emphasizing the intricacies of different genres, all while ensuring that all kinds of music sounds great.
ANC is unmatched, too
To help make that listening experience even better, Bowers & Wilkins isn’t skimping out on the active noise cancellation features for the new Pi7 S2, either. Giving even the industry leaders of Apple a run for its money, these earbuds deliver extremely solid performance at blocking out everyday distractions. Subways are a piece of cake, let alone street traffic and any other audio that could disturb your listening sessions. Hell, there have been countless occasions over the past month where my partner comes in the front door and I’m sitting cluelessly less than five feet away.
One of the more interesting features of the earbuds are the fact that Bowers & Wilkins has built wireless audio retransmission into the Pi7 S2. Plugging the charging case into any audio source via the included 3.5mm to USB-C cable lets you direct the sound right to the true wireless buds. Whether that’s inflight audio from a plane infotainment system or your Nintendo Switch, it can bypass the need to rely on Bluetooth.
At the end of the day, you’re likely going to know if spending $399 on a pair of earbuds is a deal breaker or not. Even if I tell you that the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 are nothing short of my favorite pair of earbuds ever – and they are, for the record – it’s a tough sell.
The second that these go on sale however, the story changes. I’ll be keeping my eye on price cuts here in particular, because being able to score the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 for closer to $300 certainly makes these a better value. But until then, the list price is going to be reserves for those who want some of the very best that money can buy. These are sure to be my go-to for the foreseeable future and will certainly make some of my upcoming earbud reviews a bit more difficult. I’m likely just going to be wishing I could be rocking these instead of whatever hits my desk yet.
I’m certainly excited to see how the rest of the year plays out, too. I’ll of course be taking a look at how 2023 shakes up at the end of the year with my usual earbud report, and hopefully we’ll see the new Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 continue to reign supreme. But until the dust settles, these are still my favorite earbuds on the market.