Bowers & Wilkins is a brand known for their audiophile-grade speakers and headphones. The Bowers & Wilkins PI7, along with the PI5, are their first true wireless earbuds with ANC. As a newcomer in this space, the brand will have to contend with industry leaders such as Sony, Bose, Apple and more. In this post, we’ll be comparing the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 against the latest pair of ANC earbuds from current leader, Sony—the Sony WF-1000XM4. Are the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 worth the price? Or should you go with the Sony WF-1000XM4? Read on to find out.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7 vs Sony WF-1000XM4 Comparison Chart
|Model||Bowers & Wilkins PI7||Sony WF-1000XM4|
|Amazon product||Amazon product|
|Price||Amazon product||Amazon product|
|Driver||9.2mm dynamic driver|
Balanced armature tweeter
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.2|
|Codecs||SBC, AAC, aptX Classic, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, aptX Adaptive||LDAC, AAC, SBC|
|Battery Life||4 hours|
Charging case: 16 hours
Charging case: 16 hours
|Charging Time||Qi wireless charging support|
Full charge: 1 hour
Quick charge: 15mins. for 2 hours playtime
|Qi wireless charging support|
Full charge: 1.5 hours
Quick charge: 5 mins. for 1 hour playtime
|Extra Features||Charging case audio retransmission||DSEE Extreme|
|Color Options||Charcoal, White||Silver, Black|
Bowers & Wilkins PI7 Review
Premium looking true wireless earbuds with good ANC, but might be too expensive.
Build Quality and Design
In terms of design, there’s no denying that the B&W PI7 earbuds are some of the best looking ones in the market. They are available in either charcoal or white, with brushed aluminum accents. The matching case that comes with them also looks very nice with its matte finish. Although it is made of plastic, the case feels durable and sturdy. It is small enough that it can fit inside pockets with ease.
With an IP54 rating, the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are protected against dust and they are water resistant. You can use them while working out or running outside and you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged from sweat.
As for comfort, they are quite bulky and they will protrude from your ears. If you have smaller ear canals, you may feel some pressure after a while. However, they don’t go in too deep into your ear canals, so that’s a plus. They come with three pairs of silicone ear tips.
Set-up and Features
The B&W PI7 are touch sensitive and you can control them by tapping and holding. While you can control music playback and answer calls on the earbuds, there’s no volume control for ease of use. You’ll have to adjust the volume via the app, which is a bit inconvenient.
Speaking of the app, the Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app is pretty basic and it doesn’t really offer any worthwhile features. You can adjust the ANC and ambient mode settings and control the volume. That’s pretty much it. You don’t get control remapping, EQ settings and the like.
The ANC or active noise cancelling of the B&W PI7 is good, since these earbuds can block out low frequency noise effectively. Their ambient mode or transparency mode works well as well. As mentioned earlier, you can control the ANC and transparency settings using the app.
One feature that stands out with the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 is their charging case’s ability to act as a Bluetooth transmitter. With this feature, you can use the earbuds with audio sources that don’t have Bluetooth. While this is nice, the resulting sound is not the best.
The Bowers & Wilkins PI7 have a consumer-friendly sound, where the bass is overemphasized to provide thump and boom to your listening experience. This is not a bad thing as a lot of people love their bass. However, if you prefer a more neutral sound, these earbuds are not for you.
The mid is accurate and can be heard clearly, similar to the highs. However, you can’t adjust the sound of the earbuds since the app does not have EQ settings or EQ presets. The sound of the B&W PI7 is best suited for those that like to listen to music with heavy emphasis on bass.
One area where the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 underwhelm is with their battery life. They only have a playback time of 4 hours when fully charged and the case holds four additional charges, for a total of 20 hours. While 20 hours seems long enough, it’s not as good as the competition.
It takes around an hour to fully charge the earbuds and a 15 minute charge nets you 2 hours of playback time, so they are good in this area. Also, the PI7 support Qi wireless charging, which is a nice bonus.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Review
The best true wireless ANC earbuds.
Build Quality and Design
Straying away from the oval-shaped design of the WF-1000XM3, the Sony WF-1000XM4 now come with a round-shaped body that’s arguably more pleasing to the eyes. Sporting a matte finish, these earbuds have a modern look and they come in either silver or black. The charging case also has a matte finish and it has a compact design that lends to the earbuds’ portability.
When it comes to durability, the earbuds have an IPX4 rating, so they are water-resistant. These earbuds are suitable for outdoor activities as well as working out in the gym since they won’t get damaged by sweat. Made of dense plastic, the Sony WF-1000XM4 feel durable.
Comfort-wise, these earbuds are lightweight and can be worn during long periods without causing discomfort. Unlike the WF-1000XM3, these earbuds come with foam tips instead of silicone. For a lot of people, foam tips can be more comfortable. However, a trade-off is that foam is not as durable as silicone, so they will degrade faster.
Set-up and Features
Controlling the Sony WF-1000XM4 is easy since they have a touch-sensitive surface. All the music playback controls are on the right earbud while the left earbud offer controls for ANC, transparency and voice assistant. You can customize the controls using the Sony Headphones Connect app.
The Sony Headphones Connect app is a good companion app to the WF-1000XM4 as it offers several functions. As mentioned, you can remap controls with it, and it also allows you to control the ANC level, enable the earbuds’ auto-off function, speak-to-chat feature and more. The app also has a graphic EQ with EQ presets, so you can tweak how the earbuds sound.
When it comes to ANC, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is pretty much unrivaled. These earbuds are very effective in blocking out low frequency noise, as well as mid-range and high frequency sounds. Contributing to their effectiveness in cancelling noise are the foam ear tips, since these already offer very good passive noise cancellation.
A very useful feature that the WF-1000XM4 has is their speak-to-chat feature that automatically enables transparency mode when you speak. With this feature, you don’t have to manually disable the ANC whenever you need to speak with someone, which is very convenient.
Similar to the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 above, the Sony WF-1000XM4 has a consumer-oriented sound that features an overemphasized bass. If you like listening to music genres that are bass-centric, these earbuds are for you. The mid is accurate as well, but the highs are underemphasized, so the overall sound can be dark and veiled.
The good news is that the sound of these earbuds can be tweaked since the Sony Headphones Connect app come with a graphic EQ, as well as EQ presets. Even if you don’t like how they sound right out of the box, you can adjust them to your liking.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 have a battery life of up to 8 hours when ANC is enabled and up to 12 hours when ANC is turned off. The charging case holds two additional charges, for a total battery life of up to 24-28 hours.
It takes an hour and a half to fully charge the earbuds from an empty state, and a quick 5 minute charge gives you 1 hour of music playback. Just like the B&W PI7, the Sony WF-1000XM4 supports Qi wireless charging.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 offer more useful features than the Bowers & Wilkins PI7.
The standout feature of the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 is their audio retransmission case. With this feature, the case can act as a Bluetooth transmitter for your non-Bluetooth audio device. You can connect your non-Bluetooth device to the case via USB-C or a 3.5mm analog connection and it will transmit the audio to the earbuds. This is a very useful feature if you want to use a pair of wireless earbuds with a non-Bluetooth device, however, the sound quality is not as good and the range is quite limited.
As for the Sony WF-1000XM4, their most notable feature is their excellent active noise cancelling. As mentioned earlier, these earbuds are better than the competition when it comes to blocking out noise. Sony improved the WF-1000XM4’s ANC with their new Integrated Processor V1 and since these earbuds come with foam tips, their passive noise cancellation is also as effective.
When it comes to sound quality, the two earbuds have a consumer-oriented sound with an overemphasis on the bass. However, the Sony WF-1000XM4 app gives you EQ settings to play with, so you can adjust how the earbuds sound. You can’t do this with the Bowers & Wilkins PI7.
Since these are wireless earbuds, battery life is a major factor to consider, and in this area, the Sony WF-1000XM4 perform better than the Bowers & Wilkins PI7. The Sony WF-1000XM4 can give you 4-8 more hours of battery life than the PI7.
You get better value for your money with the Sony WF-1000XM4 than with the Bowers & Wilkins PI7.Amazon product
To sum things up, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are better than the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 when it comes to battery life, app features and ANC implementation. They are also much cheaper, so you’ll get better value for money with them. The B&W PI7’s case that can transmit audio is a nice feature indeed, though it’s not worth the price premium that they are asking for.
Yes, Bowers & Wilkins or B&W is a good brand that’s popular with audiophiles due to their high-quality speakers. Their headphones and earbuds are also very good, however, they are much more expensive than the competition.
Yes, you can use the B&W PI7 in the gym or even outdoor running since these earbuds are dust and water resistant.
These earbuds have an IPX4 rating, meaning that they are water-resistant. While they are not completely waterproof, they are resistant against water splashes.
Yes, you can use only one earbud at a time.