Allow me to start this review of the B&W Pi7 S2 'In-Ear True Wireless Headphones' with a disclaimer: I don't like in-ear suppository headphones much - they annoy me and make my ears itch.
And if I am going to pay 400 euros for a pair, even if they are miniature Nautilus speakers, they better deliver on what the specs promise. And most importantly, the sound quality must make me forget my own reservations about in-ear buds.
In April 2021, Bowers and Wilkins launched its first in-ear headphones, of which the B&W Pi7 S2 is now the improved MkII version. According to B&W it features dual drivers with three 9.2mm drivers driven by independent amplifiers and balanced armature drivers for high frequencies.
So, what has improved since 2021? The sound?
Not necessarily because the transducers used are the same as in the Pi7, and I do not think the sound could be much improved, not least because of the laws of Physics, considering the size and portability of the earphones.
The goal is for us to be able to listen to music anywhere, produced by transducers that are approved by a company with extensive know-how in the field of audio. And that, of course, gives us confidence when we are buying.
According to the specifications and press release, the battery power has greatly improved from four to five hours of continuous use (charging to 2 hours in just 15 minutes), with an additional 16 hours of autonomy offered by the case. I never listened to 5 hours non-stop, so I will take it for granted. The case can also act as a wireless transmitter by connecting it to a sound source via USB C, as was also possible with the original Pi7 S2.
The Qualcomm apt Adaptive chipset with high-resolution 24-bit 48 kHz music streaming capability has also remained the same. What has been greatly improved, again according to B&W, is the Bluetooth range (up to 25 metres) with greater stability thanks to new antennas attached to the outer round frame where the logo is displayed.
Really new are the three additional colours: Satin Black, Canvas White and Midnight Blue, of which I received a pair of the first for this hands-on evaluation. The earbuds protrude a little from one’s ears, so the more discreet the better. Unless you are young and beautiful, in which case pink, green or midnight blue will all fit you well.
Let us just say that at the outset, my expectations were low that the B&W Pi7 S2 would justify its 399 euros tag.
Then I found the earphones themselves are well-designed and very comfortable to wear. The earbuds fit snugly in my ears and don't fall out, even when I'm exercising or moving around. They also come with a variety of different ear tips, allowing me to find the perfect fit for my ears. The earbuds are also very lightweight, which means I can wear them for long periods without any discomfort.
And the wireless connectivity is also very reliable, with minimal dropouts. The headphones connect easily to my phone or other devices and the range is excellent, allowing me to move around my office without having to carry my phone with me.
However, in my house, with thick walls in between, the signal is easily lost. Fortunately, I always carry my mobile phone in my pocket, even at home because it has that annoying tendency to ring when I am not there to answer.
So, I was connected to music all the time, and I must admit that the sound quality is on par with some (much) more expensive exotic models: it sounds great with every music genre; and my wife's voice on the phone has never sounded so present and natural, almost as if she were speaking in my head, although my own voice could be also heard with a slight, almost imperceptible low frequency echo. Still, it’s one of the best In-ear phones I’ve used, money no object.
To achieve these results, it is essential that you select the right silicone ear tips for the size of your ear holes so that the sound does not "escape" and outside noise does not "intrude", which brings us to the noise cancellation function.
As always, I prefer to listen to music without the cancellation system activated, unless ambient noise is too intrusive. On the other hand, a lot depends on how you set the Transparency mode. The more the cursor is to the left the more isolated you are from the outside world. If in doubt, leave the slider in the middle.
The basic functions are activated by a simple touch code on the earphones. For more precise adjustment, however, you should install the Bowers and Wilkins Music Control App, which is available for iOS and Android.
There is one feature that the app does not have that I miss: the equalizer - the bass sometimes could sound a bit emphatic, although never overbearing. However, the care B&W took in tuning the headphones made me mostly forget this minor shortcoming.
Only now am I aware that I have been listening to Tidal with the B&W Pi7 S2s the whole time I was writing, and not only did I not feel any discomfort, but I also never felt the need to take them off. Interestingly, the same thing happened at the gym this morning.
Have I been converted to in-ear listening? You bet I have. Well done, B&W.