New Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon vs The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2020

New Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon vs The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2020

Over-ear noise-cancelling headphones have become increasingly popular as more people work from home. At Audio Advice, we’re relying on the best noise cancelling headphones to reduce distractions, and have clearer phone calls with our customers. Here, we are comparing three of the most popular noise-cancelling headphones — Bose 700, Sony WH-1000XM4, and the new Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition.

Company & Product Overview

This year, Sony refreshed their industry-leading noise-cancelling headphones to the new version — the Sony WH-1000XM4. Since the WH-1000XM3’s have been a best-seller for us over the past two years, the new Sony XM4 has been resonating with many of our customers.

Bowers and Wilkins, the iconic high-end speaker manufacturer from England, also just released a new model for their top of the line P Series noise-cancelling headphonesPX7 Carbon Edition. This is a special edition black & diamond-cut version of the highly successful PX-7 Over-Ear Noise-Cancelling headphones inspired by the beautiful designs of high-performance race cars. Needless to say, we are excited to be one of the first to receive the new PX7 Carbon Edition from Bowers and Wilkins before the official release.

When it comes to noise-cancelling technology, Bose is one of the most recognized names out there. In 2019, Bose released the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 as a high-end solution priced above their Bose QuietComfort 35 II — and for many, this set the bar in terms of noise-cancelling performance.

With so many pairs of over-ear headphones coming out this year, it can be really tough choosing the right one for your specific needs. One may offer better sound quality for music, while another may do a better job suppressing high or low-frequency sounds.

Since your lifestyle is unique, everyone will have different expectations about what’s important when it comes to noise-cancelling headphones. Fortunately, this comparison will help silence the noise surrounding this topic. In this overview, we are comparing the top-rated Sony WH-1000XM4 & Bose 700’s to the brand new Carbon Edition PX7 from Bowers and Wilkins.

Klipsch T5 II True Wireless In-Ear Headphones on a desk next to a cup of coffee
Klipsch T5 II True Wireless In-Ear Headphones on a desk next to a cup of coffee
Klipsch T5 II True Wireless In-Ear Headphones on a desk next to a cup of coffee

Design

All three headphones come with form-fitting cases that slip easily into a backpack or a bag. The bundled cases are all similar in size, but the Bowers and Wilkins case has a little more depth to accommodate the slightly larger ear cups.

Each one features ear cups that swivel. This allows you to lay the headphones down flat on a desk whenever a headphone stand isn’t nearby, but it also allows you to stow the headphones inside their carrying cases with enough room for the included accessories to fit inside too. The biggest difference here is the way Sony designed the WH-1000XM4 to swivel and fold into the case. This foldable structure makes it easy to store or carry the Sony XM4’s even without the case. But, it can be a little challenging to figure out at first.

In terms of looks, the headphones themselves have modern, high-end designs. Of the three, the new Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition has the most striking appearance. It features a composite carbon fiber, cloth, and aluminum construction that makes it look like a high-end race car. The new Carbon Edition has shiny diamond-cut edges that encompass the ventilation ports on the exteriors of the ear cups.

close up of black and diamond cut design on the ear cups of the Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphone

The distinct aesthetic celebrates Bowers and Wilkins's 10th anniversary in the headphone category and it harkens back to the P5 headphone design. We like the crisp contrast between the diamond-cut edges and the durable cloth on the ear cups. Since the diamond-cut edges affect airflow around the drivers, the engineers spent many months getting the new eye-catching black and diamond-cut design right while also preserving the iconic B&W sound signature that fans know and love from the original edition PX7.

The original Bowers PX7 is available in Space Gray and Silver which is color-matched on the ear cups and the headband. When Bowers and Wilkins announced the first edition PX7 in early 2020, we compared it to Bose in our popular Bowers and Wilkins PX7 vs Bose 700 Comparison. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, we think B&W produced a high-end look that’s a step better than the competition, but the new PX7 Carbon Edition takes the luxury high-performance look to a whole new level.

close up of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphone worn by a male model

Bose went for a futuristic look in their 700 series noise-cancelling headphones but decided to stick with a traditional all black or all white plastic design. The new Sony WH 1000XM4 has the most understated design of the three with minimal accents, overall. While the accents are small, they’re tasteful and give the XM4 a sophisticated look that will remain fashionable years down the road.

In terms of build quality, all three are well-crafted, but the Bowers PX7 Carbon Edition comes up on top with its lightweight carbon fiber composite yoke. Carbon fiber is 1/5th the weight of steel and a fraction of aluminum. B&W uses short strand carbon fiber here which makes them incredibly strong and durable to withstand pressure and pull from all directions. Carbon fiber also has anti-resonance properties that have acoustic advantages as well, so it’s superior build quality doesn’t interfere with the headphone’s sound signature.

close up of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphone side profile
close up of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphone front profile

All three headphones have a USB-C port on the right ear cup for charging the battery. However, it’s important to note, Bowers and Wilkins are the only ones to make the USB-C port capable of both charging the unit and passing hi-res audio through its wired connection. Since many people will be working from home with a laptop that doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack anymore, we can see the USB-C audio cable being really nice for people wanting the best audio quality from their laptops.

female model wearing a pair on Sony WH1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones on an airplane

Comfort

In terms of weight, all three headphones weigh about the same. The Sony WH 1000XM4 and the Bose 700 are the lightest — each weighing about 9 ounces. The B&Ws come in just over 10 ounces.

All three are very comfortable. However, we all agree there’s less pressure on the crowns of our heads while wearing the Sony XM4 and the Bowers PX7 Carbon. After about 15 minutes of wearing these, pressure on top of the head was evenly distributed around the ears which reduced pressure points.

The pressure-relieving foam pads are slightly larger on the Sony’s and the B&W too, so they cover more surface area around the ears. Having a slightly larger earcup means there’s more room in the chamber for your ears to stay cool, so we were able to wear these longer without our ears getting clammy or sweaty.

The Bose 700 does a great job hugging the noggin for a very tight, snug, and secure fit, but the pressure on top of our heads got in the way of our longer listening sessions with this and it was more difficult to find a compromise when re-adjusting the rubberized headband for more support and comfort.

Overall, the strong but lightweight materials in the Bowers and Wilkins creates the best balance for a secure-fitting headphone that also stays comfortable. However, the Sony WH 1000XM4 comes in a close second for being the lightest on our heads even if it’s slightly less secure fitting when you compare it directly with the Bowers PX7 Carbon.

close up of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphone showing tactile buttons

Features & Technology

All three headphones are packed with technology. They all utilize smartphone apps to customize noise canceling levels, adjust ambient pass-through, rename the device, and adjust other features. Apps like these enable the manufacturers to update software, so your investment is constantly improving over time.

One thing of note is that Bose requires you to give them your email, first and last name, and other information to utilize the Bose Music app. There are a host of Bose reviews online where customers are upset about having to give away so much information in connection with making the headphones work. If this is a privacy concern for you, then you will want to go with either the Sony or Bowers and Wilkins.

B&W PX7 Carbon Edition vs Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose 700

 

FeatureBose 700WH1000XM4B&W PX7B&W PX7 Carbon
30-Hour Battery LifeX
10-15 min Quick-Charge for 5 hrsX
USB-C for charging & hi-res audioXX
Capacitive Touch ControlsXX
Adaptive ANC OptimizationX
Ambient Passthrough Mode
Wear DetectionX
Speak-To-ChatXXX
Custom 43.6mm DriversXX
Bluetooth 5.0
Hi-res aptX Bluetooth codecXX
Hi-res LDAC Bluetooth codecXXX
Multipoint Connectivity
Multiple Color OptionsCarbon Edition

B&W PX7 Carbon vs Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose 700

30-Hour Battery Life
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

10-15 Quick-Charge for 5 Hrs
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

USB-C charging & hi-res audio
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: No
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Capacitive Touch Controls
Bose 700: Yes
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: No
B&W PX7 Carbon: No

Adaptive ANC
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Ambient Passthrough
Bose 700: Yes
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Wear-Detection
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Speak-To-Chat
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: No
B&W PX7 Carbon: No

Custom 43.6mm Drivers
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: No
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Bluetooth 5.0
Bose 700: Yes
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Hi-res aptX Bluetooth
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: No
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Hi-res LDAC Bluetooth
Bose 700: No
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: No
B&W PX7 Carbon: No

Multipoint Connectivity
Bose 700: Yes
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Yes

Color Options
Bose 700: Yes
Sony WH1000XM4: Yes
B&W PX7: Yes
B&W PX7 Carbon: Special Carbon Edition

Battery Life

One area where both Sony and Bowers and Wilkins slightly outshine the Bose is in battery life. We found that the B&Ws and the Sony XM4 ran over 25 hours on a single charge in a real-world scenario with active noise-cancelling turned on.

The Bose clock out at about 20 hours when noise-canceling is on. This is easily sufficient for most travelers, but when you start talking over 25 hours, it enables these types of headphones to become regular daily headphones for use at work and home.

Both Sony and the B&Ws are also superior in terms of quick-charge with over 5 hours of charge in just 10-15 minutes compared to the Bose which gives you 3.5 hours after a 15-minute charge.

Controls

In terms of controls, Sony and Bose use intuitive touch controls. You swipe your finger in different directions on the right ear cup to pause, play, or increase volume. The B&Ws use tactile physical buttons to perform the same functions. We find that pretty much everyone can use buttons and learn where they are without looking. However, capacitive touch tends to be intuitive and easy to learn for some, while others might not get along with it.

Another cool feature with the B&Ws and the Sony WH 1000XM4 is that they automatically pause your music for you when you take them off. The Bose 700 does not support this feature, however, they all work with popular voice assistants, so you will be able to pause the music, play it or skip ahead just by saying the commands. Sony and Bose both support Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Siri whereas the Bowers and Wilkins headphones are compatible with Google Assistant and Siri.

Sound Quality

The PX7 Carbon Edition utilizes custom 43.6mm drivers which are the largest in the Bowers and Wilkins headphone lineup and larger than the 40mm drivers used in virtually every other headphone in this class. This slightly larger driver enables these headphones to naturally produce slightly deeper bass than its competitors across a wide range of frequencies from 10Hz to 30kHz.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose 700 both use smaller 40mm drivers. However, if you go the Sony route, you'll have Sony’s Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragms. Even though Sony's drivers are smaller compared to the Bowers PX7 Carbon, the sound quality is premium across a wider range of frequencies compared to the Bose.

Plus, if you like streaming high-res music, you’ll want to go with either the Sony XM4 or the Bowers & Wilkins for that. They’re compatible with popular high res Bluetooth codecs like aptX or LDAC. So, with either of these, you’ll hear music that’s more detailed with tighter bass and clearer mid-range compared to standard Bluetooth. It’s the best way to experience your music to its fullest potential, so we think it’s important to note that Bose doesn’t support high-resolution music.

The Bose 700 provides good sound for the money but if you’re looking for more low end, the PX7 Carbon Edition or the Sony WH 1000XM4 are the better choices.

 

male model wearing a pair of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphones in a busy street at night

Performance

We wanted to know how well these performed on phone calls and in noisy environments. We used them in a variety of scenarios like riding in the car, crossing a busy street, and at the office. Since audio quality is something that’s typically overlooked in most wireless noise-cancelling headphones, we also listened to a lot of different types of music to get a good sense of which ones sound the best.

Music Listening Test

Now that we've had the new PX7 Carbon Edition for over a week, we’ve done a lot of listening. We even had the opportunity to take them all on a road trip that let us put each one through their paces. We did a few key listening tests including Dave Matthews' “The Best of What's Around” and Sting's “Shape of My Heart”.

First, the Bose 700s have a brighter sound signature than the others. It’s sort of a classic Bose sound with the highs and lows generally over-indexed vs the midrange. You can really hear this feature on Sting’s 1993, “Shape of My Heart.” However, since the Bose doesn't support hi-res music, we couldn't experience the full potential of the song with this headphone.

The Bowers PX 7 Carbon presents a wider soundstage and they are less bright and have slightly deeper bass. With the PX7 Carbon, you will hear a broader presentation of lower frequencies across the board. This is most obvious in tracks where there are a lot of instruments playing all at once with many frequencies being represented. Dave Matthews 1994 “The Best of What’s Around,” will let you hear this natural presentation of details across a broader spectrum of frequencies.

The Sony WH-1000XM4's low-end is full and well-defined, the midrange is warm and punchy, and the highs are exciting. Overall, the Sony XM4 is fun to listen to, and it works well on almost any Top 40 song where there’s good bottom-end weight. It really shines the most on modern Pop, Hip Hop, and Dance music, so if that’s your thing, this headphone will work well for you. The low-end energy came alive during Fall Out Boy’s “Alone Together,” which was recorded in 2013 on the band’s fifth studio album “Save Rock and Roll.”

We have to say — we found the Bose Bluetooth connection difficult. There were several times that it just did not connect correctly, and we had to remove it and reconnect. We have not had this problem with the Bowers or Sony.

B&W utilized the same engineers for the PX7 Carbon Edition as the ones behind their prestigious 800 Series Diamond speakers used in Abbey Road Studios. If you leave all of the settings neutral across all of the headphones in this comparison, we think the B&Ws are just a touch closer to matching the original source material and depth of bass.

male model wearing a pair of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphones in a noisy urban street

Noise Cancelling Test

Active noise-cancelling headphones work by intelligently playing with the phase of sound so that incoming sound waves become canceled out with outgoing waves. This process requires a sophisticated system of microphones to capture the ambient noise in your environment so the headphone can reproduce a wave of the same amplitude and frequency that’s out of phase with the ambient one so it cancels it out.

In terms of low-frequency cancellation like the low-end “hum” in a car or the sound of a train passing, the Bowers PX7 Carbon performed about the same as the Bose. The Bose 700 blocked out more low-frequency content marginally better, but it was so hard to tell the difference here that it was nearly a tie between the two. There was, however, a clear difference when it came to noises in the higher frequencies.

When we were out and about in a noisy city with sirens, honking cars, and the sounds of people talking all around us, we were impressed by how well the Sony WH-1000XM4 canceled these types of sounds compared to the others. Wearing the Sony XM4 in this type of environment is like living in a private world. Overall, the active noise cancellation in the XM4 did the best job of canceling out higher frequencies.

woman talking on the phone and wearing a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones

Call Quality Test

In terms of noise-canceling during phone calls, we tested them in the car, walking across the street while taking business calls and in the office. While there were differences in ambient noise reduction, they all performed generally well in most of these environments.

Ambient noise reduction during calls is particularly useful in our open office environment. It also comes in handy whenever important phone calls come in while walking on a busy street with sounds coming from all directions.

The PX7 Carbon had a slight advantage during calls when we were walking and talking in a crowded street. People on the other end told us the reduction of background noises was slightly better, and on conference calls, fewer people asked us to mute if there was wind or other background noises — but honestly, they are all pretty good and they all let you toggle through different levels of cancelation.

close up of Bowers and Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition noise cancelling headphone

Overall Recommendation

We are one of the only ones to review the new Carbon Edition PX7 from Bowers and Wilkins before the official release. After more than a week comparing them to the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Headphones 700, we are seriously impressed.

Many of us here at Audio Advice are currently using the Sony XM4s and the original edition PX7 to help us stay focused at the office, at home, and everywhere in between. Now that the Carbon Edition PX7s are here, those of us who were on the fence before are now considering the PX7 Carbon Edition.

Compared to the Sony XM4, the Carbon Edition PX7 is like jumping into your high-performance car. If you are making the investment, you might as well get a great looking carbon fiber one. But, if you want the same great performance in a different color option, there's also Silver and Space Gray editions for less than $400, too. On the other hand, the Sony WH1000XM4 will give you premium sound quality and outstanding features that outperform Bose for less than $350. Priced at $379, the Bose 700 will be perfect for anyone who wants noise cancelling features but may be less interested in having the best performance available when it comes to sound quality and comfort.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this comparison of the latest PX7 Carbon Edition to the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose 700 noise-cancelling headphones. Having the best noise-cancelling headphones for your needs will always more than pay for themselves. If you want the top of the line wireless noise-cancelling headphones with the best sound quality available, then the Bowers and Wilkins PX7 in any color will be the best option out there — but, truly, the high-performance composite carbon fiber in the new PX7 Carbon Edition is the coolest looking pair that also gives you a slight acoustic advantage above the competition.

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