“Slick and trendy, the PI5 supply a substitute for white plastic earbuds.”

Easy, elegant design


Wi-fi charging

Efficient ANC

Put on sensors

Full, wealthy sound

Awkward transparency controls

No EQ changes

No management customization

Some Bluetooth connection issues

It took Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) longer than anticipated to launch its first true wi-fi earbuds, however they’re lastly right here: The $400 flagship PI7 and the step-down PI5, which price $250. The slick-looking earbuds hit the market at a pivotal time when most manufacturers are already engaged on their second-, third-, and even fourth-generation merchandise, having had years to be taught and make enhancements. Can B&W bounce in with a first-gen product with a top-tier value and provides the incumbents like Sony, Bose, Jabra, and JBL a run for his or her cash?

I put the B&W PI5 by means of their paces to see.

What’s within the field?

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Not solely is B&W just a little late to the true wi-fi occasion, however it additionally appears to have missed the memo on sustainable packaging. Although the field is comparatively small, it has embedded magnets, foam padding, and totally coated surfaces, which can make it tough, if not unimaginable, to recycle.

Inside, you’ll discover the PI5 already of their charging case, two further sizes of eartips, some paper documentation, and a generously lengthy USB-C to USB-C charging cable. Sadly, B&W uncared for to incorporate a USB-A to USB-C adapter for these of us who don’t have a available USB-C port or charger.

The earbuds handle to look smaller in your ear than different earbuds, because of their terraced form.


Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

B&W has a aptitude for stylish designs. Whether or not it’s the corporate’s full-sized PX7 headphones or its Formation wi-fi audio system, it’s all about understated magnificence. The PI5 share this design language, with easy strains and refined accents just like the spiral texture on the outer contact management floor and an aluminum ring bearing the B&W model.

The earbuds handle to look smaller in your ear than the Sony WF-1000XM4, Jabra Elite 85t, and JBL Tour Professional+, because of their terraced form.

They’re straightforward to extract from their wireless-capable charging case, and the case’s magnets have simply the correct quantity of power to lock the earbuds in place with precision — no worries right here about misaligned charging contacts.

The case’s lid flips open and shut easily and simply and the big LED indicator on the entrance helps you to rapidly test its charging standing, in addition to the standing of the buds after they’re docked.

The case is simply sufficiently small to be pocketable. The one hitch in an in any other case lovely design is B&W’s alternative of plastics for the case: Inside moments of unboxing it, the case was coated in fingerprints and even assiduous buffing with a comfortable fabric couldn’t restore it to its manufacturing facility situation.

They don’t seem like it, however the PI5 are IP54-rated for good mud resistance and average water resistance. The case, nonetheless, is just not protected towards both mud or water, so be sure to clear the earbuds earlier than changing them.

Consolation, controls, and connections

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

The PI5’s modern strains don’t precisely counsel nice consolation, however I discovered them to be very snug. The inside portion of the earbuds are gently curved, whereas the outer portion manages to take a seat throughout the concha, the place, together with the silicone eartips, it locks the earbuds into place.

You need to rapidly shift from listening to nothing to listening to as a lot as doable. However there’s merely no method to try this.

They is probably not completely safe for high-energy exercises, however I feel most individuals will discover them appropriate for his or her day by day run or treadmill routine.

Like most contact controls, there are occasions when faucets on the PI5 didn’t register, however B&W features a suggestions tone so you realize when you’ve got tapped precisely. There’s no approach to alter the gestures — you get play/pause, name reply/finish, monitor skip ahead/again, and voice assistant entry. Quantity management should be carried out on the cellphone (or you possibly can ask Siri/Google Assistant to do it).

There’s additionally the flexibility to toggle lively noise cancellation through a tap-and-hold gesture on the left earbud, however I’m not wild about it. To my thoughts, the other of ANC on isn’t ANC off, it’s transparency mode on. You need to rapidly shift from listening to nothing from the surface world to listening to as a lot as doable. However there’s merely no method to try this. To modify from ANC (on or off) to transparency, you should use a management that’s buried within the B&W Headphones app.

Bizarrely, it’s doable to have each ANC and transparency modes engaged concurrently, which is unnecessary in any respect. This can be a large oversight that I hope the corporate fixes with a firmware replace as quickly as doable.

The PI5 are outfitted with put on sensors (which could be disabled within the app) they usually work very precisely, pausing and resuming music virtually instantly whenever you take away or change an earbud.

We skilled some fairly flaky Bluetooth connections when testing the B&W PI7, however for essentially the most half, the PI5 have been dependable. Their wi-fi vary is completely acceptable if you happen to maintain your cellphone with you: 35 ft outdoors and 20 ft or so indoors, but when you might want to roam greater than this, you’ll probably expertise dropouts.

I had just a few glitches when getting the PI5 to reconnect after being put again of their case. The earbuds would typically take a number of moments to energy on, after which one other 5 to 10 seconds to reconnect to my cellphone.

On one event, the earbuds shut down the microphone portion of the connection with out warning. About midway by means of doing a recording, they merely stopped working and I had no thought till I performed the recording again.

On some tracks, the decrease midrange can begin to sound just a little distorted.

On the plus facet, the PI5 can bear in mind the final 4 paired units, and the app will let you choose which of those needs to be tried first whenever you pull the earbuds out of their case (or you’ll be able to choose “final paired” because the default). You can too use every earbud independently.

Sound high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

The PI5 have a really bass-forward sound signature, giving music a heat, wealthy, and full rendering. That bass helps you to actually really feel the darkish strains of a monitor like Hans Zimmer’s Time, however it lacks the subtlety of Sony’s WF-1000XM4, that are higher at teasing out the little nuances.

The problem right here is that B&W doesn’t supply any EQ changes throughout the app. On some tracks, like Dominique Fils-Aimé’s Residence, during which deep acoustic bass thrumming and drums are accompanied by sultry vocals, the decrease midrange can begin to sound just a little distorted. This turns into extra pronounced as you ratchet up the amount. It’s not a deal breaker, and regardless of the shortage of low-end precision, there’s wonderful readability within the higher midrange and highs, making vocal performances actually pleasant.

The PI5 are outfitted with Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth codec, which ought to supply barely higher efficiency than AAC, however I wasn’t in a position to make out any distinction when switching forwards and backwards between an iPhone 11 (AAC) and a Google Pixel 5 (aptX).

On inexpensive earbuds, I’d in all probability overlook this, however at $250, the PI5 are up towards very good audio performers just like the $200 Sennheiser CX 400BT, $230 Jabra Elite 85t, and $230 KEF MU3, all of which have wonderful frequency separation.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Lively noise cancellation on the PI5 is excellent. It was in a position to completely kill the sound of my loud toilet fan from a distance of six ft, and it additionally tailored properly to site visitors and development sounds as I walked round my neighborhood. It’s truly a exceptional feat contemplating the earbuds solely have two mics. Most earbuds with ANC that’s this good require three mics.

With none tunes taking part in, you’ll be able to simply make out a tiny quantity of hiss, however it’s minor and simply ignored.

Transparency mode, which you’ll be able to fine-tune to let in kind of sound, can also be excellent, however it doesn’t fairly obtain the AirPods Professional’s uncanny potential to make it appear to be you aren’t sporting any earbuds in any respect.

As I mentioned above, the massive downside is just not with the ability to change between ANC and transparency rapidly and simply.

Battery life

B&W claims a four.5-hour battery life per cost for the earbuds with ANC turned on, which could be prolonged by one other 20 hours with the charging case for about 24.5 hours of use earlier than needing a cable or wi-fi charger. This places the PI5 on par with the AirPods Professional, however nonetheless close to the underside of the vary for present true wi-fi earbuds.

Throughout testing, I discovered these numbers to be a bit on the optimistic facet. With ANC on and quantity set to 50%, I solely obtained simply over 4 hours of play time.

There’s a fast-charge function, nonetheless, which may assist with vary nervousness: 15 minutes within the sockets will get you a further two hours of play time.

Name high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

I discovered the PI5 did job with canceling background noise whereas on calls. Even some wind noise didn’t pose an issue. However B&W might have to spice up the acquire on the microphones — my voice sounded just a little distant at instances.

You may change to transparency mode whereas on a name (from throughout the app), which actually lets you hear your personal voice extra clearly.

I’m simply unsure what to make of the mic dropout concern I discussed earlier. If that occurred constantly when on cellphone calls, it could turn out to be an enormous nuisance.


Inside the B&W Headphones app, you’ll discover a collection of six “soundscapes,” like wave or forest sounds, which might all be set with a timer that will help you go to sleep. These may very well be useful for grabbing 40 winks when flying, however I doubt most people will need to put on these earbuds to mattress.

Our take

The PI5 convey B&W’s well-known magnificence and class to the true wi-fi earbud world, however just a few weaknesses maintain them from usurping the reigning manufacturers at this value.

Is there a greater various?

For a similar value because the PI5, Apple’s AirPods Professional ship a greater general expertise for every part however sound high quality. They’re smaller, extra snug, they usually have higher ANC and transparency modes.

For a non-Apple various, the $230 Jabra Elite 85t are very good, with higher sound high quality, higher battery life, tons of customization, and extra helpful and efficient ANC and transparency modes.

For much more financial savings, strive the $199 JBL Tour Professional+ — their bass isn’t as highly effective, however in each different respect, they’re nearly as good or higher than the PI5.

How lengthy will they final?

B&W backs the PI5 with a two-year guarantee, which is double the common for true wi-fi earbuds. They look like very properly constructed, and with their IP54 ranking, they need to survive most actions with out injury. My one concern is the battery. All batteries lose capability over time, so it’s not supreme when your earbuds begin life with a most of four.5 hours — this might simply drop to only two hours after a 12 months or two of standard use.

Must you purchase them?

Sure. If you may get previous their awkward ANC/transparency controls, the B&W PI5 supply a really fashionable and rich-sounding various to the present crop of noise-canceling true wi-fi earbuds.

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