Hands on: Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones review

Not too big, not too small – just right

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

The Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones represent a happy medium between over-ear and in-ear models, making them great for commuters who want something lightweight. They sound and look great, and with aptX Adaptive, they avoid the annoying audio-visual lag that Bluetooth headphones sometimes suffer from. However, they're pretty expensive, and the noise cancelation could be more powerful.


  • +

    Lightweight design

  • +

    Natural sound

  • +

    Support for aptX Adaptive


  • -

    Quite pricey

  • -

    Noise cancelation could be stronger

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Bowers & Wilkins have just released no less than four new wireless headphones – and its PX5 Wireless On-Ear headphones are aimed at those who want the immersive sound of over-ears without the bulk. 

Kitted out with Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive audio codec, which is designed to deliver low latency Hi-Res Audio, they're among the first cans to sport the technology. 

We spent a little time getting to know the on-ear headphones – read on for our initial thoughts ahead of our full review.

Price and availability

At $299.99 / £269.99 (around AU$440) the PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones aren't the cheapest headphones we've seen, but they're cheaper than Bowers & Wilkins' flagship model, the PX7 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones.

For comparison, our current favorite on-ear headphones, the Grado SR60i, come in at under $100 (or under £80 / AU$150).

(Image credit: TechRadar)


As on-ear headphones, the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones represent a happy medium between bulky over-ear headphones and compact earbuds, with the cushions sitting on, rather than over, your ears. 

Bowers & Wilkins say that they're designed for people who are constantly putting their headphones on and taking them off again; for example commuters who want to be able to stow their cans in their bag at a moment's notice. 

Compared to the PX7 Over-Ear Headphones, we thought the PX5 had a slightly more 'clampy' feel on our ears, but not to the extent that they're uncomfortable to wear.

They look great, with attractive fabric-covered housings and subtle buttons on the earcups that allow you to control the playback of your music, as well as the level of noise cancelation. 

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Features and battery life

Like other models in the new headphones range, the PX5s use Qualcomms' aptX Adaptive codec, which Bowers & Wilkins says delivers "robust, low latency high-resolution wireless" listening, switching seamless between video and audio optimization.  

This means that the headphones operate with low latency when your watching videos or playing games, avoiding that annoying lag between audio and visual that sometimes occurs over Bluetooth, while also delivering Hi-Res Audio when you're simply listening to music.

We didn't have the chance to test these headphones while streaming video, but we'll be sure to test this feature when we carry out our full review.

Four different noise cancelation modes means that you can choose just how much sound you want to block out, with the ability to choose between off, low, high, and auto modes.

These on-ear headphones come with 25 hours of battery life, and will provide you with three hours of playback from a 15-minute quick charge – not bad for noise-cancelling headphones (which can be quite power-hungry).

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sound performance

We had the chance to briefly test the sound performance of the PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, and we were impressed bu their detailed, natural-sounding profile. 

In St. Vincent's Saviour, plucked guitar sounded woody and warm, while bass-heavy dampened piano riffs provided a rollicking low end that never bled into the other frequencies. 

Meanwhile, St Vincent's iconic vocal was given plenty of room to expand and resonate across the mix by these high-fidelity cans, adding to an already lively and enjoyable listen. 

Noise cancelation blocked out much of the environmental noise around us; the PX5s aren't quite as adept as the Sony WH-1000XM3 in this regard, but you should find that these wireless headphones drown out the very worst of your noisy commute.


If you're looking for a comfortable medium between over-ear and in-ear headphones, these on-ear cans could be the way to go. 

With a wide soundstage and natural sonic profile, they should prove good for audiophiles looking for pure fidelity, as well as commuters who just want to cancel out the sounds of their noisy journey.

The Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones are pricey though; we'll need to carry out further tests to find out whether that high price can be justified by its support for aptX Adaptive.

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.