Hands-on: Bowers & Wilkins' new Pi7 S2 and Pi5 S2 true wireless earbuds with ANC
Note: This feature was first published on 29 March 2023.
Announced earlier this year, Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 and Pi5 S2 true wireless earbuds are finally available in Singapore.
These second-generation earbuds improve on their predecessors by having better connectivity thanks to a re-engineered antenna design and longer battery life. Let’s begin with the flagship Pi7 S2.
The Pi7 S2
Although the two earbuds are almost physically identical, the Pi7 S2 differs by having a dual-driver configuration that consists of a 9.2mm dynamic driver and a balanced armature.
Claimed battery life is now up to 5 hours on a single charge and an additional 16 hours from the charging case. However, these figures are with ANC deactivated. Fortunately, a quick 15-minute charge will get you 2 hours of playing time. The case charges via USB-C and also supports wireless charging.
Speaking of charging, one nifty feature of the Pi7 S2 is what Bowers & Wilkins calls audio retransmission. This lets you use the charging case as a transmitter so you can use your Pi7 S2 earbuds with analogue sources by plugging it using the provided 3.5mm to USB-C cable. This can be handy on flights, for example, where the IFE system usually only has analogue connectors and no Bluetooth connectivity.
While this sounds groundbreaking, it would be remiss of me not to point out that LG’s Tone Free FP9 also had the same feature called Plug & Wireless mode.
Supported codecs include AAC, SBC, as well as aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, and aptX Classic.
The Pi7 S2 comes in three finishes: Satin Black, Canvas White, and Midnight Blue. I was told Midnight Blue is the most striking of the three, but sadly, only Satin Black and Canvas White were on display.
The Pi5 S2
Physically, the Pi5 S2 is almost identical to the Pi7 S2. The only way to differentiate them is by their finishes and charging cases – the Pi5 S2’s charging case is plastic.
The Pi5 S2 comes in four finishes: Storm Grey, Cloud Grey, Spring Lilac, and a new Sage Green. Sage Green was just announced and I was told we were among the first people in the world to see them in the flesh.
One of the biggest differences between the Pi5 S2 and Pi7 S2 is in the driver. The Pi5 S2 has a more traditional single-driver configuration that consists of a single 9.2mm driver. The other difference is that the Pi5 S2 lacks its more expensive sibling’s audio retransmission feature. Also, the Pi5 S2 has two microphones while the Pi7 S2 has six.
Claimed battery life for the Pi5 S2 is quite similar, up to 5 hours on a single charge and an additional 19 hours from the charging case. Again, these numbers are quoted with ANC deactivated. The Pi5 S2 benefits from the same quick-charging feature so a 15-minute charge is enough to get 2 hours of playback. Like the Pi7 S2, the Pi5 S2's charging case also charges over USB-C and supports wireless charging.
First impressions, pricing, and availability
It's hard to commenthow these earbuds sound and how effective the ANC is because the space was unfamiliar and the default ear tips are much too small for my ears.I’ll reserve judgment until I can test them in a more controlled environment and with properly sized tips.
What I can tell you, however, is that these feel like high-quality devices. They are clearly a step up in heft and feel from your AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM4s. Only Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II come close. The charging cases feel solid and the covers open with a satisfying tactile flick.That's good because as you will see, these earbuds are pretty pricey.
The Pi7 S2 and Pi5 S2 are both vailable now and are priced at S$729 and S$499 respectively.
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