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You've got a problem ... even if you don't know it yet. Your next smartphone isn't likely to have a headphone jack. Apple eliminated the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, suggesting that it makes the phone more waterproof--but who really knows. Samsung says that it will follow Apple's lead and remove the headphone jack from future phones. Yes, you can use a clunky adaptor like the one that came with my non-game-changing iPhone 7, but there are cooler options. Much cooler.
Knowing that I was going to get a jack-less iPhone 7, I also ordered a pair of Bowers & Wilkins' new P7 Wireless headphones at a retail cost of $399. That's a bit expensive in the mainstream headphone market, but I am used to some pretty swanky, studio-grade in-ear-monitors from Ultimate Ears that are like the ones musicians use on stage and are custom-fit to go inside your ear. They are physically light, they are "dry" or "neutral" sounding for studio use, and they travel really well--but too bad, they've got a cable.
The P7 Wireless is an over-the-ear headphone made to simply wonderful standards. The battery can last you from LAX to Shanghai, with a little life left over. Bowers & Wilkins packs in aptX Bluetooth 4.1 technology for a better-sounding and more reliable wireless connection. The drivers are nylon. The cushions are memory foam and interchangeable.
Getting Hooked Up Even if you purchase the Bowers & Wilkins P7 wireless headphones for a Baby Boomer in your life, they should be able to make them work without much time or effort. First, crack open the wonderfully designed box. Find the well-packaged USB cable and plug it into your computer or some other form of charger in your digital life. Next, plug the USB cable into your headphones and give them a full charge. I charged them for a few hours, but that might have been overkill. I have rarely needed to recharge the P7 Wireless cans in my time with them.
To connect the headphones to your phone or audio player, you need to turn on the device's Bluetooth, then power up the P7 and hold down the "on" button for a good two to three seconds to enable Bluetooth pairing. The headphones should show up as a Bluetooth device on your phone or player, and you pair them. That's it. A little warning: Make sure your volume isn't cranked on your phone or device before you hit play, as you want to protect your hearing at all times.
Performance First off, let me say that the P7 headphones are strikingly comfortable--comparable to headphones that I've auditioned from the likes of OPPO, Audeze, and others that cost many times more.
Generally I don't keep that much music on my phone, since I've got music everywhere these days. The P7 Wireless headphones made me change that. I fired up "Love Her Madly" from The Doors, and the infectiously walking bass line was quite notable--as the P7 is not shy for bass. The imaging of this over-the-ear headphone helped me appreciate the detail of the mix, even for this older but fantastically cool recording.
Next I auditioned a more modern and very underrated recording from Prince's Symbol Album: "Love 2 The 9's" came alive with more zip, thanks to a much better recording. The little percussive chime notes danced in the space between my ears--they're usually hard to hear unless you've got some Bowers & Wilkins Diamond 800 V3 speakers in your living room, and that will only cost you about $29,600 more.
Moving to a bigger presentation, I cued up "Like a Prayer" by Madonna. Now this is a big production, and the P7 was up for the complications. The slick studio guitar work was presented in a way that I don't always appreciate when listening to traditional speakers. Madonna's voice sounded sweet and believable. The bass was bumping, without question.
High Points • The fit and finish of the P7 Wireless headphones are Apple-like--as they should be, since Apple sells them right next to their laptops, tablets, and phones in the Apple Store. • The P7 Wireless headphones are very, very comfortable. • The P7 can resolve micro-details that other Bluetooth headphones can't. • The battery life is simply incredible. • Even your mom can hook up these headphones. Seriously, it's that easy. • Forget wires! You can now free yourself in your airplane seat. You can hit golf balls at the range while jamming to some Daft Punk.
Low Points • Bowers & Wilkins' traditional speakers are not voiced to have this much bass. For hip-hop and big-bass music like some of what I played above, it's fine. I was expecting a drier, tighter presentation, but then again these headphones aren't being sold to audiophiles. They are voiced more for the tastes of mainstream consumers. • If you are out and about, you must be careful how you use these headphones. They sound great, so you'll want to crank them up. I was on a walk on the beach, and the road noise from Pacific Coast Highway disappeared. An ambulance and a fire truck came blasting buy, and I didn't hear the sirens until I saw them. Be aware of your surroundings. • The P7 Wireless headphones are much larger than a set of IEMs, so they'll take up more space in your travel kit.
Conclusion The Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless headphones are wonderful cans. They are a luxury item that you will be proud to own. The wireless design and long battery life are wonderfully convenient, especially if you travel a lot. The P7 Wireless headphones deliver a wonderfully musical sound to the space between your ears. They are super-easy to use and very enjoyable to listen to. Buy with confidence.