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What just happened? UK audio company Bowers & Wilkins has released its first true wireless earbuds, and they look pretty special—a fact that is reflected in the price. The noise-canceling buds come with a slew of features, including a case that doubles as an audio transmitter.
B&W has unveiled the PI7 and PI5 wireless earbuds, which it says offer "all the sound quality that music lovers have come to expect from a Bowers & Wilkins product." The former pair is the premium version, costing $400, while the latter comes in at $249.
The PI7 features a six-microphone active noise-canceling system that works for phone calls and smart assistants. Each bud comes with a 9.2mm drive unit and a balanced armature tweeter, all with their own dedicated amplifier. The company says the sound they produce is "comparable to loudspeakers," with "exception control, superlative dynamics, and deep, accurate bass."
The buds use Qualcomm's AptX Adaptive standard that compresses audio at a variable bitrate based on how crowded the RF environment is. Users can also adjust the level of noise cancelation or select an ambient passthrough mode when they need to be more aware of the sounds around them.
Elsewhere, the buds have an IP54 dust and water resistance rating and offer four hours of battery life; the case can add 16 more hours via four complete cycles. Speaking of the case, its ability to work as an audio transmitter means you can plug it into a non-Bluetooth audio source, such as an old iPod or in-flight entertainment system, using the included 3.5mm to USB-C cable and it will transmit sound to the buds.
The cheaper PI5 buds use regular AptX, have four microphones, and their case doesn't appear to work as an audio transmitter.
B&W is late to the true wireless earbuds party, something its Director of Product Marketing, Andy Kerr, explains: "We don't pride ourself on being first but being the best. In each case we waited and watched the market. We chose to stay out of the market until we felt we could make a difference."