Most manufacturers are now releasing two small individual earbuds for a truly wireless experience. Therefore, finding a neckband-style set of earbuds is becoming more and more difficult. However, Bowers & Wilkins are keeping that style alive with their PI3 wireless earphones.
These are no budget set of earphones, and they have been designed to provide a premium audio experience. Enjoying this level of performance does not come cheap; in fact, they are rather expensive. So, let’s find out if spending that extra cash is worth it in our in-depth Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Review…
There are three different colors to choose from, which include blue, gold, and space gray. If you were to lay them on the table, it looks like two snakes coming to greet each other out of a snake charmer’s basket.
Completely coated in a matte rubber finish, there is a mix of both flex and rigidity. The earphones keep their shape where they’re supposed to. But can still be twisted or bent, finally springing back into shape. Making them some of the most durable earbuds available.
Can you ear me?
As a highlight, the earpieces are metallic on the back area of the fin that remains exposed once you’ve inserted the earphones. There are two components to the earpieces consisting of the external fins and the internal ear tips. They help to make these some of the best fitting earbuds you can buy.
The internal ear tips have a rubber exterior with three different sizes included, so you can find the perfect fit. They are designed to sit within your ear canal and should be slightly tight, forming a seal, but should not cause any irritation.
In addition to the tips, there are three different-sized rubber fins included too. You can mix and match to make sure that you have the most comfortable fit possible. The fins are designed to keep the earphones in place while you’re moving about.
Keeping controls in-line…
Just after the bend, as the neckband begins to wrap around your neck, there are in-line controls located on each side. The rubber becomes a little bit fatter to house all the components, and they share the same metallic finish found on the back of the earpieces.
On the left side, there is only a single button, which controls your earphones’ power. This is where the Bowers & Wilkins logo can also be found. We like the idea of keeping the power button separate to avoid any possible confusion.
Over on the right-hand side are three buttons. The center button, depending on how many times it’s tapped, controls playback, track navigation, and calls. The other two buttons adjust volume levels. You’ll also find a USB-C port for charging.
One of the main selling points of these earphones is the dual drivers. Most earbuds have only a single driver, which usually means that they are tuned favorably towards either highs or mids and lows. The dual-drivers make these some of the best sounding earbuds on the market.
For perfect balance, Bowers & Wilkins has created an armature driver for high frequencies and a second dynamic driver for mids and lows. Each has a separate amplifier for a richer and fuller sound. Another reason these are some of the best premium earbuds around.
Breaking the Codec…
Featuring the latest aptX Adaptive Codec means that you can enjoy pure, synced audio no matter where you are. The super low-latency is fantastic for playing mobile games or watching movies as sounds are matched perfectly to what’s on the screen.
An adaptive bitrate adjusts automatically to provide seamless glitch-free audio without any pauses or interference. The aptX Codec also assists with Bluetooth by providing HD quality audio in high resolution. The result is some of the best Bluetooth earbuds you can buy.
There’s always a balance that must be found when adding a battery to these devices. The longest battery life possible is preferred. But the larger the battery, the more space required, and the heavier it becomes.
Bowers & Wilkins have found a good balance in their PI3 earphones. The built-in rechargeable battery offers approximately 8 hours of playback from a full charge. If you need a boost, a quick 15-minute charge will get you another two hours of playback.
Don’t forget the mic…
While there has been plenty of care taken to ensure that the wearer experiences high-quality audio, there’s a feature that’s often overlooked. It seems like many other manufacturers offer a microphone for calls as an afterthought.
That is not the case here; as Bowers & Wilkins say, “your voice matters.” Using the latest noise-canceling technology, callers can hear your voice crystal clear during calls. The caller’s voice is also heard with the same clarity as the music through your earphones.
From the dual drivers and two separate amplifiers, a frequency range of between 10Hz and 30kHz is possible. The full range dynamic driver for mid’s and low’s measures 9.2mm, while the balanced armature driver is much smaller.
On bass-heavy tracks, the dynamic drivers deliver a hearty and responsive low-frequency. Rather than a pounding sound, there is a greater focus on abundance and complexity. Even at high volumes, there was no distortion detected.
Rich and dynamic…
Balanced music that isn’t as digitized is where these earphones really shine, and the sound signature comes to life. You can still feel the kick drum, but it doesn’t take over everything else.
Every instrument is identifiable to the point that you can feel its own personality. The levels of lavishness and charisma made possible are truly remarkable; it’s like you are listening to a live performance.
We didn’t forget the mic…
Bowers & Wilkins made a big deal about their built-in microphone, and we can now see, or hear, why. As a test, we recorded some voice memos using our Android smartphone. Playback was crystal clear, with every word being easily understood.
Next was the phone call, which we need to rely on someone else’s description. As far as listening to our caller, the claim is accurate, and their voice could be heard as clear as the music.
We didn’t tell them we were using earphones, and they thought we were talking directly through the phone in a quiet room at home instead of the office.
Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Review – Pros and Cons
- Comfortable and secure fit with both tips and wings.
- Attractive design with a limited but appealing range of colors.
- Controls are well-positioned, easily accessed, and function well.
- Dual drivers with separate amplifiers in each ear.
- aptX Codec is great for playing games and watching movies.
- A high-performance microphone provides clear calls.
- Incredible, next-level audio quality.
- No water-resistance rating makes them unsuitable for use at the gym.
- An expensive set of earphones.
- Neckband design may not be appealing to some people.
- Battery life is much less than many competitors.
- No noise-cancellation feature at this price point.
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Bowers & Wilkins PI3 Review – Final Thoughts
What might appear like an older set of earphones will shock and surprise anyone who tries them out. In a good way, that is. They are surprisingly comfortable, as long as one of the included ear tips and fins fits correctly.
It’s a shame the battery life isn’t longer and that there’s no water-resistance rating. When considering all of this, is the extra cash worth it?
Experiencing the amazing sound quality, you can see what those extra funds have gone towards. After all, isn’t that the most important aspect of an audio device? So, we have to say, yes, it is worth every penny.
Until next time, happy listening.