Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones Test

 Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones Test

It is usually more convenient to test a simpler version of a technique first, and then a more complex one: this way the impressions are brighter, the emotions are stronger, the wow effect is more tangible. And with fully wireless headphones from Bowers & Wilkins, it turned out the other way around: first I met the top PI7s , and then I listened to the PI5s.

And it cannot be said that because of this impression from PI5 I have deteriorated - oddly enough, on the contrary. With the PI7 as a reference (I still think they offer the closest audiophile sound of any TWS model), the PI5 is not far behind them. And that's great.

It's all in the nuances

The finish is slightly different. The case of PI5 is matte, but with a glossy lid: for PI7 it is framed in metal-like plastic. Tactilely, everything is very pleasant: the case under the fingers is soft, neat, the lid does not play, it closes with a neat and pleasant click.

There is a narrow slot on the front of the case with a status LED. It glows green when the headphones are on, flashes blue in pairing mode, and flashes red when the model is running out of power. Compared to PI7, there is no button below the LED. 

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

Inside, everything is familiar: the same matte plastic and the same neat round key that launches pairing mode if the headphones do not enter it automatically. If you hold the button for a long time, all connection settings will be reset.

The headphones themselves do not differ in shape from the PI7 - they are small, combine chopped edges with soft contours and somehow subtly resemble a Bauhaus teapot. But compared to the white-bronze PI7, the black PI5 looks much calmer. 

There is no additional shine and other shades: the headphones themselves are black, and the meshes on them, and the washer on the outer part of the case, and the touch panel. Only golden contact pads near the sound guide and thin letters of the brand logo on the side surface of the washer dilute the monochrome. The white version of the PI5 shines with silver instead of bronze accents.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

Microphones are hidden under small grilles - both conversational and noise reduction systems. The inside of the earbuds - the same cone that goes into the sound guide - is made of glossy plastic, while all other elements are matte. The sound guide itself, protected by a fine textile mesh, is short, but due to the shape of the case, this is not particularly felt: the headphones can be placed deep enough in the ears without any problems.

The ear pads are the same as those of the PI7 - with a jumper and a sponge inside. They are easy to put on and have a fairly standard size, so if the three pairs included in the kit do not fit, you can easily pick up a replacement from other manufacturers.

The case is the same size as the PI7, and the battery is the same as in it, as in the headphones themselves. Recharges using Type-C - from zero to maximum somewhere in a little over three hours. Headphones on a single charge will last 4.5 hours, and after 15 minutes in the case they will work for another couple of hours. I scolded the small battery in the PI7 review, but here I must admit that fast charging helps to come to terms with this.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

You can view the charge level of each earbud in the Bowers & Wilkins Headphones app. In the settings, you can turn off the function that automatically stops playback when the headphones are taken out of the ear, turn on the noise reduction or transparency mode. And yes, you can run tracks for meditation in the application. I still have questions about their presence, but I cannot help but note that the fire crackles bewitchingly.

More Consistency

In terms of ergonomics, the situation is the same as with the PI7: Bowers & Wilkins engineers very successfully (for me) designed that part of the earphone where the main body goes into the sound guide, and therefore the headphones fly into the ears easily and sit there firmly and comfortably. After three hours with them there is no discomfort, and during training they do not fall out of the ears. And yes: you can train and walk in them in rain and snow, IP54 water resistance allows this.

The controls are simple: one touch of any earphone - pause, double - the next track, triple - the previous one. With a long press on the left earpiece, the noise reduction mode is turned on or off, with the right earpiece, this operation calls up the voice assistant. The sensors respond to even the lightest touches, so you do not need to press the earpiece into your ear in order to switch the track.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

With a good fit comes good passive noise isolation. Headphones do a good job at blocking high frequencies, voices and harsh sounds. And the noise cancellation remains one of the best in the class. Microphones practically do not react to gusts of wind, they filter the roar of a flyover under construction and the champing of slush under the wheels of cars. 

Voices become much muffled, although they do not disappear completely. These headphones will not save you from frolicking children, but from calm conversations in a cafe or in the office - completely. 

Unlike the PI7, the noise reduction in the PI5 does not have an adaptive mode - the noise reduction is set to maximum by default. And okay: in PI7, the adaptive mode worked quite strangely, and PI5 without it shows more consistency. Noise canceling can be turned on either in the app or by long touching the touchpad on the left earcup. Moreover, this touch only affects the operation of noise reduction, the noise transmission mode is turned on separately.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

The funny thing is that in the application you can turn on both modes at the same time - and the effect is unusual. Apparently, the noise-transmitting mode is set to amplify primarily sounds in the mid- and high-frequency ranges, while the noise reduction dampens the monotonous low-frequency noise most effectively. And when these effects are mixed together, you get the strange effect of a world devoid of bass. Buses rush past with a whistle, as if they have no massiveness, excavators click their buckets like tweezers. Everything that happens around immediately becomes somehow light, airy.

I don’t know in what situation such an effect may be required, but the fact that the noise reduction and noise transmission functions work independently, and not mutually exclusive from each other, is convenient.

Whole picture

The main differences between PI5 and PI7 are in the sound. The first concerns connectivity: the PI5 supports the aptX codec, not the aptX Adaptive like the older model. The TWS + system is used to synchronize the signal in the right and left headphones, plus the headphones themselves support a maximum of 16-bit sound.

The funny thing is

The second difference is emitters. The PI5 has one: a dynamic one with a diameter of 9.2 mm. In PI7, in addition to it, reinforcing is used, voicing high frequencies. And the difference in sound, taking into account these features, is quite logical.

The character is still recognizable: it's a detailed sound that blends audiophile precision with comfort and warmth. But at the same time, it has less detail and air at high frequencies and more solidity in the middle - where guitars with vocals frolic. 

Noise reduction still helps to create a clean background for compositions, against which they reveal themselves as brightly and vividly as possible. Bass is accurate, slightly elevated, but this elevation only adds enthusiasm to the compositions, but does not shift the entire focus of attention to the bottoms. There is plenty of control: the headphones are ready to hum angrily, as required by the saddest Mogwai tracks, and quickly knock the drum in the metal.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

Due to the fact that the high-frequency range is slightly less detailed than in PI7, the headphones sound friendlier. Bad mastering, of course, and they will not forgive, but they can listen to Spotify without disgust, which the older model did not allow. Japanese hip-hop, which is not available on other streaming services, played volumetrically, provocatively, the voices were perfectly distinguishable and slightly crawled forward over a dense, sloppy beat in a Spotify style.

The transition to streaming services with support for a higher bitrate gave a noticeable increase in quality: the bass picked up, and the vocals began to fit more evenly into the overall mix, and the detail increased. So with these headphones it makes sense to use FLAC streaming - but they do not have that easy analytical snobbery that is felt in PI7. 

The stage is large, large-scale, not as deep as we would like, but the stereo effects in “Summon The Fire” from The Comet Is Coming do not collide with each other, revolve around the saxophone and gurgling percussion quite freely. The symphonic soundtracks sound impressive, tight—in Halo: Infinite’s opening “Zeta Halo,” the chorus begins in a noise-canceling-scorched void and spreads across the great hall without any obstruction, fading neatly into carefully calculated aftertones. Drums in "The Road", "Tower", "Heavy Artillery" from the same soundtrack are ethnically rounded, strings and cymbals do not lose their brightness against their background and remain sonorous and clear.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

In PI5, sound comfort, its integrity are brought to the fore. Compositions are perceived as complete, finished works, and not as a set of elements. Every nuance, every detail is exactly in the right place and fits perfectly into the surrounding sounds, clinging to them and making up a single picture with them. There is more melomanism here than audiophilia. 

All for the sound

The main advantage of the Bowers & Wilkins PI5 is the sound. These headphones sound thoroughbred, high-quality, but at the same time not as detailed as the PI7 - and because of this, they forgive a lot for both compositions and listeners. This model is really closer to the people - both in terms of the nature of the presentation and in terms of cost. 

It's nice to listen to music in these headphones: it sounds interesting, lively, a little less detached. The headphones have good noise reduction, the effectiveness of which, however, greatly depends on the fit. The package bundle is not very rich, but the ear pads are standard, so it will not be difficult to find the right ones.

Bowers & Wilkins PI5 TWS headphones test

For those who thought the PI7 had too much to offer, the PI5 will please: these are simple headphones that just play music - and do it well. The sound has the character of acoustics from Bowers & Wilkins, albeit a little lost in detail. And all these “though” and “but” arise only because there are PI7s that have raised the bar. Without comparison, the PI5 are excellent headphones in their category, standing out from others with a special sound.


Recognizable branded sound, high-quality noise reduction, more relaxed attitude to low-quality content than PI7


Non-universal fit


Bowers & Wilkins PI5

Specs Bowers & Wilkins PI5

Headphone type: in-ear, completely wireless

Driver Type: 9.2mm Dynamic Driver

Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, SBC, AAC, aptX codecs

Battery life: earbuds up to 4.5 hours, case up to 20 hours, full charge time 2 hours, Qi wireless charging and fast charging supported

Microphones: four cVc2 microphones, two in each earpiece

Noise cancellation: active, with two levels of noise transmission

Additionally: support for voice assistants, three pairs of ear pads included, IP54 protection

Weight: headphones - 7 g each, case - 55 g

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