Get Ready for ‘Headphone Weather’ with Bowers & Wilkins, Focal, and DALI
Summer weather is not conducive to wearing big over-ear headphones while on the go. This is location-dependent, of course, but even in Seattle, my girlfriend Hannah leaves her Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones at home until temperatures start to drop in September, instead sticking with her gym-friendly Beats Fit Pro in-ears for her daily commute on public transportation during the warmer months. But autumn is upon us now. While some get excited for “sweater weather,” I’m all about headphone weather. And this fall, we have some newly-updated models from Bowers & Wilkins and Focal to consider, along with a new high-end headphone from DALI.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e
Bowers & Wilkins has just launched the Px7 S2e, an “evolved” edition of the company’s . The key feature that distinguishes this new version is improved sound quality via an extensively-upgraded DSP (Digital Signal Processing) engine. According to Bowers & Wilkins, the new DSP gave its engineers the opportunity to retune the headphone's acoustic platform, which still uses custom-designed 40mm drive units with an “ultra-fast response.” The combined result of these upgrades is “unmatched detail, dynamics, and spaciousness,” according to the company. Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive wireless technology is on board, automatically optimizing wireless music transmission from compatible devices. Those wanting to avoid bluetooth altogether can opt to use the USB-C and 3.5mm cable connections — both cables are included in the supplied carry case. Like other recent headphones from the British brand, the Px7 S2e works with the Bowers & Wilkins Music App for streaming, control, and configuration, including a user-adjustable EQ and Voice Assistant support. The Px7 S2e features revised aesthetic detailing, but still uses the high-quality materials that Bowers & Wilkins headphones are known for. There are four finishes to choose from: Anthracite Black, Ocean Blue, Cloud Grey and Forest Green. The Px7 S2e is available now for $399.
It’s been a year since the was launched, and the French brand is marking the occasion in two ways. First, the Bathys is being offered in a new finish called Dune. And second, the Bathys is getting a new feature that allows users to adapt the sound of the headphones to accommodate differences in their hearing. (This is a potentially significant upgrade — chief Audioholic Gene DellaSala tested a similar hearing test at work inside the , and was extremely impressed by the results.) Unlike the Bowers & Wilkins headphone described above, the upgraded Bathys isn’t a new model; all existing Bathys headphones will get this new capability via a firmware update. But let’s go back to that new, “luminous finish,” as Focal calls it. The Dune finish is said to be inspired by quarry minerals and “delicate spaces flooded with light,” such as Greek landscapes and desert sands. It’s a creamy-looking beige with silver grilles, rings, and other details. The carrying case and cables are colored to match.
Users can access the new Mimi hearing test via the Focal & Naim app. (Mimi Health also partners with other leaders in consumer electronics, including headphone makers Beyerdynamic and Skullcandy.) Focal says the app allows users to configure the sound delivered by Bathys according to their hearing, so everyone can enjoy “Focal sound,” regardless of their hearing test results. Existing Bathys owners need only update the Focal & Naim app to gain access to this new feature. Both colors of the Bathys are now selling for $699, down from an original launch price of $799.
The new IO-12 is the world’s first headphone to use DALI’s patented Soft Magnetic Compound (SMC) magnet system, which features in the Danish company’s loudspeakers. Together with DALI’s signature paper fiber diaphragms, the SMC technology used in the IO-12’s custom-developed 50mm drivers is said to significantly reduce hysteresis, drastically lowering uneven harmonic distortion as a result. The DALI IO-12 therefore promises “crystal-clear sound with ultra-low distortion, (with) unrivaled depth and musicality.” The headphone delivers “electrostatic levels of midrange clarity” without the cost, complexity, and limited portability of an electrostat, according to DALI. The IO-12 is a foldable design featuring a real leather headband and large, detachable ear-pads with an unusual square shape. The IO-12 is designed to be used either wired, via the supplied 3.5mm mini-jack and USB-C cables, or wirelessly via aptX Adaptive bluetooth. When listening via USB-C, users will enjoy lossless audio up to 24bit/96kHz. The IO-12 features Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and 35 hours of battery life from a full charge. Its $1,499 price makes the DALI IO-12 one of the most expensive wireless noise-cancelling headphones on the market.