Bowers & Wilkins has earned its place as the BMW of high-end audio. The company’s loudspeakers are legendary: Its five-figure Nautilus speakers have been displayed in museums; Abbey Road Studios has used their monitors for more than 20 years; and the company’s new 800 Series Diamond (which I auditioned during last year’s NYC launch event) are receiving rave reviews.

The company’s headphone line, on the other hand, has been the black sheep in the family. The wired versions have been judged as pretty good, but not truly great; they’ve certainly never achieved the acclaim afforded the company’s best speakers. Just before Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement, Bowers & Wilkins upgraded its P7 and P3 models to Bluetooth wireless versions. The question on just about every audiophile’s mind is whether these new models simply add wireless capability to the previous generation, or if they up the ante. I was among the first reviewers to get my hands on the B&W P7 Wireless, so I was anxious to find out.

Identical or fraternal twins?

The new P7 Wireless are easily mistaken for the original. I placed the new model next to its wired forerunner, which I’ve owned for quite some time, and found the two virtually indistinguishable. Even their spec sheets look alike: two 40mm full-range drivers, impedance of 22 ohms, frequency response ranging from 10Hz to 20kHz, and sensitivity of 111dB/V at 1kHz. The P7 wireless are a hair heavier at 323g vs 290g.

The Bluetooth 4.1 P7 Wireless omits the chrome accent around the ear cups, and while I was sorry to see that feature cut, it has zero impact on performance. A three-button remote control has been added to the left ear cup, as well as a power switch and a micro-USB charging port on the bottom.

With all the controls now on the left side, the wired input has moved to the right ear cup. The ear cups are magnetic, as they were on the original. To switch to wired mode, emove the right-hand cup, insert the 2.5mm angled end into the articulating input, and you’re set. Plugging in the cable immediately disables Bluetooth, but removing the cable doesn’t re-enable Bluetooth. You must power the headphones back on again manually to do that.

The B&W P7 Wireless have magnetic, replacable ear cups Theo Nicolakis

The B&W P7 Wireless have magnetic, replaceable ear cups. The right ear cup (shown above) also has an input for wired mode.

This lap of luxury needs some break-in time

There’s nothing cheap or flimsy with these headphones. The P7 Wireless simply spoil you with their luxurious fit and feel. There aren’t many headphones under $500 (or twice the price, for that matter) that can keep up with Bowers and Wilkins in this regard. In my book, the P7 Wireless are a gold-standard. The genuine sheep leather headband and ear cups are smooth, soft, and supple. The sleek-looking aluminum frame is sturdy and infinitely adjustable. The headband guides, conceals, and automatically expands and contracts the nylon-braided wire connecting each ear cup. The engineering is a thing of beauty.

The headphone design gets even better. Many over-the-ear headphones aren’t portable—they’re just too bulky and they can’t fold flat. B&W has solved this problem by inserting a rotating joint between the edge of the headband and the ear cup arm that allows you to fold the headphones to half their size. Brilliant.

The accessories have been pored over just as meticulously. The included carrying case is smooth, lined with velour, and snaps closed with a magnetic flap. That’s industrial design done right—down to the smallest detail.

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