Bowers & Wilkins PI3 is a wireless headphone model that houses two wired headsets with integrated controller.
An interesting solution that combines the freedom of a wireless solution (based on Bluetooth) with a shape that makes it safe from those who, like the writer, live with the terror of losing the tiny true wireless earphones but at the same time it is lighter and aesthetically valid for a pair of circumaural or supra-aural headphones, not suitable for business travelers and no longer a teenager.
Bowers & Wilkins PI3, the review
Black velvet , quite a sight
The box that houses the headphones opens with, in the foreground, the headphones, in our case in gold color: the inside of the box is in black velvet, not so expensive in the end but able to offer that glance that justifies the important price and the market segment they are aimed at.
In addition to the headphones, the box contains spare rubber pads in various sizes and with or without ear support, a small instruction manual and the USB-C / USB-A charging cable.
1 of 3
The ways of colors
The headphones tested have the color in the metal parts, while the rubber cable is creamy white: the other two colors, Blue and Black, are homogeneous in all parts.
The model is very light, once worn it does not even feel: the rubber is soft but does not allow itself to be twisted, given the shape of the rectangular section with very rounded corners.
1 of 3
The metal areas give merit to the design and embellish it, but in some parts they also have a practical utility: the part behind the earphones is magnetic, so when we detach the headphones, they can be attached to the neck in order to be safer even when not used.
Only downside: the controller part rests on the neck, making it a bit difficult to use with a high-necked winter jacket or when we use a warm scarf.
Subtleties that are easy to get used to
The first connection takes place in the traditional way via Bluetooth from any device: the Bowers & Wilkins PI3 have an App specifically designed to better manage everything but it is not strictly necessary for operation, it is more a form of control.
What the App really does is manage firmware updates, voice instructions but above all the connections to multiple devices.
One of the most interesting functions is given precisely by the possibility of actively working with multiple devices and “jumping” from one device to another if necessary, without the intervention of the user (who is still free to do it manually, albeit under this specific point of view the App can be improved).
In our case, we listened to music from the iPhone at the airport, waiting to board: once in the flight, we put the phone in airplane mode, opened the iPad Air (which has no SIM inside) and opened the latest episodes of the beautiful “The Man in the High Castle” from Amazon Prime Video. The Bowers & Wilkins PI3 did not bat an eyelid and moved from the iPhone (which in the meantime was no longer playing the music) to the iPad, to return to the iPhone once the flight was finished in the same way.
That subtlety isn't unique to Bowers & Wilkins, other vendors feature it too (usually on high-end products), but it's still very comfortable and one of those things you get used to pleasantly very quickly.
The Bowers & Wilkins PI3 can also be used in sports, but in our view they are more suitable for casual use
One more codec
One of the pleasant surprises inside the Bowers & Wilkins PI3 was the presence of the AptX audio codec, a codec developed to improve audio transmission via Bluetooth.
On devices that support it, AptX is able to significantly improve the quality of the audio (as long as the source file allows it) without affecting the battery or the transmission channel.
The Bluetooth Explorer App window (inside XCode), which allows you to activate or force the AptX codec on Mac. On iPhone and iPad, unfortunately, nothing to do
On Mac AptX has been supported for years, but often server “forcing” the system to use it instead of the classic AAC default in Apple devices. This forcing is not a problem, it only takes a couple of manual steps but the result is really important in the detail and depth of the sound.
All this is also helped by the fact that the headphones use Bowers & Wilkins Dual Driver technology, with two integrated speakers, one for the highs and mids and a second for the bass, with a separation of frequencies that makes the result at its best.
On the iPhone and iPad, however, unfortunately it is not possible: for these iOS and iPadOS devices they do not let the user force the thing, so we are satisfied with the AAC codec, slightly more contained as results.
On Android, however, the situation is softer but not all smartphones support it.
After some trial by fire in a series of Business trips across Italy, the Bowers & Wilkins PI3 (here the official page) showed off a clear, obvious and unmistakable quality: musically important, with a complete smart support (even if improved in some minor details), and with the presence of an AptX codec that on Mac, PC and Android gives credit to the efforts of those who play for real.
The battery could last longer, because at the end of the day we always charged them and we hoped for more, but the variables are many and such that it is difficult to judge (and keeping three devices always under control must not be easy).
The price, around 186 Euros, is important but it is the result of a quality that can be seen, touched and above all felt.
1 of 3
• Elegant and comfortable shape • Remarkable smart features • Sound that lives up to the mark
• The low power battery • Not suitable for those who use winter jackets with high collar
• 186.00 Euro (approximately, depending on the color)
Bowers & Wilkins products (of which we recently made a brief presentation of the new models) are distributed in Italy by Audiogamma Spa and the PI3 model can be found both in large distribution and online on Amazon.it in the colors Gold, Blue and Black. with slight price variations based on the color.
All Cyberlayman articles on Bowers & Wilkins headphones and audio devices are available from this page.