I'm a complete novice with a pair of PSB M4U 2s I've had for the last 4 years and decided to upgrade ... and got the Bose QC35s, but they went back, I just didn't like the SQ, so now I'm trying the P7s.
I gotta say ... no SQ problem with the P7s! They've even gotten me to download FLACs which, 2 days ago, I woulda said WTF is a flack? Anyway, the P7s aren't "burned in" yet but here are my impressions comparing the M4U2, Bose OE SoundLink, and Bose QC35s with the B&W P7s:
* Out of the Box
These things are nice! I don't have the blown-away impression others seem to have (maybe my sample size is less), but they're very nice. They're MUCH nicer than my PSBs and feel in a different league when you put them on. The P7s feel engineered for your head.
I'm not gonna lie: I have a huge head. That said, these fit fine right out of the box - they're tight without hurting and I've worn them for hours. No problems there.
* Sound Isolation
Pretty Stellar - they shut things out when you just put them on (no sound/power). The PSBs aren't even close in this regard, but the Bose QC35s were noticeably better still - again, just putting them on, no power. They definitely block out a lot of background noise ... a word about that. I live in a downtown apartment with a balcony 12 flights up from dance clubs on the approach to an international airport; in short it's really easy for me to test sound isolation for all kinds of different dins. harleys. airplanes. diesel trucks. traffic noise. club noise. city din, etc, more on that in a bit.
* Sound Quality
Since I'm just getting going, I'll point out 3 things:
(1.) I compared sound on FLAC tracks back-to-back with my PSBs (wired, amp on, no ANC) from a macbook pro connected via AptX.
(2.) On some FLAC tracks (like from Bell X1 Arms or 9Bach Anain) the bass is ... "gritty" or gravelly sounding (I'm a novice - you tell me the word) and almost sounds distorted. I'm thinking this might be because they're not burned in yet, but I'll see. On other tracks things sound great so it's just some bass lines, not overall.
(3.) The noise isolation is awesome - if you have music playing at decent volume you really don't hear much else; yes a loud aircraft or truck can be heard, and yes you can hear clanking of dishes on stone counters, but Bose didn't stop any of that stuff either.
Overall the sound is different and a little better than my PSBs, but you really have to listen for it. For example I was comparing a FLAC of Schubert & Shostakovich - Death and the Maiden & Chamber Symphony in C Minor. If I just switched back and forth and didn't think about it, the sound was different, but neither really better or worse. When I really listened, I started picking up things in P7s that I wouldn't have noticed on PSBs ... like breathing. On the P7s, all of sudden I noticed someone (conductor?) breathing - when I went back to the PSBs I could hear it, but it was much less obvious and not as clear. And on it went with many little things in the P7 that I could then detect in the PSBs.
* Do I need ANC?
I was really looking for a "do everything" set of headphones which, for me, is movies/shows, airplane travel, some music. With my PSBs, they do everything pretty good and I thought, given my Bose OE Soundlink experience, that the QC35s would be everything my PSBs were but with way better ANC. No so. The SQ was not horrible but not great - not even close to my PSBs; yes, the QC35 ANC was better, but after trying them out I started to wonder if I cared which is why I got the P7s
In testing the isolation of P7s, of course it's not as good as the QC35s with the ANC on, but when the music or show was playing I could barely tell. With both, I could hear loud trucks, planes, or clinking/clanking and voices - the Bose QC35s were slightly better at those things, but not much. Of course where the Bose excel is the whoosh / droning lower frequency isolation. There's no doubt it's nice to have that gone, but I really had a hard time remembering it was there. When I put on the PSBs with ANC and thought about it, I did notice it wasn't there but I kinda didn't care. On the QC35s, eliminating that lower frequency stuff certainly isn't worth the heavily compromised sound quality.
On an airplane, there are really two places I notice a big difference: taking off and landing. At cruise there's not much of a difference - again, it's there if I look but I forget to even look.
When I add it all up: there's a few instances where I definitely would want the ANC, but overall the B&W are so good passively I don't really care. This isn't true with the PSBs (ANC off obviously) or the Bose OE Soundlinks - with those I definitely want the ANC, but with the P7s the background noise that would be blocked by the QC35s just isn't there enough to justify the SQ tradeoff for me.
If it were just the sound, I'd be hard pressed to say the P7s are THAT much better than the PSBs - again, this is wireless to wired - still just based on sound, the P7s are better but not so much so I could justify it.
However it's also the overall experience: the wireless, the fit, the isolation, AND the sound quality. When you put that all together it's hard to walk away from the P7s.
Edited by GrussGott - 9/29/16 at 7:40pm