Gadgetwise: A Review of the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Headphones

Built With a Loudspeaker in Mind

A Review of the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Headphones

Primarily known for making hi-fi speakers for audio studios and luxury hotels, the British company Bowers & Wilkins recently turned its expertise to headphones. The company quickly built a high-quality lineup, and rounding out the roster is the P7, its first over-ear headphones.

The P7 is the first over-the-ear headphones from Bowers & Wilkins.

The inside of the P7 headphones includes parts designed with a traditional loudspeaker in mind. The technology includes voice coils made of a light aluminum-copper compound, which improves high-frequency reproduction, and damping materials to reduce distortion. All of this adds up to produce “truly immersive sound,” according to Bowers & Wilkins.

But the company seems to have spent equal time on the exterior of the P7. The headphones are made with sturdy materials like leather and stainless steel, providing a look of refinement. “Dual-cavity” cushions on the ear cups are intended to provide a more comfortable fit while blocking outside noise. The ear cups even have a rectangular shape that resembles a loudspeaker.

All of that attention to detail pays off in the sound quality. The aural precision is pretty amazing; it’s like sitting in a sound studio. I could hear every nuance of the music, with clear highs and a solid bass.

At first glance, the headphones didn’t look as if they would fit well, but the rectangular cups fit securely over my ears, creating a nice seal that allowed little sound to escape. They were so comfortable that at one point I fell asleep while wearing them, not realizing they were still perched on my head.

The P7 headphones come with two tangle-free audio cables — one with an in-line remote and microphone and the other without — and a quarter-inch plug adapter. The headphones can be folded and stored in a case that is included and resembles a clutch handbag.

At $400, the P7 headphones are not a product I would use on my daily subway commute, but I would feel comfortable wearing them while relaxing in a luxury hotel.

State of the Art: Lighter and Faster, It’s iPad Air

Lighter and Faster, It’s iPad Air

Carl Court/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

The new iPad Mini, left, and the iPad Air. The Air will have plenty of competition when it goes on sale on Friday morning.

The iPad Air is noticeably lighter than its predecessors.

If you are the least bit interested in the new tablet computer from Apple, you probably already know that. The company’s engineers shaved just short of a third off the weight of the earlier version; the 9.7-inch Air weighs only a pound.

What you may not know is this: Those 6.4 ounces make all the difference when, as you recline while reading or watching a movie, you conk out and the iPad falls forward to bonk you on the nose. The Air won’t hurt you the way the old iPad did.

The weight reduction and a 20 percent slimmer profile provide other benefits, too. My messenger bag strap didn’t dig into my shoulder as deeply when my iPad was in it. My hand didn’t cramp up while grasping the iPad Air for an hour while watching movies or playing games.

But is Nose Bonking Reduction enough to justify buying a new iPad if you already own one of the 170 million iPads that have been sold over the last three and a half years? And if you have never bought a tablet computer, is this the one that persuades you to fling your laptop aside like crutches at a faith healing and embrace a new era?

When the iPad Air goes on sale on Friday morning around the globe, it will face its toughest competition yet – from Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1, Microsoft’s Surface 2 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX. Google has a new Nexus tablet in the wings.

The iPad Air will also compete against its little brother, the iPad Mini. Later in November, Apple will begin selling a new version of that tablet, which comes with a high-resolution 7.9-inch Retina screen and the same faster processor found in both the Air and the new line of iPhones.

So how does the Air stack up? Compared with the Mini, the question really boils down to size. If all you want to do on a tablet is read books or watch movies, the smaller screen is excellent, and you can save $100 (the cheapest model of the Air costs $500. The new Mini costs $400). But I use the iPad for work, reading documents and occasionally even editing or writing on it. I also use it as a second screen (actually it’s a fourth, but we won’t get into that) on my desk for research on the web. The extra real estate provided by a larger screen matters at the office.

If you decide you need the bigger screen, you will find a lot of benefit in the iPad Air. In addition to being light and slim, it loads apps and web pages quickly – faster than the old iPad, because Apple tailored software to mesh with the custom A7 processor and vice versa.

It easily runs for 10 hours on a charge, just as Apple promises – despite the battery’s smaller size and the increased demands put on it. In my test of pretty heavy use, it downloaded and played three hourlong episodes of “Game of Thrones” and a few hours of music. I scrolled through Twitter and Flipboard, played games and perused the web. That’s almost a typical day for me and my iPad. It will get you through a normal day and then some with no worries.

The iPad Air also sports two antennas to pull in Wi-Fi signals faster than the old one did. Called MIMO for multiple-input and multiple-output, these antennas make a noticeable difference when your fast Wi-Fi signal is weakest, like in a back bedroom or the basement. (You’ll have to have a recent MIMO compatible router to see the magic, though.)

But do you need to plunk down $500 or more for an Air if you already have an earlier version of the iPad? Notice I used the word “need.” Even though I love shiny new objects, I really can’t tell you to replace your old iPad; the improvements on the new one are incremental, not revolutionary.

If you’ve never had a tablet, though, the answer is different. A tablet, especially this iPad, is a delight to use and will bring you more hours of enjoyment than any other electronic device I know of.

Apple sells the devices in two colors – black and white. The company, though, calls them Space Gray and Silver because that’s the color on the back of the tablet. (What can I say? It’s a quirky company.) It also sells covers in six colors for $40 and cases, also in six colors, for $80. You can assume stores will soon be stuffed full of covers and cases of various materials and designs from many vendors to fit the new specs of this version.

Damon Darlin, the international business editor, is a guest columnist for State of the Art.

A version of this article appears in print on October 30, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Lighter And Faster, It’s iPad Air.

At Foley’s Memorial, a Rare Show of Bipartisanship

The Capitol Hill memorial service for Thomas S. Foley, the former House speaker, brought together Republicans and Democrats who just two weeks ago were fighting about the government shutdown, but who were united in praise on Tuesday of a man who himself was a victim of partisan rancor two decades ago.

President Obama spoke of Mr. Foley — a Democrat from Washington State who died on Oct. 18 at age 84 — as an example of the type of leadership that is again needed in Washington.

“At a time when our political system can seem more polarized and more divided than ever before, it can be tempting to see the possibility of bipartisan progress as a thing of the past,” Mr. Obama said. “It can be tempting to wonder if we still have room for leaders like Tom.”

“We are sent here to do what’s right, and sometimes doing what’s right is hard, and it’s not free,” the president said. “And yet that’s the measure of leadership.”

Former President Bill Clinton, who was in the White House during the last two years of Mr. Foley’s tenure as speaker, described him as “one tough guy” who was willing to suffer for what he thought was right.

During his five and a half years as speaker, Mr. Foley pressed the first President George Bush to include tax increases in a deficit-reduction deal, and he ushered Mr. Clinton’s budget through the House in 1993.

The legislative fight that may have doomed Mr. Foley’s career came the next year. A mass shooting on an Air Force base near Spokane, Wash., led Mr. Foley, a longtime opponent of gun control measures, to push for a ban on assault weapons. It passed in 1994.

Realizing it was a politically risky move, Mr. Foley predicted that the ban would sweep Democrats from office, but he believed it was the right thing to do, Mr. Clinton recalled. And Mr. Foley was right — he lost the House seat he had held for 30 years in 1994, becoming the first speaker since the Civil War to be defeated for re-election in his own district.

Robert H. Michel, who served as minority leader opposite Mr. Foley, spoke warmly of his former colleague, calling him “a fair and honest broker and a worthy adversary.” He recalled how Mr. Foley had allowed him to preside at their last session of Congress together, a memory that had come to mind when Mr. Michel visited him shortly before his death.

“When we stood side by side at the podium on that last day of the 103rd Congress, we knew that we were icons, I guess, of a bygone era,” Mr. Michel said.

“We both took great pride in knowing we had made things happen,” he said, adding “that we found good ways to solve difficult problems and make the House a working institution.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said Mr. Foley believed in reaching across the aisle, even when his fellow Democrats criticized him for it.

“That kind of comity is sometimes viewed as old-fashioned around here, but that’s never been true,” Mr. McConnell said. “The parties have always disagreed, but it hasn’t kept them from working together from time to time to solve problems that we all recognize.”

“His faith in government was, shall I say, a little more robust than mine,” Mr. McConnell added. “But we shared a deep respect for the institution and a belief that working with the other side, particularly at a time of divided government, is no heresy when it enables you to achieve some good for the nation.”

At Foley’s Memorial, a Rare Show of Bipartisanship

The Capitol Hill memorial service for Thomas S. Foley, the former House speaker, brought together Republicans and Democrats who just two weeks ago were fighting about the government shutdown, but who were united in praise on Tuesday of a man who himself was a victim of partisan rancor two decades ago.

President Obama spoke of Mr. Foley — a Democrat from Washington State who died on Oct. 18 at age 84 — as an example of the type of leadership that is again needed in Washington.

“At a time when our political system can seem more polarized and more divided than ever before, it can be tempting to see the possibility of bipartisan progress as a thing of the past,” Mr. Obama said. “It can be tempting to wonder if we still have room for leaders like Tom.”

“We are sent here to do what’s right, and sometimes doing what’s right is hard, and it’s not free,” the president said. “And yet that’s the measure of leadership.”

Former President Bill Clinton, who was in the White House during the last two years of Mr. Foley’s tenure as speaker, described him as “one tough guy” who was willing to suffer for what he thought was right.

During his five and a half years as speaker, Mr. Foley pressed the first President George Bush to include tax increases in a deficit-reduction deal, and he ushered Mr. Clinton’s budget through the House in 1993.

The legislative fight that may have doomed Mr. Foley’s career came the next year. A mass shooting on an Air Force base near Spokane, Wash., led Mr. Foley, a longtime opponent of gun control measures, to push for a ban on assault weapons. It passed in 1994.

Realizing it was a politically risky move, Mr. Foley predicted that the ban would sweep Democrats from office, but he believed it was the right thing to do, Mr. Clinton recalled. And Mr. Foley was right — he lost the House seat he had held for 30 years in 1994, becoming the first speaker since the Civil War to be defeated for re-election in his own district.

Robert H. Michel, who served as minority leader opposite Mr. Foley, spoke warmly of his former colleague, calling him “a fair and honest broker and a worthy adversary.” He recalled how Mr. Foley had allowed him to preside at their last session of Congress together, a memory that had come to mind when Mr. Michel visited him shortly before his death.

“When we stood side by side at the podium on that last day of the 103rd Congress, we knew that we were icons, I guess, of a bygone era,” Mr. Michel said.

“We both took great pride in knowing we had made things happen,” he said, adding “that we found good ways to solve difficult problems and make the House a working institution.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said Mr. Foley believed in reaching across the aisle, even when his fellow Democrats criticized him for it.

“That kind of comity is sometimes viewed as old-fashioned around here, but that’s never been true,” Mr. McConnell said. “The parties have always disagreed, but it hasn’t kept them from working together from time to time to solve problems that we all recognize.”

“His faith in government was, shall I say, a little more robust than mine,” Mr. McConnell added. “But we shared a deep respect for the institution and a belief that working with the other side, particularly at a time of divided government, is no heresy when it enables you to achieve some good for the nation.”