The launch of Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones: key learnings and thoughts from a PR perspective

A Starscream Communications report extract on an important industry launch in the headphone market. By Richard Melville.

An introduction

Launching a headphone to the global media isn’t simple. Being one of the most competitive sectors in tech in 2022, there are four key strands of media that need to be managed, supported and briefed to avoid a problematic launch and generate best-in-class earned media coverage.

First is the mainstream and lifestyle media, from The Guardian to The New York Times. Second is the hi-fi media, from What Hi Fi to eCoustics. Third is the tech media including The Verge and Tech Radar. Finally, YouTube media is the last piece of the puzzle. It’s important to note that you ideally need to have a presence across all of these media sectors before considering a social strategy or attempting influencer outreach.

Bowers & Wilkins Px range of headphones have always been popular with media and consumers as an alternative to models by Sony, Bose and Apple. Other brands aiming for a seat at the table include Shure, Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser.

The Px7 arrived in July at a £379 / £399 price-point, which is where the action is in terms of premium consumer headphones. A good selection of news and reviews followed.

The Px8 sits at the top of the Bowers & Wilkins 2022 headphone range (£599/$699) and launched on September 28th.


A typical Starscream Communications launch strategy for media involves a news cycle, review cycle and a features cycle. News coverage would ideally run across media for a month, while review samples would be supplied to selected key media under embargo to run on the day of launch. Then more samples would be sent to the next wave of media when requested. For every brand/product, these media lists may vary depending on price, target demographics and the more general aims of the brand. A brand may want to target Amazon sales while another may have a list of media they need to be in, suggested by a retailer such as John Lewis.

The Px8 launch is interesting as it comes after the more affordable Px7 and its collection of excellent reviews. We would always suggest launching the hero headphone in the range first. The Px8 faces two key rivals at launch – the Sony XM5 and the AirPods Max but arguably the Px7 should also be listed.

At the time of writing (3/10/22), one review for the Px8 has landed – a 3.5 star review in which has 22 million visits per month. For context, What Hi Fi sits at 7.8m, Tech Radar at 44m and T3 at 6.7m. Naturally, being first out of the gates means the PCMAG review will sit on the first page pf Google for a while and will be seen by specialist and mainstream media alike, as well as consumers. For reference, The Guardian has 354m monthly visits and featured a Bower’s & Wilkins review in 2020,

Bower's & Wilkins Px8

Review strategy

As an ideal launch strategy, Starscream Communications would suggest at least 5 reviews on launch week across What Hi Fi, The Guardian, The Verge, CNET and Tech Radar. The demographic is a good match and the numbers hit 500m across all sites before syndication to other news outlets. Some of these sites rely more on new launches for traffic and affiliate sales than others and that influences how quickly a review may be published.

The question we asked ourselves at Starscream Communications was ‘where are the other reviews?’. During my time as Editor at What Hi Fi, we would often be given Bowers & Wilkins products in advance of launch and aim for launch day for a review to meet the needs of the readers. In 2022, the reasoning is the same for media but decisions can be driven by affiliates as much as readers. This is perhaps why media (who have samples) are slow to post reviews because, at the time of writing, the Px8 is available direct from Bowers and Wilkins but not Amazon or John Lewis in the UK.

Richer Sounds told us they were expecting stock at the end of October and a Bowers & Wilkins customer service rep told us our headphones (ordered directly from Bowers & Wilkins) would arrive a day late on Oct 1st which they did. The rep also said they would arrive late due to ‘huge demand’.

A quick Google for ‘Bowers & Wilkins press images’ around the Px8 brings up a couple of press sites, a US agency and the Bowers & Wilkins site, neither of which host Px8 images at the time of writing. We always suggest that images are clearly marked and accessible for media and Starscream has a dedicated press site for media. This avoids various confused asset banks for media globally but also allows us to track interested parties etc.

Starscream Communications has seen a global email press release around the Px8 which carries no lifestyle photography and points to a Dropbox folder for further assets rather than a press site. The problem with that strategy is that mainstream media may pass the headphones by without seeing the brilliant lifestyle photography they need, a publisher may block Dropbox links and the brand and two PR agency contacts listed on the email could leave mainstream media confused about who they should contact for review samples.

Photography and video

It’s no surprise that the lifestyle photography for the Px8 is excellent – we rate photography highly when we can see it’s exactly the type of images that both specialist and mainstream media would use without question.

The promotional video series using artists is well done but aimed at the consumer rather than media. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but they are two very different audiences. At the time of writing, the video starring Moses Boyd has under 3,000 views on the Bowers & Wilkins YouTube channel which boasts 19,800 subscribers. There’s no video on the channel showing the px8 in detail in contrast to the Px7 launch video. In our experience, the latter is something that most media would like to see and occasionally media will embed or point to such a video if they believe it serves their readers. The current lead video on the Px8 on YouTube is from channel called AV Atmos.

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 Next Chapters

·        Sustainability and the media

·        Benchmarking against rival products

·        Who are the five most important journalists for the Px8 and why?

·        How many people have read a Px8 review?

·        How many news stories originated in the US Vs the UK and Europe?

·        How does Px8 coverage compare to the Sony XM5 at launch?

·        What do the forums say?

·        Any key wins on social?

·        An interview with a key media picture editor

·        An interview with a national newspaper journalist