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Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones

84% Positive Reviews
Rated #92 in Over-Ear


Pros: Very comfortable for long listening in your lounge chair, plane, train or bus. Handles most genres without fatigue. And sound rates a 8.5-9/10 for me.

Cons: None really. Not cheap but hardly expensive compared to many other commercially successful phones like Beats, Amperiors or Momentums.

I'm adding my support to this often maligned headphone. I've noticed several previous critical reviews have been made by folks who've had a casual listen at the Apple Store and don't actually own a pair. That does seem to distort the overall rating somewhat since I think these are a headphone you have to have for a while to appreciate. True, there are many better sounding cans but I doubt most who have purchased did so for them to be their premium listening headphone. I am sure I am like many buyers who liked the look, found them comfortable especially with your head nestled into a high back chair like aircraft seats because you can turn your head a little without the ear cup being pushed off your ear, with a moderate clamping force that doesn't pinch your ears especially if you wear glasses like me. The sound quality while agreed is not in the league of my HD600 or Beyerdynamic DT-250 or even my HD-25-1, is still pretty damn good for a supra-aural.

I tried many portables over the past 6 months looking for something I could wear pretty much anywhere and easily driven by my phone, iPad and Sony WMZ Z-1070. First were a set of DT-1350s. There are any number of glowing reviews. I must say I didn't mind the sound but I couldn't get a good seal and therefore the bass was underwhelming while the mids were too forward. I tried to like them but had to give up and decided to move them on recently. I also tried Amperiors early on but while some say the P5 has a forward mid bass, I found the AmperIor much more so. To the point of being boomy to me. I returned them after a week. That's when I got the P5s. I've enjoyed them since. Used them at home and while travelling. While I do prefer my Bose QC-15 for noise cancelling on flights, I just don't like the Bose for regular listening. Not that they sound awful, just not good enough.

Believing there might be better choices, went on to buy a set of Momentums after auditioning a pair and getting a great deal on them. It was a love/hate thing for me. They looked great, have the iPhone controls, a nice carry case, nice earpads but in the end I found them just too warm sounding, and I could not wear them for long periods as the stitching around the inner pad irritated my ears. I persevered for a month or so then bought the HD25s which I should have bought right at the beginning but chose the DT-1350. They sounded just right to me. So I traded the Momentums for my HD600s with someone looking for a portable and not using the 600s.

The HD25s really are a superb sounding phone but, they look too dorky to wear as an out and about portable and really aren't anywhere near as comfortable as the P5s. So what's the attraction to the P5? Simply the fact they do what a portable headphone should do well. They sound good even if not audiophile standard, are compact (they fit nicely in my computer bag), are very comfy for long periods, and totally non-fatiguing. I frankly enjoy using them. Vocals tracks present like you're in the audience not simply listening to recorded music and that perception extends to jazz and classical alike. I highly recommend them.

PS. I like my P5s so much after auditioning some P3s I found an almost new pair on eBay at a fair price purchasing them as a carry round pair of even more portable headphones. Make no mistake, while pretty good too, they aren't in the same league as the P5 and aren't that much more portable given they don't fold flat like the P5s do. Nor are they as comfy as the cloth pads don't sit on your ears as well as the leather pads of the P5s.


Pros: Comfortable, good noise rejection, unique tonal palette

Cons: Expensive

I have heard that some design mods have been implemented recently on the P5's, but I can't verify it at the moment. I will say this, however, in defense of a very nice set of cans. They feel great, look amazing and have a punchy yet non-fatiguing sound. There is a definite bump in the upper bass register that makes Getty Lee's bass sound like he's playing in your living room--yes I'm listening to R30 on my P5's as I'm writing this. There's plenty of bass extension on the synths and kick drums below 100 hz, and Neil Peart's cymbals have just the right amount of sizzle without being overbearing. Mids are very well balanced with plenty of detail.

I own a set of Grado RS 325i's, Senn Hd 600's, Aiaiai TMA 1's, Charter Oak SP 1's and several other headphones. Like the P5's, they all bring something different to the listening party, whether it's an expansive soundstage, ultra linear response, detailed highs, deep bass, midrange punch, or extreme comfort. The P5's were never intended to be audiophile cans--they are perfect for portable devices because they sound like full sized headphones.

If you're gonna pull out all of your reference recordings and nitpick them to death, you are missing the point. They are exciting to hear with an "on stage with the band" presence and plenty of detail across the frequency range. They are perfect for Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree, Joe Bonamassa, Pat Metheney, James Brown, and SRV; real music that real people in the real world like to hear. No, they don't sound as hyped in the lows and highs as Grado's or as silky smooth as Senns. If that's what you want, don't buy the P5's, but if you want a punchy, slightly compressed (in a very musical sense) comfortable set of cans that will put a smile on your face when you crank up "Clockwork Angels" and Alex Lifeson tears into his first solo, give the P5's a serious listen.

As an added bonus, you get excellent noise rejection and the other patrons at your favorite coffee house won't have a clue that you are listening to your favorite emo band (Dashboard Condessional, anyone?). And when you finally come to your senses and crank up some Motörhead, you'll hear every nuance of Lemmy's Rickenbacker bass. Leave your 24 bit reference recordings on your pretense/smug drive and plug the P5's into your iPad. Your lunch hour will go by way too fast. And go ahead--try some of the EQ presets. Screw the audiophile crowd. You know what sounds good to your ears. The Electronica preset on iTunes for the iPad 3 will absolutely thrill you when you hit the play button on the Killer's "Battle Born." Or click the treble booster if you want Joey Jordison's cymbals to sizzle like fried pork fat. Mae Moore, Joan Armatrading, Johnny Nash? Who listens to this stuff? And who hooks portable cans to audiophile headphone amps?

Those of you who have heard them and were unimpressed, see if you can find a recently manufactured set. Pop the ear pad off and have a look because I think there may have been some design changes. I love these things! Then again, I enjoy variety in my headphones. I don't want them all to exhibit the exact same characteristics--how boring would that be? Now, let's talk about my recently acquired Aiaiai TMA1's...

(Wait a second, this was supposed to have been a quick one. Sorry)


Pros: luxurious design, solid build, replaceable cables, excellent bass and smooth sound signature

Cons: proprietary replacement cable, on-ear fit might not work for everybody

This is a review of Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 (updated 2014 version!!!) on-ear premium portable headphones.  http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Headphones/Headphones/Headphones/P5-Series-2.html


When it comes to B&W headphones, they are considered to be among the top brands combining quality and performance with a true luxury.  I think it's a very important point to make because I came across a number of other headphones with luxurious looks from a distance where upon a closer encounter you feel plastic and pleather.  With Bowers & Wilkins you will pay a reasonable premium, but you will also know exactly what you are paying for once you hold it in your hands.  I typically don't start my review with a talk about the luxury and the price, but I felt compelled to do this because B&W P5 Series 2 really stands out from most of the other on-ear and over-ear I have tested in the past.  Here is why.


Actually, let me reiterate the last statement because unboxing on-ear P5 felt like a deja vu since I already had a pleasure to test and to review its bigger brother: over-ear P7.  The P5 model I had an opportunity to review is actually an updated Series 2 version, and because I didn't have a chance to listen to the first gen P5, I will review it without comparison to the original one.  But regardless of this deja vu feeling, it's still a very exciting experience to take a cover of the hard carton black box which from the start sets a "formal attire" tone.


Under the cover you have a form fitting tray with P5 sitting flat thanks to 90 degree rotated earcups.  Unlike P7 which folds inward of the headband for storage to occupy smaller footprint, P5 has the ability to rotate its earcups 90 deg for a flat storage.  In my opinion, flat storage is more practical for traveling since it lays flat without putting too much stress on the joints when inside of your luggage.  To assist you in traveling, P5 comes with a very unique padded quilted soft storage bag, though you have to be very secure in your masculinity since it does look like a make-up purse (an actual comment from my wife).  But either way, it's definitely a luxurious "designer" type of a carry case which goes along with a whole luxurious design of these headphones.  In addition to a very educational booklet, the only other included accessory is a second set of audio only cables.


The second set of cables is a replacement for an original removable cable which comes with in-line remote/mic.  I know B&W is very clear to point out this is iPod/iPhone/iPad specific remote, but in reality only volume up/down controls are unique to iOS devices.  Multi-function button in the middle works PERFECTLY with all the common Android phones from Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and some others where single click performs Play/Pause/Call, double click to skip next, triple click to skip prev, and long press to start Google NOW.  Mic portion of the remote is very adequate for taking calls and typically works great to pick up your voice without a problem.  In a noisy environment sometime you have to bring up mic a little closer to your mouth.


Unlike other headphones with a removable cables, B&W P5 (similar to P7) has a proprietary cable with a standard 3.5mm on the side going to your audio source and 2.5mm angled connector hidden inside of the left earcup.  It's really a clever design which makes a cable attachment to earcup look like it has a hardwired seamless connection.  To get to the connector you remove magnetically attached earpad to access internal 2.5mm plug.  Actually, right side earpad is magnetically attached as well for an easy replacement.  It's a similar design used in P7, and I do want to comment about being careful if you have sharp nails not to damage the leather since these magnets are quite strong.  The cable itself feels strong yet thin, has a round shape, and feels soft.  Also, due to a construction with a removable connection inside of the earcup, I didn't sense any microphonics effect.


Similar to earpads where a leather covers soft memory foam, the back of earcups also have a leather material covering around the sides with a black brushed metal plate in the middle and etched "Bowers & Wilkins" name.  Earcup is attached on one side to a solid curved chrome metal double wire that waves into the headband.  Beside previously mentioned 90 degree rotation, earcup also have some degree of tilt to adjust to your ears/head shape.  The headband is leather wrapped and has a soft foam padding on the inner side.  The whole construction feel very solid, and headband adjustment is buttery smooth while still requiring a little bit of force so it doesn't slide out loosely.  Out of the box, similar to P7, clamping force is a bit tight and requires some break in period.  After a few days it felt more comfortable while still offering an excellent sound isolation.  Regarding sound isolation, you do have to be realistic this is on-ear design which can't be compared to over-ear like P7, so you should still expect to hear outside noise though with a decent attenuation.


I guess by now I established a point where these look like a million bucks, or maybe a few dollars less since I made the same comment about P7, and P5 is just a scaled down version of it :)  So how do these sound?  The sound signature is balanced warm with L-shaped emphasis - yes, the bass here is phenomenal!!!  At the same time, though bass quantity is enhanced, mids are balanced without perception of being too recessed.  The sound feels very analog, almost like you are listening to actual speakers, but it required a good 20hrs of burn in since out of the box it had too much of mid-bass bloat which settled down nicely afterwards.  Ironically, B&W is well known for their speaker products so I have a feeling their design/sound engineers use a lot of that reference when it comes to headphones.


In more detailed analysis, low end has a textured sub-bass rumble that can put a smile even on a basshead face, and an aggressive punch of the fast mid-bass.  After burn-in, bass became very tight and more controlled with just a slight hint of spilling into lower mids.  But in no way does it over powers the mids.  Mids are clear, very smooth and warm with a lush delivery of vocals.  They tend to be a bit too smooth which could affect some retrieval of details, but still have a good definition and clarity.  I think a lot of it also has to do with how bright or dark your audio source is, where a brighter sound could give a better perception of the details.  Treble is smooth as well, feels a bit rolled off, and without a hint of harshness or sibilance.  Soundstage is average in width and depth, though gets enhanced with a proper amping.  This is typical for on-ear model, where over-ear P7 had an edge in soudstage width.


Since I have been mentioning P7 in comparison reference, I figured to summarize it with a few other headphones.  Going back to P7, I can hear a lot of similarities when it comes to low end, but P5 mids sound more forward while P7 treble has more extension.  Also due to over-ear fitment of P7, they have a better isolation and wider/deeper soundstage.  Also, P5 is a little less efficient and required on average 10 more volume clicks.  Comparing to on-ear Beyer T51p, P5 bass felt deeper and had a bit more quantity, while T51p Tesla drivers delivered more low end details.  When it comes to mids, T51p is more recessed and less clear/detailed.  Comparing to V-Moda XS, P5 bass is head'n'shoulders above XS, while upper mids/lower treble is brighter and harsher in XS.  P5 also has a better isolation.


Overall, I found B&W P5 performance and design to be of an exceptional quality.  I can't compare the original P5 to the updated P5 Series 2 which I have reviewed here, but I had a chance to read a technical paper regarding new Series 2 which lists a significant amount of internal improvements including everything from an updated driver (based on P7 design) to a new speaker plate and ear cup enclosure with an updated type and amount of damping material, and even a new ear cushion/padding.  It almost sounds like a brand new headphone!  It's still not a match to overtake a throne from their flagship P7 model, which is not an intention of this model to begin with, but they did an excellent job to align them in terms of technology and design.  This could also mean that in a future we might see P7 Series 2.  But at the current moment if you want to spoil yourself with a luxury and have a budget of $300 or you can stretch your budget to reach this goal, and if you are craving some serious bass performance with clarity of mids and smoothness of top end - B&W P5 Series 2 is a serious contender in this category.  For those who are looking for a reference audiophile sound or super isolation while riding public transportation, these might not be their cup of tea.  But if you want a "modern" audiophile fun sound when you are on the go or traveling - give them a serious consideration!


Here are the pictures (click pictures to enlarge).

























Pros: A small and very attractive headphone with great isolation

Cons: A very off sonic signature with very rolled off highs and lots of midbass

B&W (Bowers & Wilkins) P5 Headphones

Being a B&W speaker owner, and fan, I was eager to test out a pair of P5’s. The look of the headphone also enticed me – they are very attractive:

So I bought a pair. My reason for buying these was to use them as portables, on the road, with the iQube and an iPod Classic. I have been using the Senn PXC350, and still will have to for sure on airplane trips, but when I travel another way, or when I am gone a long time, I want to have another, non-noise cancelling headphone for that. I was hoping the P5 would fill the bill. I had bought the Ed 8's for that, but decided I liked them for home use too much to take them on the road.

As they arrived, I was impressed by the nice packaging. They are smaller than I thought. The build quality of the headphones themselves is outstanding. And indeed, they are very beautiful to look at. The pad design has been extensively discussed, and so I won’t go into it there, but as nice as they looked, I never found them to be completely comfortable. There is more pressure on the ear than I would like, no matter what I did. I could only wear them comfortably for about 15 minutes. On the flipside, they do isolate very, very well – the best I have gotten from a headphone that doesn’t use noise cancellation except for the Sennheiser HD25.

Also, the included cables are very thin and un-inspiring. And due to the connection scheme coupled with the manner in which the cable is snaked through the earcup close to the earpad assembly, and the absolute requirement of the earpad assembly to be snugly coupled to the headphone, it’s very unlikely that any sort of aftermarket cable is possible.

But worst of all, I found the sound to be very disappointing. My initial listen showed some promising things, but some very noticeable problems too, which I had hoped would be ameliorated with burn in. So I burned them in for 100 hours before listening to them again.

I played around a LOT with positioning on my ear, and while it definitely does matter, it did not change the overall sound significantly IMO (assuming we are talking only about reasonable positionings to begin with ).
I tested them using the iQube, which I consider to be a paragon of transparency in a portable amp. Just to make sure of what I was hearing, though, I also used the P5 on the Meier Audio Concerto and even the Leben CS300X.


The P5 have a slightly muffled, muted sound, are lacking transparency, and are noticeably colored. They are maybe the darkest sounding headphones I have ever heard that were “real” headphones. The treble sounds very rolled off and lacks extension in a very noticeable way, even compared to headphones with a slightly soft treble like the JVC DX1000. As such, little musical details get lost. Cymbals don’t sound like they should – they are thrown almost behind your head since they are so muted.

The midrange is an enigma. There is definitely a lack of transparency to it. It’s lush, but there is a odd coloration I cannot quite describe to it. Some female vocals sound very good in a beautiful sort of way, but male vocals sound odd. And piano also sounds wrong – it fails to sound realistic. Patricia Barber's outstanding recordings have some of the most natural piano rendering I know of, and yet through the P5, they did not sound as I know they should.

The above two traits also lead to a lack of dynamics and good attack. The whole presentation comes across as slightly slow and soggy. It's been a long time since I listened to a headphone where I felt that the dynamics were so restricted. I guess I have become spoiled listening to headphones like the Beyer T1 and the Ultrasone Edition 8 - but the P5 didn't have the dynamics even of the PXC-350.

The bass is pretty strong, and generally good, but it lacks a little in terms of punch and definition. It’s not one-note, which is good, but it’s a little loose sounding. I have heard better defined bass in headphones costing less. I would say the bass performance is good, but not great. It has better weight than depth, too -- on Joan Armatrading's "Lover's Speak", which has some very deep bass during the chorus, this was less present than I expected it to be - the bass weight is mid-upper bass, not deep bass.

On some material, like Mae Moore’s “Love Will Bring You Back” from “It’s a Funny World”, this darkness didn’t really cause any major problems. I noticed the lack of top end extension because I am so familiar with the music, but it did not bother me, and Moore’s voice sounded good. Some tracks that are generally too bright to enjoy actually sounded great on the P5. But on other material, and especially male vocals, or music where there is musically important detailed treble, the colorations get in the way too much.

Two examples: David Gilmour's voice on "This Heaven" from "Like in Gdansk" is rendered in a muted way that is flatter and duller than it really sounds.

On the other hand, Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" actually sounded GREAT, but that is a track that is normally is a very bright sounding. It sounded good in a way that it actually shouldn't

The lack of treble extension gives the headphones a little bit of a claustrophobic soundstage. The image isn’t all that well defined, and seems to cluster in the center of the head and around the ears, with very little forward projection and not much depth.

My main comparison was to the Sennheiser PXC350, as it’s similarly priced, and designed for the same basic application. All of my other headphones are in a much higher price/performance range. The PXC350’s are noise canceling, and as such they have a little bit of background noise when the NC circuit is on. The P5 have a blacker background. But that is the only advantage they have. The PXC350 sound better in every other way. They are more neutral, much more transparent, and have better treble extension, bass definition, and soundstaging than the P5 do. I no longer own them, but if memory serves me at all, I would say the Denon D1000/1001 outperform the P5 sonically. I wish I still had them so I could compare the two – but I’d be surprised if the P5’s outperform the Denons in terms of just sonics.

I don’t want to overplay this – it’s not like the P5 sound awful. But they are a very colored headphone, and you will have to really like their odd flavor to like them. It’s already clear that some people do, and that’s great. I have deep, deep respect for B&W. I absolutely love my B&W Nautilus 800’s. I had never owned a pair of speakers for more than 2 years before investing in the N800’s – and I have owned them for almost 10 years, and just yesterday I was listening to some nice vinyl through them and absolutely reveling in their sound. Unfortunately, B&W has a major miss with the P5, in my opinion. They could have been so much better, and they look so nice and are so well built, surely they could have made them more neutral sounding. It’s not like B&W doesn’t know what good sound is. I have a hard time imagining that they feel the P5 represent $300 worth of headphone sound. Maybe they needed to do more benchmarking.

In any case, unless you have a VERY bright set-up and want to radically change the sound of it in the other direction, I cannot recommend the P5’s at all. I think B&W needs to go back to the drawing board, or at a minimum, offer us a headphone at some point that better represents what their tradition dictates that they are capable of.


Pros: Great looks, great sound, very clear and transparent at high volume, work perfectly with iPhone 3Gs, Great build quality

Cons: $300 price tag, cord is alittle thin

Enter the Bower & Wilkins P5's !!!!
I was in the apple store and they caught my eye from across the room... yes their physical design is that great.. I was amazed at the perfect design and build quality using extremely high quality materials all round with firm construction that seemed very out of place in the rowdy "pop culture" apple store. These cans look like something that you would be invited to listen to by invite only. Real high grade leather , polished and brushed chrome yes!!

After a 5 minute test listen (which blew me away) _I bought them all $300 of them ...lol they are so worth it that i got the last pair they had in stock.. I realized quickly that these where designed for ipod/iphone even the packaging style is similar and the inline controller/mic is very similar to the apple one.

So when you open the box you smell and feel quality.. these things are packaged meticulously as if they were sent straight from heaven.. velvety formed cradle under which is the silken pouch that has your alternate cables, adapter and user's manual etc. That pouch then becomes your transport case but i swear it looks like some sort of Versace gotur accessory...lol
Ear cushions are magnetically attached to the driver housing. these things fit on your head and ears like a sonic glove. but they are sized perfectly and exquisitely designed such that people around will wish they could wear them in public too.. you will not look like a DJ or a crazy person .. you will look like a conosur of mobile sonic experience..

So ok how is the sound?????

first of its hard to divide my description into highs mids and lows cause these cans defy what you are accustomed to.. to be honest the whole sound is perfectly unified, transparent, warm full, balanced, precise , controlled. Sound stage is very high up and true to life. instruments are very natural and true to life sounding with no peaks or brightness at all.. These cans have alot of headroom that leads to a loud but relaxed sound that has to be heard to be believed.. They are very very sensitive too so if its in the recoding you will hear it just as a true reference monitor should be.... 
These cans make me happy cause i have a very eclectic taste in music so i need speakers and phones can do what the song calls for when its time to do it.... If a song wants to be rendered at 25 Hz in some parts then these will do it with tight and accurate precision. while keeping the vocals and highs as crisp and clean as they need to be.. THERE IS NO DISTORTION AT ALL!!!

So in conclusion these cans are the best looking and sounding $300 set i have ever witnessed.. they make iphone/pod sound fantastic i would recommend..


Pros: Comfort, Form Factor, Excellent Passive Noise Cancelling

Cons: sound isn't there for the money spent

When I first heard that Bowers & Wilkins had entered the mobile headphone market I was very excited. Anyone who knows anything about high end audio has heard the name Bowers & Wilkins. The company has a long distinguished history amongst the audiophile community with their excellent product line of stereo speakers. I've never owned a pair of B&W speakers but I have been lucky enough to hear a set and I was blown away at the sonic signature of their stereo speakers.



First lets get the pros out of the way. The build quality on these cans is excellent. They have a very firm very solid feel in your hands and if properly taken care of they will last for many years to come. B&W also provides a sturdy display box and a nice travel pouch to help protect your 300 dollar investment. Included in the pouch is a spare cable and a standard 3.5 mm head jack. The fit of the P5 is incredibly comfortable on the ears and have got to be the most comfortable set of cans I have ever owned. I have been able to wear them for 3 to 4 hours on end and have felt no discomfort whatsoever.


The passive noise canceling capabilities of the P5 is very impressive. The headphone cuffs and the fitted leather over the cuffs act like a sort of tight sealing suction cup over the ears allowing no noise leakage in or out. I've sat on a packed bus with these cans blasting away and have not disturbed anyone around me. I've even worn these cans blaring away in a library where I was in close proximity to the working librarian and have had no requests to turn the volume down due to the noise leaking out into the surrounding environment. I've walked down a busy sidewalk with rush hour traffic zooming by barely 3 feet away from me and have been able to enjoy my music undisturbed by blaring horns and rumbling buses and trucks.



The con is unfortunately where it matters the most which is the sound. Before I begin I want to make it absolutely clear that the P5's are good sounding headphones. The problem is when I think Bowers & Wilkins I expect great sound not just good sound. When I first tried my P5's out I was left for a lack of a better word disappointed. I did try to give them a chance though and proceeded to loosen the drivers up (burn) by playing music nonstop through them for a good 50 to 60 hours. I also chose a wide selection of different genres to see how they would perform. Although I did notice some improvement the overall sound was still lacking.


Depending on the music the bass seemed hollowed out and not properly balanced with the treble. In certain spots the mids and highs sounded grainy and other times almost nonexistent due to the bass drowning everything around it out. Vocals on other headsets that sounded like the singer was standing 3 feet from me on the P5's sounded distant and even at times tinny. Transparency was lacking on so many of my song selections. One band I've always loved is Epica (Symphonic Metal) and on the P5's I found many Epica songs so lacking in transparency it was almost painful to listen to.


It's not to say the listening experience was all bad. For whatever reason when I played various songs from Disturbed (alt Rock/Nu Metal) I was pleasantly surprised. For whatever reason that bands sound or maybe just how the music was mixed paired with the P5 very nicely. Vocals were clear in your face and mids and highs seemed acceptably clear with the bass seeming less hollowed out. I also took the liberty of running various different mixes of Darude's (Electronica) Sandstorm through the P5's and was again pleasantly surprised with good mids, highs, and less hollowed out bass. Matter of fact the P5's seemed to mesh well with most of the electronica and dance songs I threw at it.


Final Thoughts:

I don't hate the P5's but I'm not exactly in love with them either. As a mobile headphone they offer a extremely comfortable fit, excellent passive noise canceling, and have a very solid form factor that will last for years to come if the consumer takes care of them. What bothers me the most about the P5's is for 300 dollars there are far better sounding headphones on the market. I'm not a huge fan of Dr Dre Beats headphones but given the 300 price tag a future consumer might consider Beats headphones as a slightly cheaper alternative. Sonicly the P5's aren't that much better sounding then the entry level Dr Dre headphone. Klipish also just recently put out what I'm told is a good sounding mobile headphone at a good price point.


Does this mean I'm going to dump my P5's? Probably not. I think they're generally good headphones. My main problem with the P5 is I think they're overpriced for the sound quality they offer. I also can't help but think that if Bowers & Wilkins were going to put out a headphone they should have taken more time and done better sound benchmarking. Considering this is a product with the Bowers & Wilkins logo on it I expected far more from a company whose name has become respected for putting out  great products with great sound.





Well, I just had a rather special experience with the P5 which results in me selling my T50p and ESW10jpns while retaining the much battered P5. Here it goes -


I haven't thought of getting the P5 after Skylab's comprehensive write-up, and other concurring views from other members. I was rather happy with my ESW10s, and later the T50p. I mostly use ER4S and Monster MDs these days, but there are times when I'd like to reach for a headphone. I just grew curious about the P5 after someone, who is a known Bose hater, asked me to try them. He himself got a little surprise with them. I didn't asked him in details and thought I'd come up with my own conclusion. Luckily the P5s are relatively easily available for trial.


I brought with me a light setup, just my iPod Classic and SR-71A, with my iPhone and the iQube loaned by the shopowner being guest performers. My music is mainly classical orchestral pieces, with plenty of pop to supplement that. Rock is scarce but also available.


Maybe my review would be better understood if I begin by saying what I DON'T LIKE about my own portable cans, namely T50p and ESW10:


T50p: I absolutely HATES its bass. Overpowering, embracing YET lacks impact and bite. The lower half of the spectrum is a bit too lush and mushed, while the upper half is a dry-ish and rather coarse presentation. Does that sound awful? Well no I like its presentation of slower, lazier music like jazz and small-scaled classical pieces, mostly solo works, but in larger-scaled works they sound a bit bland and lacks transparency. It shows its weakness in tonal coherence when there was an upward swoosh in strings in an orchestral piece (forgot which one now) where the lower notes and the latter upper notes sound like they come from different instruments, which was not true. Soundstage is quite disappointing, and details are present but drowned out by the all-embracing fat bass. One thing the T50p really stands out is its isolation - until its release only the HD25 performs well in that department.


ESW10: I have no gripe about its sound - it's simply 1st class, period. A bit coloured in the mids (but less so than other ATH phones), its detail rendition is jaw-droppingly good and is nicely extended at both ends of the spectrum. The one and only one possible deal-breaker is its isolation - it's almost non-existent in noisy environment, like on the underground or on buses, not to say on a flight.


OK so I know the perfect portable can would be a ESW10+T50p mixture, which is a distant dream. I'm not saying the P5 is anywhere near that dream. But, as a portable can (ultimate one maybe, as I've been looking for the ultimate one for a long time), I think it does wonders in every department in a portable can. And the obvious caveat when judging a portable can is that sound quality must be balanced with other factors, such as build quality and durability, looks (for some), weight, size, isolation, practicality in general, etc.


When I first put on the P5, I immediately searched in my memory for something similar in the sound signature, and if my memory serves me good the can appeared first in my mind was the PX200-II. Both sounds pretty balanced, but nothing excels. Both suffered from a lack of extension at both ends of the spectrum. That said, I was expecting a very, very dark sound from the P5 after all the others have said here, but the sound I got from the P5 out of my iPod directly is far from being dark. There is a peak somewhere in the mid-high region, creating a pseudo-high-extension feel - actually this feeling is quite similar to the Monster tuning in the MD and the Copper Pro, the difference being the P5's peak is located a bit lower in the spectrum, while the Monster peak is located a bit higher up. This renders the sound somewhat coloured, but not overwhelmingly so.


Besides this peak, the P5's sound is pretty balanced overall. I don't find it muffled - in fact I find its detail rendition at least on par with the T50p, which is very surprising considering Beyer's claim of the driver technology and T1's track record. When listening to classical symphonies the P5 reminds me of my bedroom Onkyo system - a rich, warm sound, with bite and grit, but not too weighty. And P5 is very good in soundstaging and presenting layers of instruments in the correct orientation with transparency and clarity. This even the ESW10 fails to satisfy me, and the T50p is a complete failure in this area.


The bass is good, not overwhelmingly deep, but comes with details and impact. Definitely not overpowering, and not lacking.


Needless to say, P5 excels in build quality and comfort, and I do not intend to repeat what others have said in these areas. What proved it to me as the able partner to my iems is its isolation - it is not iem-good, but it is miles ahead of PX200 and ESW10. It IS usable on trains and flights. And its size, together with the more reasonable approach in its method of stowing away, adds up to a winner, not in the sound department perhaps, but in the overall package.


Is the MSRP justified? As I've mentioned its sound is PX200-II-ish and though it betters the PX200, it isn't a night and day difference. I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to consider this question solely on sound quality. For the listed MSRP I think the isolation alone worths 20%, the design/looks/size/weight/comfort worths another 20%, the brand (yes I think that's the part which haters hate most) worths maybe 10-20% (though trust me the B&W brand is not THAT marketing oriented and not THAT well-known here in Asia, at least their campaigns are way less aggressive than Bose, Sony and Shure, and their showrooms are located in obscure places). The rest goes to the sound. Fair enough, eh? Yes it is way more expensive than the PX200 but doesn't offer too much improvement in sound, but to sum it up in one word: PRACTICALITY, makes it all worthwhile IMHO. It is small (relatively), extremely simple to handle, extremely intuitive in folding and storing (by contrast the T50p case, thought handsome, was HUGE and occupies too much space in my briefcase, while it's always a hassle to tug the cable of the ESW10 into the seperate cable pouch to protect the wood from scratch), great isolation making it usable in many difficult situations, the single-sided cable is very handy in everyday life situations, and the Apple-friendly remote/mic cable, if you can stand a very slight deterioration in sound, is again very handy if you use a iPhone. Even when i'm listening to music on my iPod (not my iPhone), i can just yank out the cable and plug it into the iPhone in no time if a call comes in. And if I want to listen to the broadcasting on the underground, I can turn down the volumne or stop the track in no time. Practicality may not be for all audiophiles or head-fiers, but for myself, I know there are times when I'm chilling out with my ER4S and some Mahler, I become desperate when a call comes in and I wanna fetch my hands-free buried somewhere deep in my bag.


And it sounds good, not jawdroppingly good, not $299 good, but plain good. You know what you're paying for, and that's fine.


Pros: Build quality, Comfort, Design, Sound

Cons: flimsy Cord

OK, firstly these headphones aren't for everyone. They have a very warm, lush, upfront and colored sound which i personally love. They have strong crisp bass with smooth mids and clear highs. I find that this sound signature nicely compensates for my iPhones slightly anemic line out. They have strong crisp bass with smooth mids and clear highs. These headphones particularly thrive is portable use. they are some of the best unamped portable sound for the money. Using them with my iPhone has been a great experience. They fold flat and nicely fit in the included pouch in my backpack.


In addition to this, these are some fantastically built and beautiful headphones. The combination of the leather and aluminum create something that is both remarkably comfortable and solid.


So, for those looking for a portable headphone to be used unamped I suggest buy them and try them out (the apple store is not the best place to listen to them). If you find you dont like them you can take advantage of apples 14 return.



Photobucket L1000895.jpg


Pros: pleasant laid-back, warm sound; premium looks and feel; good passive isolation; comfortable

Cons: average soundstage and detail; disappointing durability

Design/durability: The P5 is a truly gorgeous headphone. The all leather/metal construction and the "timeless and vintage" make it a winner in the looks department. The construction and finish of the product is very convincing and feels absolutely premium. However the P5's durability is actually pretty far from its luxurious appearances. One of the channels going off is one of the recurrent problems these cans have. I have sent them back to B&W's customer service (which is excellent btw) several times already. And the cable feels very cheap.


Fit/comfort: Clamping force is quite strong, but the earpads feel very nice and the memory foam does wonders. Overall they are quite comfortable but start hurting the ears after a few hours wearing them.


Isolation: The P5 seals very well, and isolation is surprisingly good once the memory foam embraces the shape of the ears. Not the best, but definitely above average in this aspect.


Sound: Pleasant is how I would qualify the P5's sound. It has a warm signature, with forward mids and a slight midbass hump. The treble is definitely a tad recessed, but not shockingly so. The bass is slightly boomy and not really tight. The mids are well defined, rich sounding and delightful to the ears. The treble is smooth and not very detailed nor extended. Soundstage is intimate. Overall the P5 is a somewhat slow sounding headphone, with a very warm, forgiving sound and decent resolution that suits genres like jazz or chamber music. I also enjoyed watching movies with these. Pleasant but not mindblowing.


Bottom line: The P5 sounds decent, looks and feels nice. But beware of its durability.


Pros: Style, sound quality

Cons: Build quality, comfort

I bought these in March of 2011.  They were to be "the last headphones I buy", expecting them to last at least a decade.  I'm a software developer so I wear them often and stream from my phone.  


The sound quality and style is great.  I've had compliments on them in that respect.  


Since they are on the ear, and not over, they do hurt the ears after a few hours.  


Both the original cords were eventually damaged.  They are very weak, terrible quality.  B&W replacement cost was $100.... not exactly reasonable. 


The pads are detachable to replace the cords, which is cool, but ends up being expensive.  The pads attach via magnet, however the glue that keeps the felt material on eventually seeps through the felt.  When you pull the ear pads off you can see lots of little thread of glue between the cans and ear pads.  So.... cool design but terrible execution of that design... For the price paid, I expected more. 


Finally, in the last week, BOTH drivers failed at the same time.  Very unfortunate timing, because Mastercard would have extended the warranty to march of this year... four months late. 

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones at the online Apple Store.

FeatureCable with Remote and microphone
LabelBowers & Wilkins
ManufacturerBowers & Wilkins
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameHEADPHONES
PublisherBowers & Wilkins
StudioBowers & Wilkins
TitleBowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones
Batteries Included0
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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