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A Review On: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones

Rated # 92 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $300.00
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Pros: Beautiful design, comfortable, good all-rounder

Cons: Price, finding sonic sweet spot

Firstly I'd like to begin by saying that I've owned many many pairs of high quality headphones over the years, and indeed speakers. I'll not reel them all off here, but suffice it to say I've owned (and still do in many cases) Grado, AKG, Beyer, Senheiser and Shure are just a few of the companies I've bought from over the last 35 years. I'd also like to say that obviously everybody's ears are different. What seems blatantly obvious to some will be missed by others, and also everybody's taste is different. Just look through all these reviews. Many decry the rolled-off treble whilst others say the p5's have a crisp, defined top end. How can this be? Well because as stated, everybody likes different things from their audio equipment, even if they don't realise it.
Unboxing is a refined experience. Quality box and printing is followed by equally lavish packaging inside. This extends to the phones themselves. I've found them to be extremely durable if looked after well, top class materials are used in construction. Af first I found they clamped my head a bit too snugly but after 3 weeks or so they seemed to slacken up a bit (in a good way). Or maybe I just used to them. Also, don't just plonk these on your head. You need to experiment a little with position to find the optimum place for the music to breathe. As someone else found, putting them on then moving them rearwards slightly seems to provide the best, clearest sound. Again, this may depend on your ear/head size and shape I guess. Experiment.
The sound itself (after 150 hours of run-in time) is very pleasing to the ear i find. The bass is deep without being crushing, the mids are well-placed and intimate when needed. Listening to Carly Simon sing "Nobody Does it Better" via FLAC yields wonderfully personal vocals and defined sound staging.
The top end is not as shimmering as it perhaps could be, but that fits in for my personal preferences - I hate a tinny and overly cutting hi-hat or crash cymbal. Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" provides a good benchmark here. It's an album that splits opinion in terms of recording and production. It is an extremely clean and clinical piece of work. I've found it to be unlistenable on some equipment (speakers as well as headphones). My Grado SR-80's for example made an already incisive treble a bit too painful for my tastes. The p5's just warm this area up a touch. Some would say that's a sacrifice of detail, I'd say it provides a smoother and more comfortable listening experience. I won't bore people with any more specific examples but needless to say, I've tried these with many different genres of music from all over the world. Most are pleasingly rendered. These headphones are pleasing. I did find that Drum and Bass and House Music etc. wasn't handled particularly well by these. The bass probably isn't crunching or nimble enough for that sort of music I'd say. Having said that, sometimes the bass can be a little too much. On Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny", I found it a bit overbearing, but still listenable. The p5's to my ears seem to excel at easy listening, jazz and orchestral music. Try listening to a lossless version of the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" soundtrack and you'll be amazed by the placement of instruments, richness of low-end and overall detail. In fact I've noticed that these headphones always seem to expose flaws in recordings, or unintened noises. You can hear musicians shuffling papers and creaking chairs in this case for example. Jazz, again seems to benefit from a clear and natural reproduction and excellent placement of instruments. Anyway, I could go on all day but I will finish by saying that if you enjoy easy listening, jazz, pop and orchestral music etc., you'll be very happy with the p5's. If you like fast, heavy music with a skull-splitting bottom end then you should probably look elsewhere. Dr. Dre Beats or something even. That's not my bag really. It's a testament to the p5's that despite all the other headphones I posses, these are the ones I reach for mostly when I want to relax, close my eyes and be soothed. There is a slight softening to the top end but I don't understand people saying there's a lot of coloration to the sound - I just don't find that myself. Still, we're all different as I say.
Run them in, get the positioning right and you fall in love with them.

1 Comment:

Bit of a harsh recommendation there saying that fast music is best presented by Beats. However, nice review.
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