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A Quick Hitter in Defense of Bowers and Wilkins P5

A Review On: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones

Rated # 56 in Over-Ear
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $269.00
DocJeff
Posted · 2628 Views · 3 Comments

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)

3 Comments:

Nice review. I own a pair and agree they are not a replacement for your favorite sit at home higher end audio headphone. I use them when I'm mowing the yard or using a hedge trimmer. They also are useful on plane trips as they isolate noise without causing issues with cabin pressure changes. My IEM's seem to exacerbate cabin pressure issues. They provide nice noise isolation and are more comfortable for longer periods of time than IEM's. The only similar over the ear isolating headphone I checked out was the Bose Q15. I found the noise canceling effect of the Bose also canceled out audio quality.
I really enjoyed this, thanks for posting. Reflects some of my own impressions after spending a night comparing them with the Sennheiser's and I think I'm just about to settle on the P5s. The Momentum's were too dark for me, too bassy at points which at times made tracks that didn't need it a bit sonically dull (choral music, some acoustic stuff). Don't get me wrong, they're 'meaty' or 'beefy' but it was a bit overwhelming.
 
The P5s on the other hand are nice and sharp, crystal clear in the mids and upper ranges and feel quite sparkly at points. I think this is partly a preference of mine (I have a guitar that plays similar and I passed on a lot more "balanced" ones) but I suppose that's the nature of something so subjective as headphones. And I have seen a lot of track references to what doesn't sound good on these and I only had the confidence today to admit that none of it was recognisable to me as music I listen to.
 
Anyways, cheers for taking the time.
I am currently rocking out with Darkthrone on my Fiio X3 and my P5's... it sounds awesome. /M\
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