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[Review] of Bowers & Wilkins P5's -- Truly a "Concert for one"

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Bowers & Wilkins P5's Review: My thoughts while testing them first day, right out of the box

 

I tested these bad boys with the following tracks, all in high quality .wav, .flac (free lossless), .ogg and high quality .mp3, followed by a description of my thoughts while listening to them from beginning to end:

 

- "The End" by The Doors (classic rock)-- beautiful sound all around. lows are excellent, you really hear the drums. It seems the sound is split; lows are on the left can. Mids and vocals are split between both. Strings are on the right. Perhaps my observation is more instrumental than actual qualitative analysis (i.e. not attributed to mids, highs and lows) due to certain points of each side switching between highs/lows, bass and guitar, drums and strings, accordion and vocals. You really feel like you’re in the studio listening to Jim Morrison and his band jam out. Conclusion for this track: F%#!ing amazing sound.

 

- "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails (nu-metal, production-heavy)-- hearing some sounds I've never heard before. The sound clarity in particular is phenomenal. Balanced really well. The bass is perfect. Vocals are extremely well pronounced without being overbearing, even at max volume.

 

- Next up, "Sugar" by System of a Down (heavy metal)-- vocals, amazing, drums, amazing. A lot of very naturally loud sound goes on and is jumbled chaotically together. It's interesting to hear this many loud instruments and vocals in one track. Absolutely fantastic and consistent quality. It surprisingly keeps up with the pace extremely well. Conclusion for this track: fantastic response across the board.

 

- "Pure Morning" by Placebo (alt rock) -- really nice, pronounced vocals and super clear across the board.

 

- "Jump Around" by House of Pain (90s hip hop) -- this track is pure production. What I really appreciate is the perfect balance between the many beats and vocals at the same time. Even faded & hip-hoppy background vocals and sounds of skipping vinyls are well pronounced.

 

- "No Surprises" by Radiohead (alt rock) -- a warm sounding song...and perfect for these headphones. Really smooth and warm. That extra comforting voice of Mr. Yorke's makes you feel even warmer on the inside. It made me fall back and close my eyes for its duration. The ending gave me shivers.

 

- "California Love" by Tupac (90s hip-hop) -- this is a great test for hip hop type tracks. This smooth California track , reminiscent of the 90s , sounds great. Once again, I found myself hearing sounds I've never heard in this track before (and I've listened to this a million times). Tupac's voice sounds extra pronounced. Truly perfect sound in this track.

 

- "Zombie" by The Cranberries (90s rock) -- at first, the lead singer's voice is low (by nature of the song), and it feels like the low bass guitar overbeared her voice (just a tad). The rest of the track is beautiful. Again, all around bad ass.

 

- "Let Me Ride" by Dr. Dre -- perfect clarity. Bass is perfect. Not too deep, but you feel it. I've tested the Beats (lol at the fact that this is being said on Dre's track) and they're comparable in bass so far with regards to hip hop tracks.

 

- "Liquid Sky" by Mathew Styles (techno) -- how does the motto go..."a concert for one"? Listening to this track, you really feel that B&W aren't just flashing around a clever line with this pair of their flagship headphones. I felt like I was at a live techno set--and I literally just got back from Barcelona Sonar music festival a month ago. The sound is clean, accentuated, warm and fresh, just like good techno should sound. You can hear it progress and that's what counts.

 

- "Magnetic" by Michael James (vocal techno) -- perfect track to test vocal techno. If you don't know what layering or organic beats are, the P5's will help define it for you.

 

- “Cosmic Girl (Fabo Arp Mix)” by Erik Christiansen (vocal deep house) -- holy sh*t. I am officially keeping these.

 

Conclusion: These headphones are perfect in sound quality. Design and build qualities are perfect, too. I have been listening to music with these for 2 hours straight and am still in awe at how amazing they are. 2 hours later, they're still super comfortable; the fit around my ears and on my head is snug and keeps everything in tact nicely. The sheep skin material fits comfortably on my ears and surprisingly, after 3 hrs of listening [editing at this point] there's no perspiration in, on or around my ears. This is the first pair of phones that gave me absolute ZERO discomfort. The noise isolation works like a charm. I did a clap test (no not the STD) to check if I can hear outside noise...none at all; even at the hardest clap, it does not interrupt your listening whatsoever. I feel like the noise isolation is the perfect compromise, as it (on the most part) eliminates ambient noises without the hassle or worry of charging or replacing batteries. One less thing to fret about. Everything about the B&W P5's screams class. The packaging, the materials, the carrying case--all attribute to the P5's luxurious design. And did I mention the sound quality is phenomenal?

 

Bottom line: After having tested thoroughly the new Harman/Kardon BT's (top of the line Bluetooth headphones with wired compatibility), I can say with confidence, after 2 hours of listening to these babies, that the B&W P5's outmatch and outcompete any headphones, including the BT's, in the $250-$300 price range. However, it must be noted that the BT's are also excellent quality and have great specs. Its Bluetooth and wired features certainly make it a close call with its B&W competitor. At this point, I'm actually considering keeping both--the P5's for home and light travel, the BT's for heavy travel, gym and on-the-go situations. I seriously can't believe these have been on the market for two and a half years. These are worth the $300 price tag. The P5's are well balanced across all genres of music and provide you the true crisp sound of ANY track. I would highly recommend these to a friend who is an avid, well-rounded music listener, listens to a multitude of different genres and knows good quality sound when he/she hears it.

 

Rating: 10/10 - Best in its class.

post #2 of 16

Congrats on your first post being a review!

 

I'd caution your declaration that the P5 is the best headphone in the $250-300 price range, because there are many other great headphones you can get for that price. For example, the K550's and HD595. The DT1350, regarded as one of the best portable headphones, is also around $300.

 

The P5 is indeed a very nice headphone, but absolutes are dangerous.


Edited by tzjin - 7/16/12 at 9:30pm
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the welcoming. Though I have tested many headphones, I cannot say I am an expert and thus humbly offer my opinion in this review. I will definitely take a look at those DT1350's. For clarification, I do mean best 'portable headphones' in that price range and not circumaural or in-ear. 

post #4 of 16

sonus faber on wheels.....tongue.gif

post #5 of 16

Anyways nice review! As for 'best portable', you are fairly on target. It's one of 4 contenders. Classiest by far though.

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post

sonus faber on wheels.....tongue.gif

Haha indeed.

post #7 of 16

Forget the SQ...they look so damn gorgeous LOL!

 

I had the impression the flat pads just mold around your ears or something? What's the contact material/padding?

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stevenlongs View Post

Forget the SQ...they look so damn gorgeous LOL!

 

I had the impression the flat pads just mold around your ears or something? What's the contact material/padding?

It does have memory foam behind the sheepskin bit. You can see it if you pop off the cup (its magnetic!) and look at its interior. 

 

And I can't agree with you more. They are both elegant and gorgeous. (I'm surprised these haven't appeared in the latest Bond movie).

 
post #9 of 16

the other endearing oriental counter, with mellow soundsig is the esw9.. red woods, lambskin...hopefully no scratches. tongue.gif

post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post

the other endearing oriental counter, with mellow soundsig is the esw9.. red woods, lambskin...hopefully no scratches. tongue.gif

Wow, those look great. I'll look into them. Any possibility of an Audio Technica dealer in the States? I'd really like to test them out.

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by stevenlongs View Post

Forget the SQ...they look so damn gorgeous LOL!

 

I had the impression the flat pads just mold around your ears or something? What's the contact material/padding?

 

If you think these are pretty, wait until you see the ATH-EW9... beyersmile.png

Too bad they're a little light on the low end.

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tzjin View Post

 

If you think these are pretty, wait until you see the ATH-EW9... beyersmile.png

Too bad they're a little light on the low end.

That red wood is something else. I wonder what the material quality is like.

post #13 of 16

P5 is truly a nice headphone, but the cable is just terrible. Both of my cables that came with the headphone have broken, I'm trying to find a replacement cable. Everything else is nice.

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tedtran View Post

P5 is truly a nice headphone, but the cable is just terrible. Both of my cables that came with the headphone have broken, I'm trying to find a replacement cable. Everything else is nice.

I can see how the cable could be an issue. It does not seem as durable as it should be--a bit flimsy actually. I do prefer its thinner size, however, and a good fix I think would be to follow Harman/Kardon's model: to have the audio jack and it's foundation to be metallic material such as aluminum. That way it's solid and has less chance of snapping. Also, the wire itself could afford to be more solid for atleast 10mm of length. I'm definitely finding myself to be extra careful with these.
post #15 of 16

I just received my P5's a couple hours ago, so I am still getting used to the sound and I suppose they could still use some more breaking in, but I thought I could chime in.  I have also had a pair of used ESW9's for about a week.  I love the design and build quality of the P5's.  As gorgeous and sturdy as the ESW9's are, particularly the wood cups, the P5's just take the class to another level.  Very impressive.  The P5's are also supremely comfortable and block out sound quite well.  The ESW9's are certainly comfortable, but because of the larger cups and pads, they don't seal nearly as well.  The P5 cable is a little pathetic, but I baby my stuff so I don't worry about durability as much.  I do care, however about how short it is.  I will be making a replacement cable for it soon so it isn't really a deal breaker.  Unfortunately, when it comes to sound, the most important piece for me, the P5's fall quite short of the ESW9's.  I find it funny that someone in this thread said that the ESW9's are light in bass, because I am getting quite a bit of bass in mine.  Certainly more than the P5's, and more than my HD650's which was really surprising.  The P5's don't sound nearly as clear as the ESW9's.  I don't like a lot of treble, so headphones that have "rolled off" treble or a de-emphasis on it are actually my preference.  But I don't like muddy or veiled which is what I feel the P5 is giving me at the moment.  Soundstage also isn't quite as large as the ESW9's.  

 

I'm in a tough spot right now because I really want to love the P5's based on comfort, design, etc., but the ESW9's sound quality make me hesitate.  That and the ESW9's are no slouch in the looks and comfort department.  I will give the P5's another week or so to open up before deciding which headphones to keep.  Thanks for the review. 

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