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.