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Captured Society Review- Bowers and Wilkins P7

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Look what just arrived :)


Currently unboxing them, and I will upload both a first impressions review, and then in a week, a final review!

post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 

P7 First Impressions Thread



The P7's arrive in beautiful form, elegantly folded atop a cloth-based molded cradle. The box is made of very thick paper, which is given a matte finish. These things arrive like a Prom Queen underdog: subtle but beautiful.

Once you open up the headphones, you notice that the cups fold down with a solid two-step click. For those of you who are familiar with the P5's, this is a welcome change from the swiveling earcups that caused the wire inside the headband to eventually shred and disintegrate, shorting out a driver.

These headphones are as premium in feel as many high end headphones can be. The headband and cups are wrapped in exquisite leather, with polished aluminum accents abound. The caps on the earcups have the Bowers and Wilkins name etched into them, so the letters protrude out. Unlike the P5's which have an aluminum finish with a color similar to the dull side of aluminum foil, these are given a smoky aluminum color on the caps. A very beautiful change in design philosophy, which I welcomed with open arms.


The earpads are very deep, covered in that soft, beautiful black leather that B&W first introduced in the P5's. However, the P5's would clamp your head, and became fatiguing to wear for anything longer than about an hour and a half, requiring some adjustment to ease the pressure. I can thankfully say that these are not the same. The headband is firm, but once these go on, the world disappears and the earpads cradle your head with just enough pressure.



Testing Procedure:


All song descriptions are based off of extensive familiarity with the qualities of each song, as displayed through spectrographs in Adobe Audition, as well as many hours of listening on my studio monitor system. This system uses Bowers and Wilkins 685B's as my critical near-field monitors, which are fed by a Marantz NR1403 Amplifier. The system also utilizes a Klipsch RW-12II Powered Subwoofer, and the entire system has been tuned to be as sonically flat as possible for critical work such as remastering and audio restoration. All signals to said amplifier are fed over an optical connection (24 bit, 192khz). The Marantz NR1403 will be driving the headphones in "Pure Direct" for amplifier based review sections.


All songs will also be reviewed from being plugged into a Zune HD, which is my favorite PMP for all around convenience. Decent, SQ wise, but not as good as many Hifimans, but will accurately reflect a midground between cellphones and PMP's.



Songs for Testing:


Lady Gaga- G.U.Y.

Major Lazer- Jah No Partial

Procol Harum- A Whiter Shade Of Pale

Eagles- Victim Of Love

Donovan- Mellow Yellow (Mono Version)
Franki Valli and the Four Seasons- Sherry

Christina Aguilera- Hurt

The Beatles- Within You Without You

Disclosure- You And Me (Flume Remix)

Chemical Brothers- Block Rockin' Beats

Tinashe- Another Me

Norah Jones- Shoot The Moon

Amy Winehouse- Moody's Mood For Love

Pink Floyd- Breathe (SACD)

Eagles- Hotel California


All songs used are WMA Lossless files converted from CD/SACD sources using Adobe Audition.


Lady Gaga- G.U.Y.


This song was chosen due to the intense power of the chorus, having a combination of triangle and square synths blended with gated white noise hisses, and Gaga's vocals which are ever so slightly stereo-spaced, instead of being placed dead center. The song, when analyzed with Adobe Audition, is heavily compressed, but does not exhibit "ducking", i.e. vocals quickly dropping to accommodate bass and drum hits. 


The P7's open this song with a very even sound; compared to other headphones, the opening sounds relatively neutral. Immediately, you notice that Gaga's voice is not as edgy on the treble as compared to the Ultrasone HFI-680's, and is equally sibilant as it is thick. Hearing these headphones handling Gaga's voice is quite amazing, as in the thick of the chorus, which becomes a compressed wall of sound, Gaga is neither too forward or back. The presentation of the frenetic synthesizers and hard-edged triangle/square bass notes are all equally as loud (silly compression), and these headphones show no trace of distortion handling such a complicated sonic landscape at very loud levels.





Major Lazer- Jah No Partial


This song is another compressed-by-nature track, but does not exhibit ducking to a severe degree. It's artfully soft, so soft that you only notice during the drops and requires a few listens to spot it. With a powerful bassline (not the heaviest, but certainly weighty), very fat but short kicks, sharp and edgy synths, and a chorus drop that is just dubstep/house heaven, this song has so far sodomized a set of Yamaha speakers (and an amp), destroyed a set of Polks, and has a vendetta against my B&W's for surviving this long.


The opening bits of the song which have a shaker placed to the left, with stereo-imaged vocals opens with an immediate representation of the clean treble that these headphones have. There is a much more neutral sound with the P7's when compared to the P5's and the Ultrasone's. The treble is edgy but not fatiguing. The song flows effortlessly over these cans, and then the drop hits.


The bass is very pleasing on these cans- it's there, it's super duper tight, and it's not overpowering. The lead whooping synths come through strong, the 4 step bass synth stab has brevity and power, but you can still hear the rhythmic hits off the high hats off to the left. It's a very smooth, very articulate representation that doesn't fatigue you. These headphones really excel with higher frequencies, not turning them into an edgy, fatiguing mess, but not just rolling them off because it makes for a more "authentic" sound (i.e. "colored). Instead, the higher frequencies are just right. Man, these headphones make you want to keep turning them up, but they get painfully loud on these hard electronic tracks without backing down. It's like having a Spartan Warrior in your eardrum, and after a few seconds, I have to turn them down, albeit grinning ear to ear the whole time.


Procol Harum- A Whiter Shade Of Pale


This song is very dynamic by nature, featuring a very deep soundstage for the organ (forward heading), percussion that is placed far off to the left, with cymbal reverb echoing softly from the right. The vocals are placed a slight bit to the right of center, and also seem to have height to them. Compression is pretty much nonexistent, making this an excellent dynamic song to audition.


Oh. My. God. This song opens and I'm hearing things that my Ultrasone's couldn't deliver. The snare on the left has this dry quality to it, the cymbals have a gloriously articulate crash and timbre to them, the bass kicks are just romantically presented with a body and tightness that excels when compared to the P5's and Ultrasone's. There are just gobs of details that go unnoticed, and these cans do not hide it.


The vocals are sublime in their high presentation, and the organs and vocals sing in spades as the chorus rushes in. The organ and vocals just expand into a glorious mix of warmness and reverb thanks to the mastering and natural tendencies of vintage microphones romanticizing the mids. The imaging of these headphones is expansive; soundstaging is so deep, so expansive, so... beautiful.


Eagles- Victim of Love


Well of all the Eagles songs, why this? Well, this Eagles song has everything: articulate bass, no compression, quality recording (no distortion from the source file), soundstage, but challenging sections which only the best speakers can reproduce without losing their composure and muddying up the middle.




That initial guitar stab wows me every time, but it's become a little boring thanks to the amount of sources I've heard it thrown out of. The impact of it was starting to become a little lost on me, and the Bowers and Wilkins headphones pulled a switcheroo on me. So far, they've been laidback and very neutral, not really having any frequencies that sound like they fly out of the headphones much more. The P5's were notable for being bass heavy, the UItrasone's having extreme treble, but these just suddenly jumped up and threw that first guitar stab right through my forehead, and down the block. The wailing guitar on the left is so textured, articulate, and warm, but there's something new here. I'm hearing a touch of floor hiss which not even my monitors have been able to reveal. I went back to Adobe Audition and zoomed in on the spectrometer, and sure enough, it was there, but almost nonexistent.


Highlighted is the floor hiss that I've missed for so long.


The guitars wail and scream, and that glorious tube sound that makes an electric guitar sing just comes through on these headphones. They sing almost like if the headphones were open backed, with the vocals dead center and precise. Cymbal hits are clean, textured, and clear, with no apparent garnish or coloration on the high end. Bass is tight, but unlike other headphones where it makes you want more, the B&W's somehow make you happy with their bass. I'm a bass fanatic, but these headphones somehow satiate my thirst for low frequencies. This might be because of how much impact they actually have given the right source material.


Donovan- Mellow Yellow


It seems counter productive to choose a song that is not only mono, but recorded on semi-optimal equipment. There is an audible hiss in the song, and the vocals tend to distort against the guitars during the cymbal stabs. However, the mono version of this song is incredibly forward with... everything. Everything is crammed into a Pringles can and shot straight into your faceeeeee. The purpose of this song is to get an idea of balance between left and right drivers, as well as their performance with revealing distortion and claustrophobic sound placement. This song is actually compressed, but not as much as modern pop.


The song opens with your forehead feeling like a concert is taking place right between your eyebrows. That's mono for you. But the impact, the Pringles can of sound launches in spades, leaving the hair on my body on end. Despite all of the sound essentially compressed directly center, these headphones don't cluster the sound, but rather deliver them all so tightly and so cleanly as possible. The song has a very "AM Radio" sound, with distortion whenever the vocals, guitar riffs, drums, and horns clash, and every detail is left naked for me to inspect. Yet, unlike the AKG's or Ultrasone's, the song has emotion. Flatter headphones tend to take some of the magic out of music, but having such an exquisite pair of headphones like these P7's delivering the song up at the perfect temperature leaves one wanting more. The mids are forward, the treble is still articulate, never losing it's edge, and the bass is absent only because the song has none.


Franki Valli and the Four Seasons- Sherry


On the opposite end of the oldies-but-goodies spectrum is "Sherry", which was recorded on vintage mics that had very warm mids and silibant highs. However, the mastering expertise of this song make it a pleasure to listen to time after time. It's almost witchcraft as to how expansive it sounds when you just left modern pop music. Features of this song are left placed percussion instruments, with a floor hiss that moves in and out (I feel bad for the guy who mastered it; good job cutting it down a lot). Vocals are placed far to the right, with Franki right in the middle.


Please, can someone come and pinch me? The soundstage explodes with the instruments on the left, the singers on the right, and Franki nail center. It's there. It's right there. The spectrometer and the sound both go hand in hand perfectly, with the L/R frequency graphs. These headphones don't lie to you. They tell you the honest to God truth about your music. The complicated part of Franki's vocals and the background singers being slightly separated on lesser cans mesh like a Porsche 911's DSG gearbox. When Franki says "girlll you make me lose my mind", you hear the distortion in his voice on "girl"; that grittiness when you sing a note as loud as you can.




Christina Aguilera- Hurt


This song is quickly becoming an audiophile favorite due to Christina's super forward voice dead center, deep dynamics, a piano fill that is off to the right; forward, but not in your face. The orchestral fill is both deep and fat, but not far off to the sides. It's nicely spread; not too far off, not too much center. The bass notes, which are plucked, are full and thick, with a moderate decay time. On lesser drivers, Christina's voice is so commanding and upfront that it drowns out the violins in the back. There is a slight floor hiss present.


The piano is articulate, and crisp, warm and thick. The synthetic violins sing, and then Christina comes in. Every can I've heard presents her so forward, but these headphones also reveal a slight width to her voice. She's in your face, but her voice is given a new dimension of power. The chorus swings in, and tears well in my eyes. This song has exceptional emotion to it, and I sang it for my deceased girlfriend at her accident site many years ago.


Despite hearing this on at least a few hundred different sources, only two sources actually made this song bring up emotions I've locked away: the first time I heard the Bowers and Wilkins Nautilus at a trade show, and these headphones. Sure, other cans were exceptional in presentation, but these somehow stay neutral, yet dynamic, but deliver the vocals and emotion with my body sending waves of nerve tickle from my head, down my arms and spine, to the toes... I never sing this song anymore, because that usually pushes me over my emotional barricade, but these headphones urge you with how absolutely breathtaking her voice sounds over them, and I was reduced to tears on my desk. The drums swung in, when Christina hits her full power section, and both her and I sang as loud as we could, until I felt that crack and I gave in to all of these beautiful memories... Seeing Annette bringing me her spaghetti, sitting in the park, our first kiss and our first dance...


BONUS SONG: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?- Amy Winehouse (Lioness: Hidden Treasures)


I never review this song. I never do. Seriously. It's that one song that I sung to Annette all the time, when she used to worry about whether a Sicilian and an Indian would ever be accepted as being in love. It's such a freakin' amazing song, and when Amy Winehouse covered it, she did it such justice that it became the song that I left on repeat when I used to drink myself to sleep, with nothing but my Sony MDR-V6's that my father gave me. I actually played this the one night I nearly shot myself in the head with grief, and singing it made me realize that I was literally at my bottom. 


The opening horns over the warm guitar and piano just explode with breathtaking soundstaging, the vocals on either side of the chorus caress me, and Amy's voice comes forward so focused, so explosive, that I'm literally shaking as I type. Hi Amy, oh how I miss you. Why is it the ones we love die so soon, so tragically?


The headphones maintain their composure, despite how dynamic and deep this track is. They just... They do it. That simple. These cans just do it.


The Beatles- Within You, Without You


Those who know this song are undoubtedly smiling because this might be the first time they've seen this song in a list with Lady Gaga. This lesser known Beatles song was probably made specifically for audiophiles, crafted in a time when audio engineers had creative freedom over the quality of the song.

Features of this song are an impressively wide soundstage, exceptional dynamics (compression what?), humming sitars, harps, and tabla hits off to the left, with humming indian strings to the right following the inotation and notes of the Beatles who are placed high, almost dead center but a little to the right. As the song goes on, you get to an orchestral section which builds in size and energy, becoming more frenetic before suddenly tapering back to the slow, methodological pace of the song. The tabla hits are deep as a well, with body and bass that bends (look up tabla bending; you move your wrist across the tabla to bend the pitch of the bass note). The singing strings to the right are sharp, with sitar plucks dead center. The sitar is where most instruments fail, as a sitar "talks" with treble underpinnings that are sharp, but harmonic. Most speakers turn that to mush.


******. These sitars actually sound real. I've heard my Auntie Leila play hers, and this is as convincing as it gets. The tabla strikes, and a slight clap reverb suddenly comes out of somewhere far off right, never heard before by my ears on ANYTHING I'VE EVER USED. Wow. The tabla's bass is perfect. It sounds exactly how it should, and I've heard the real thing plenty of times. The Beatles are perfectly balanced against the sonic width, coming from high center, meshing with the violins and that one loud string line on the right.


I'm ending this review here.


For once, a set of headphones have worn me out trying to encapsulate the perfection of audio nirvana that is portrayed, in mere words. There are no words that describe this set of headphones. Many people who reviewed these cans allowed their personal hearing tastes to describe inaccurately the sonic qualities of these headphones, but every single test, when compared to the waveforms and spectrometer, pass with flying colors. Details that barely show up in a spectrograph are now heard. I'm re-examining every single song under the spectrograph now, simply because these headphones won.




Bass:  Mild but present, tight but not artificial, warm when asked to be, aggressive when asked to be, just perfect.


Mids:  Perfect. They are neither recessed, nor exaggerated.


Treble: Wow. It's articulate. It's extensive. It's a whole sonic landscape in and of itself.


I am now off to spend the rest of my time sitting here listening to every single song that I love, while I answer your questions, and review any songs that you request.


post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Bump for visibility :D

post #4 of 11

"For those of you who are familiar with the P5's, this is a welcome change from the swiveling earcups that caused the wire inside the headband to eventually shred and disintegrate, shorting out a driver."


I have more concerns about the thin cable that the P5's ship with than the headband wire. It feels sturdy enough to me. :D

post #5 of 11

Appreciate your write, thanks.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by iAmCodeMonkey View Post

"For those of you who are familiar with the P5's, this is a welcome change from the swiveling earcups that caused the wire inside the headband to eventually shred and disintegrate, shorting out a driver."


I have more concerns about the thin cable that the P5's ship with than the headband wire. It feels sturdy enough to me. :D

Those wires do let go, I won't lie, but eventually the one in the headphone does too if you swivel them often :(


Originally Posted by ForceMajeure View Post

Appreciate your write, thanks.

No problem ForceMajeure, I'm glad you liked it!

post #7 of 11

Great review, one of the best I've read on here.

post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by CapturedSociety View Post

Those wires do let go, I won't lie, but eventually the one in the headphone does too if you swivel them often :(


I shall be careful with mine, then. :)

post #9 of 11

I fully agree with your review.  The P7 feels like it was made for me.  I've been listening to them since November and I've tried a number of their competitors.  They have all been returned.  The only other headphones I've kept since getting the P7 is the HD650 and the B&W C5.

post #10 of 11

Big thumbs up for these 'phones.


I'm just about fed up of buying - selling - trading phones. This is it..:)


Super convenient, super comfy, and superlative sound as well. Just plug into a DAP and your good to go:)


Lovely packaging as well. If it was white, I'd swear it was an Apple product....




I'm really digging these phones. I gave my Audeze LCD-X up dues to the weight, as I spend a lot of time at the desk.. it was KILLING my scrawny neck:) These phones kinda remind me of my LCD-2's which I miss dearly. The LCD-2's are certainly more transparent and are in a different league with the mids. I think it's the slightly dark, non fatiguing tone. I can listen to these for hours, no problems. Maybe more critical ears can pickup more then I, but find these P7's very endearing:) I'm using them straight out of an iPod Classic, and with a Fiio E18 for desktop and as an amp from the TV when watching movies. Great stuff with the E18, just tempers and controls the bass better:)

Edited by migasson - 7/31/14 at 7:53pm
post #11 of 11

Hey, great review, quick question, how does the bass compare to the v-moda m100s?

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