Pros - pleasant laid-back, warm sound; premium looks and feel; good passive isolation; comfortable
Cons - average soundstage and detail; disappointing durability
Design/durability: The P5 is a truly gorgeous headphone. The all leather/metal construction and the "timeless and vintage" make it a winner in the looks department. The construction and finish of the product is very convincing and feels absolutely premium. However the P5's durability is actually pretty far from its luxurious appearances. One of the channels going off is one of the recurrent problems these cans have. I have sent them back to B&W's customer service (which is excellent btw) several times already. And the cable feels very cheap.
Fit/comfort: Clamping force is quite strong, but the earpads feel very nice and the memory foam does wonders. Overall they are quite comfortable but start hurting the ears after a few hours wearing them.
Isolation: The P5 seals very well, and isolation is surprisingly good once the memory foam embraces the shape of the ears. Not the best, but definitely above average in this aspect.
Sound: Pleasant is how I would qualify the P5's sound. It has a warm signature, with forward mids and a slight midbass hump. The treble is definitely a tad recessed, but not shockingly so. The bass is slightly boomy and not really tight. The mids are well defined, rich sounding and delightful to the ears. The treble is smooth and not very detailed nor extended. Soundstage is intimate. Overall the P5 is a somewhat slow sounding headphone, with a very warm, forgiving sound and decent resolution that suits genres like jazz or chamber music. I also enjoyed watching movies with these. Pleasant but not mindblowing.
Bottom line: The P5 sounds decent, looks and feels nice. But beware of its durability.
I bought these in March of 2011. They were to be "the last headphones I buy", expecting them to last at least a decade. I'm a software developer so I wear them often and stream from my phone.
The sound quality and style is great. I've had compliments on them in that respect.
Since they are on the ear, and not over, they do hurt the ears after a few hours.
Both the original cords were eventually damaged. They are very weak, terrible quality. B&W replacement cost was $100.... not exactly reasonable.
The pads are detachable to replace the cords, which is cool, but ends up being expensive. The pads attach via magnet, however the glue that keeps the felt material on eventually seeps through the felt. When you pull the ear pads off you can see lots of little thread of glue between the cans and ear pads. So.... cool design but terrible execution of that design... For the price paid, I expected more.
Finally, in the last week, BOTH drivers failed at the same time. Very unfortunate timing, because Mastercard would have extended the warranty to march of this year... four months late.
Pros - Very comfortable, very nice driver definition (needs burn-in), stylish
Cons - The final audio imaging is not audiophile, but can be fixed, quite expensive
I got these at a mac store... when I heard them in the store I liked them... shows that listening in a store environment doesn't really give you the chance to focus and notice the problems a headphone set can have. I took them home, burned them for about 24 hours with regular music... tried them on... and HATED THEM. Oh my, I hated them so much It was a pain to listen to them... thin, too much harshness, too little bass... they sucked. So I burned them some more with music... and the same thing. Nothing seemed to help them. I was disgusted by them.
So a few months passed, and they were stored at my music studio... forgot about them. Suddenly I realised, how about If i tried to burn them with pink noise... so I did for about 9 measly hours... tried them on the next morning... and Oh my God, they just opened up... the bass was well defined, the mids levelled off nicely, and the top was now so much better. So, if 9 hours of pink noise can open them up... what could 100+ hours do... so we kept on burning them, 8 to 9 hours a day of burn... and using them with music. It really made a difference, they sound great now...
...But something was out of place still... the imaging was not right, still a little muddy on all the frequencies, like if a veil was placed on the music.... I mean, I don't think these are audiophile cans... more like hi-fi... but I keep trying to get in all my cans the sound that I love from my 10 year old Beyer DT880 (impossible I know, Beyer has a unique signature sound). But I did find something... taking in consideration that I generally use this cans on the go and during work time, I mostly use them with my iDevice (iPhone, iPod, or iPad)... I found a great little app called Audyssey, which is a brand that works with many other brands to improve the quality of sound (they work with the likes of Denon, Cambridge Audio, Imax, McIntosh, etc). The app has sound profiles downloadable, specifically tailored for some headphone models... I found the profile for the P5 (and for my Jabra Revo Wireless)... and wow, did it make a change... it fixed all the problems that I still found on this cans... so I began burning-in using the sound profile using pink noise once again (they had about 45 hours of burn-in already on them)... once again, they opened up. Now they sound truly amazing, very hi-fi, very open, even the soundstage widened. I really think this model (it's the series 1, with the earpads of the series 2) is a gem regarding the drivers, they are great speakers, they just need some love, attention to detail, patience with the burn-in and a little help with the magic of the Audyssey app.
Cons - proprietary replacement cable, on-ear fit might not work for everybody
This is a review of Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 (updated 2014 version!!!) on-ear premium portable headphones. http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Headphones/Headphones/Headphones/P5-Series-2.html
When it comes to B&W headphones, they are considered to be among the top brands combining quality and performance with a true luxury. I think it's a very important point to make because I came across a number of other headphones with luxurious looks from a distance where upon a closer encounter you feel plastic and pleather. With Bowers & Wilkins you will pay a reasonable premium, but you will also know exactly what you are paying for once you hold it in your hands. I typically don't start my review with a talk about the luxury and the price, but I felt compelled to do this because B&W P5 Series 2 really stands out from most of the other on-ear and over-ear I have tested in the past. Here is why.
Actually, let me reiterate the last statement because unboxing on-ear P5 felt like a deja vu since I already had a pleasure to test and to review its bigger brother: over-ear P7. The P5 model I had an opportunity to review is actually an updated Series 2 version, and because I didn't have a chance to listen to the first gen P5, I will review it without comparison to the original one. But regardless of this deja vu feeling, it's still a very exciting experience to take a cover of the hard carton black box which from the start sets a "formal attire" tone.
Under the cover you have a form fitting tray with P5 sitting flat thanks to 90 degree rotated earcups. Unlike P7 which folds inward of the headband for storage to occupy smaller footprint, P5 has the ability to rotate its earcups 90 deg for a flat storage. In my opinion, flat storage is more practical for traveling since it lays flat without putting too much stress on the joints when inside of your luggage. To assist you in traveling, P5 comes with a very unique padded quilted soft storage bag, though you have to be very secure in your masculinity since it does look like a make-up purse (an actual comment from my wife). But either way, it's definitely a luxurious "designer" type of a carry case which goes along with a whole luxurious design of these headphones. In addition to a very educational booklet, the only other included accessory is a second set of audio only cables.
The second set of cables is a replacement for an original removable cable which comes with in-line remote/mic. I know B&W is very clear to point out this is iPod/iPhone/iPad specific remote, but in reality only volume up/down controls are unique to iOS devices. Multi-function button in the middle works PERFECTLY with all the common Android phones from Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and some others where single click performs Play/Pause/Call, double click to skip next, triple click to skip prev, and long press to start Google NOW. Mic portion of the remote is very adequate for taking calls and typically works great to pick up your voice without a problem. In a noisy environment sometime you have to bring up mic a little closer to your mouth.
Unlike other headphones with a removable cables, B&W P5 (similar to P7) has a proprietary cable with a standard 3.5mm on the side going to your audio source and 2.5mm angled connector hidden inside of the left earcup. It's really a clever design which makes a cable attachment to earcup look like it has a hardwired seamless connection. To get to the connector you remove magnetically attached earpad to access internal 2.5mm plug. Actually, right side earpad is magnetically attached as well for an easy replacement. It's a similar design used in P7, and I do want to comment about being careful if you have sharp nails not to damage the leather since these magnets are quite strong. The cable itself feels strong yet thin, has a round shape, and feels soft. Also, due to a construction with a removable connection inside of the earcup, I didn't sense any microphonics effect.
Similar to earpads where a leather covers soft memory foam, the back of earcups also have a leather material covering around the sides with a black brushed metal plate in the middle and etched "Bowers & Wilkins" name. Earcup is attached on one side to a solid curved chrome metal double wire that waves into the headband. Beside previously mentioned 90 degree rotation, earcup also have some degree of tilt to adjust to your ears/head shape. The headband is leather wrapped and has a soft foam padding on the inner side. The whole construction feel very solid, and headband adjustment is buttery smooth while still requiring a little bit of force so it doesn't slide out loosely. Out of the box, similar to P7, clamping force is a bit tight and requires some break in period. After a few days it felt more comfortable while still offering an excellent sound isolation. Regarding sound isolation, you do have to be realistic this is on-ear design which can't be compared to over-ear like P7, so you should still expect to hear outside noise though with a decent attenuation.
I guess by now I established a point where these look like a million bucks, or maybe a few dollars less since I made the same comment about P7, and P5 is just a scaled down version of it So how do these sound? The sound signature is balanced warm with L-shaped emphasis - yes, the bass here is phenomenal!!! At the same time, though bass quantity is enhanced, mids are balanced without perception of being too recessed. The sound feels very analog, almost like you are listening to actual speakers, but it required a good 20hrs of burn in since out of the box it had too much of mid-bass bloat which settled down nicely afterwards. Ironically, B&W is well known for their speaker products so I have a feeling their design/sound engineers use a lot of that reference when it comes to headphones.
In more detailed analysis, low end has a textured sub-bass rumble that can put a smile even on a basshead face, and an aggressive punch of the fast mid-bass. After burn-in, bass became very tight and more controlled with just a slight hint of spilling into lower mids. But in no way does it over powers the mids. Mids are clear, very smooth and warm with a lush delivery of vocals. They tend to be a bit too smooth which could affect some retrieval of details, but still have a good definition and clarity. I think a lot of it also has to do with how bright or dark your audio source is, where a brighter sound could give a better perception of the details. Treble is smooth as well, feels a bit rolled off, and without a hint of harshness or sibilance. Soundstage is average in width and depth, though gets enhanced with a proper amping. This is typical for on-ear model, where over-ear P7 had an edge in soudstage width.
Since I have been mentioning P7 in comparison reference, I figured to summarize it with a few other headphones. Going back to P7, I can hear a lot of similarities when it comes to low end, but P5 mids sound more forward while P7 treble has more extension. Also due to over-ear fitment of P7, they have a better isolation and wider/deeper soundstage. Also, P5 is a little less efficient and required on average 10 more volume clicks. Comparing to on-ear Beyer T51p, P5 bass felt deeper and had a bit more quantity, while T51p Tesla drivers delivered more low end details. When it comes to mids, T51p is more recessed and less clear/detailed. Comparing to V-Moda XS, P5 bass is head'n'shoulders above XS, while upper mids/lower treble is brighter and harsher in XS. P5 also has a better isolation.
Overall, I found B&W P5 performance and design to be of an exceptional quality. I can't compare the original P5 to the updated P5 Series 2 which I have reviewed here, but I had a chance to read a technical paper regarding new Series 2 which lists a significant amount of internal improvements including everything from an updated driver (based on P7 design) to a new speaker plate and ear cup enclosure with an updated type and amount of damping material, and even a new ear cushion/padding. It almost sounds like a brand new headphone! It's still not a match to overtake a throne from their flagship P7 model, which is not an intention of this model to begin with, but they did an excellent job to align them in terms of technology and design. This could also mean that in a future we might see P7 Series 2. But at the current moment if you want to spoil yourself with a luxury and have a budget of $300 or you can stretch your budget to reach this goal, and if you are craving some serious bass performance with clarity of mids and smoothness of top end - B&W P5 Series 2 is a serious contender in this category. For those who are looking for a reference audiophile sound or super isolation while riding public transportation, these might not be their cup of tea. But if you want a "modern" audiophile fun sound when you are on the go or traveling - give them a serious consideration!
Here are the pictures (click pictures to enlarge).
Pros - Build, Looks , looks when you wear it, Sound, comfort
Cons - Thin cable, Silly purse, High high price, sound, to many top end competition
I bought an open box model B&W p5. Got warranty. But just 1 working cable. It's typically british. Luxury high end item. Like a Jaguar or Rolls Royce. Or a B&W speaker set.
Always have been intrigued by B&W. The first of many high end stereo companys (Bose don't count) getting their feet wet ín headfi gear.
P7 was my initial target. But damn its expensive.399€. No where can i find it cheaper.
To be honest the sound didnt wow me when i tried it a few times.
P3 is nice. Love the different colors. but I think it's more trendy than luxurious.
So it's up to the P5. At 299€. I never really considered it at all. On ears at this price...with DT1350, HD25s, Momentums, M80s etc etc...not surprising.
That's why I won't go to in depth in the sound or comparing them to the other models. All I can say is. I like the sound. To my ears it fits with the house sound of B&W. Dark, rich warm sound. Easy on the ears and you could listen to it for hours. It has nothing offensive in it. Works good till great with all music genres i listen too. And the mods suggested in headfi means only further improvement on the sound. The bass is good as expected from B&W. If the sound was very neutral/flat or bright...that would really sound wrong to me. Because that's not B&W.
I miss the thump to make it bassheadworthy...but that would also not be a good fit for the B&W sound.
What really got to me was the build and the sheer luxurious comfort of the P5s. I am a strong believer in substance over style.Hate to pay extra for perceived style aka marketing BS.
But with the P5 I can't deny that the form and style got to me. All you see and feel is pure leather and metal. Giving it a comfortable but robust feel to the headphone.Simply put the headphone feels like a quality product in your hands. The build is great. It ticks all the boxes for me. Cable is removable. Clever magnetic earpads cover.
So build is great, how is the fit. Thank god it's not like VModa. Build like a tank, sadly with the same comfortlevel. The P5 luxurious translates perfectly with the fit. A great fit and extremely comfortable to me. Easily adjusted. The onear pads that's genuine lambskin leather feels awesome. Stays cool. And never a problem with my ears heating up. Could use it for hours and even fall asleep with it.
Even with over ears the earpads made from synthetic material tends to irritate or heat up my ears after a few hours. Thats why i never bought an On ear before, because I was pretty sure that I cant wear it comfortably for any amount of time. Could it be really this simple...using genuine leather pads for more comfort? Anyway B&W made the right choice.
An unexpected bonus was the way the headphones look when wearing it or how the way the headphones look on your head. Sadly it doesn't make you look more attractive. But it beats looking like a cast member from Something about mary or like a butch princess Leia. Wearing headphones on the street are definitely a challenge.Thank god for IEMs.
But with the P5 there is no problem at all. It look surprisingly sleek on your head. The thin cable works perfectly like this. I have the black leather color and it blends perfectly with my black hair. The metallic part accentuate everything nicely. The brushed finish with the shiny bowers & wilkins letters exudes pure class and a bit of high end snobbery. More a jewel or fashion accessory than just a headphone. You know you are wearing quality. To me it's the most beautiful headphone I have ever worn.
Another positive is the price of accessories. The simply awesome earpads are quite reasonable. Just 41$ a pair in the USA. Great value for genuine leather IMHO. People criticise rightly the cable. But at 12$ or 7$ for a bose version it's quite a nice price. No problem replacing them if needed. The case or is it a a purse is quite useless. Looks nice...but for a portable headphone a hardcase would be a better option. You can buy them cheap for 11$ at ebay. Only accessory what you need to buy.
Reading the posts about these headphones on headfi, people don;t like it. I can understand why this headphone misses the impact on a site like headfi. Where sound is king. Than something with the sound of the P5 doesn't shine. It's to inoffensive to be considered extraordinary or unique. Unlike the famous competitors it misses that edge in sound to make them great. And truth is...lesser and cheaper headphones can be found with similar sound. But when you consider all the other aspects, the P5 has absolutely no competitor and is a surefire winner IMHO. The looks, the build and even the sound gives them a potential to become a classic.
The original price makes them quite expensive.And truthfully I wouldn't have paid full retail for them. But they can be bought for less money now. And if the price continues to drop.200/225$ for example?! They will be awesome value and can be instant classics. Buying them secondhand is a good and safe idea with the way they are put together, Cause the looks and build are timeless and the inoffensive sound actually works perfectly for the mainstream listeners. Great high end gifts for anyone looking for a headphone. For travellers who want an upgrade in portable headphone. If you are a woman you should give these headphones a try pure on how it looks when you wear them. For us headfiers...if you are looking for something beautiful and comfortable to wear these are perfect. Just luxuriate and enjoy these aspects of a headphone for once instead of focusing on the sound. If you do that..you will also enjoy it's qualities.
Quite weird..to say that sound is secondary coming from a famous Speaker company like B&W. But I think it fits perfectly. Sound and fit will let you enjoy music effortlessly and comfortably for hours on end. And the build will insure that you can enjoy this for years on end. Great job B&W.
Pros - Very comfortable for long listening in your lounge chair, plane, train or bus. Handles most genres without fatigue. And sound rates a 8.5-9/10 for me.
Cons - None really. Not cheap but hardly expensive compared to many other commercially successful phones like Beats, Amperiors or Momentums.
I'm adding my support to this often maligned headphone. I've noticed several previous critical reviews have been made by folks who've had a casual listen at the Apple Store and don't actually own a pair. That does seem to distort the overall rating somewhat since I think these are a headphone you have to have for a while to appreciate. True, there are many better sounding cans but I doubt most who have purchased did so for them to be their premium listening headphone. I am sure I am like many buyers who liked the look, found them comfortable especially with your head nestled into a high back chair like aircraft seats because you can turn your head a little without the ear cup being pushed off your ear, with a moderate clamping force that doesn't pinch your ears especially if you wear glasses like me. The sound quality while agreed is not in the league of my HD600 or Beyerdynamic DT-250 or even my HD-25-1, is still pretty damn good for a supra-aural.
I tried many portables over the past 6 months looking for something I could wear pretty much anywhere and easily driven by my phone, iPad and Sony WMZ Z-1070. First were a set of DT-1350s. There are any number of glowing reviews. I must say I didn't mind the sound but I couldn't get a good seal and therefore the bass was underwhelming while the mids were too forward. I tried to like them but had to give up and decided to move them on recently. I also tried Amperiors early on but while some say the P5 has a forward mid bass, I found the AmperIor much more so. To the point of being boomy to me. I returned them after a week. That's when I got the P5s. I've enjoyed them since. Used them at home and while travelling. While I do prefer my Bose QC-15 for noise cancelling on flights, I just don't like the Bose for regular listening. Not that they sound awful, just not good enough.
Believing there might be better choices, went on to buy a set of Momentums after auditioning a pair and getting a great deal on them. It was a love/hate thing for me. They looked great, have the iPhone controls, a nice carry case, nice earpads but in the end I found them just too warm sounding, and I could not wear them for long periods as the stitching around the inner pad irritated my ears. I persevered for a month or so then bought the HD25s which I should have bought right at the beginning but chose the DT-1350. They sounded just right to me. So I traded the Momentums for my HD600s with someone looking for a portable and not using the 600s.
The HD25s really are a superb sounding phone but, they look too dorky to wear as an out and about portable and really aren't anywhere near as comfortable as the P5s. So what's the attraction to the P5? Simply the fact they do what a portable headphone should do well. They sound good even if not audiophile standard, are compact (they fit nicely in my computer bag), are very comfy for long periods, and totally non-fatiguing. I frankly enjoy using them. Vocals tracks present like you're in the audience not simply listening to recorded music and that perception extends to jazz and classical alike. I highly recommend them.
PS. I like my P5s so much after auditioning some P3s I found an almost new pair on eBay at a fair price purchasing them as a carry round pair of even more portable headphones. Make no mistake, while pretty good too, they aren't in the same league as the P5 and aren't that much more portable given they don't fold flat like the P5s do. Nor are they as comfy as the cloth pads don't sit on your ears as well as the leather pads of the P5s.
Just a quick review... I think the people critiquing these miss the point a bit. These are not reference headphones. But they are actually decent sound wise, not great but far from terrible. They are hands down the most stylish headphones I've seen, both on and off. They have a particularly low profile when worn. If I never went out in public I probably wouldn't use these, but for those of us that care, the sound compromise is not too great to outweigh how good these look IMO.
They are about $100 cheaper than the Sennheiser Momentum, they look quite a bit nicer but don't sound as good. So value-wise I think they are about right. You just have to decide where you fall on the style/substance continuum.
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)
Cons - Gets very hot very fast. A very muffled sound for this price.
First of all these look and feel like an expensive headphone. They have a nice weight to them and the leather, fine brushed aluminum and memory foam earpads all breathe quality.
They are fairly comfortable thanks to the soft pads, but the moderate clamping force coupled with the leather heats up the ears within 5 minutes.
I expected a little more for the price. They aren't really hi-fi headphones, there just isn't the resolution on offer. The sound is smooth and warm, with an emphasized bass that goes deep but lacks refinement. The treble is very shy and gives a veil to the sound, hiding away much of the detail and sparkle in the music. The elevated, loose bass coupled with the recessed treble gives the mids an almost suffocated feel. Don't take me wrong, it's not as terrible as it sounds, but the midrange is just to warm and dark for my tastes.
I wish I could enjoy these as I think they are a very finely crafted headphone that would go well for portable use. But the sound just isn't on par with the price. I'm doubtful they're even worth half of it, in terms of SQ.
I really wanted to like these. I pushed through the ear pain from wearing them for more than hour, I defended them from haters and then eventually I realized that I just didn't want to listen to them anymore. They are probably great as a portable can, but I just never liked them enough to keep them around for desk listening. I sold them a month after buying them and have replaced them with a pair of AKG K550's that are more to my liking for comfort and sound.