Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Headphones


100+ Head-Fier
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.


New Head-Fier
Pros: Style, sound quality
Cons: Build quality, comfort
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. 
Agree about the built quality aspect of the P5... Mine worked pretty well for two years and I was delighted with the sound, and one day the left driver went out (not a cable issue). The warranty was over and there wasn't much I could do, except buy a new pair (well... nope). Frustrating really, especially for the price paid.
Ps. seems that *all* B&W portable products have issues with build quality. I also got into trouble with their C5s. Good thing is, B&W's customer service is second to none. But you can't just keep sending your headphones back, can you?


New Head-Fier
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.
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twister6 Reviews
Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: luxurious design, solid build, replaceable cables, excellent bass and smooth sound signature
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.
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).
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@Claritas : you can get it directly from their website per link in the review.  Mine came directly from B&W US as part of a review sample.
Thanks. In the interest of full disclosure, please state that clearly top of the review.
Looks like the earpad design is greatly improved!

I remember owning the original version where the foam was poorly done xP


100+ Head-Fier
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 will also enjoy it's qualities.
Quite 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.
I was shocked by the posts too.So negative.How is the wear of the headphone?
Actually, I'm a bit surprised by the wear - there is none! They seem to me to be the same as the day I bought them. Surprising, because I would have thought that I would have broken that cheap thin cable they use by now. I wonder if that has a lot to do with why a lot of people don;t like them - they can't get past that horrible cable they selected. I also wonder if maybe one of the reasons I keep coming back to them as my go-to headphones is their sumptuos comfort - easily the best I've ever encountered in a headphone. A real pleasure just to put them on. One more thing - I didn't see before that you mentioned the Beyer DT-1350's.. I own a pair of those and I can say that to me the P5's easily trounce them and it's not even close. I only use the 1350's for travel because they have  great isolation. Someday maybe I'll pop for the P7's.. even the head-fi-ers seem to like those.
I wonder the critique of the it because of it 's looks? Or does it really impact the sound of the headphones negatively.
It's flimsiness actually works well designwise. You can hardly see it when wearing it.
What dont you like of the DT1350? Isnt it considered the king of portable on ears?


100+ Head-Fier
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.
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Headphoneus Supremus
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.


New Head-Fier
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)
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\


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Beautiful design, quality construction, smooth sounding.
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. 
Definitely agree about the SQ. That said, it's still my favorite portable. Every other factor is perfect for mobile use. Sound improves with the FiiO E11. JVC HA-S500 has better SQ and doesn't need an amp.


New Head-Fier
Pros: looks, iPhone compatible
Cons: sound, comfort
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.


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: overall design (pads, comfort, looks), build quality
Cons: non-audiophile sound, mediocre (detachable) cable
From what I understand about the P5 headphones, they were not designed with the audiophile in mind. There are two "versions" of the P5: the first with the untrimmed foam earpads and the second with the trimmed foam earpads. The second had improved clarity across the range by removing the foam that blocked part of the earpad canal. 
I purchased this headphone as a durable, stylish, portable, and isolating headphone to use on the go The design and durability is what caught my attention. I have enough audiophile-oriented headphones and few are portable with good build quality, comfort, isolation, and style. 
I purchased the P5 "second version" for $300 at a nearby Apple store.
Build Quality: 
Metal and leather, no plastic in sight or any weak spots. The build quality is superb throughout the headphone and it can probably last a long time even when manhandled. No loose parts, finishing is superb, very solidly built. This is the type of quality I expect from $300 headphones, full-sized or not. I do not get enough of this quality from the other plasticky headphones I have, even the "studio monitors." 
The cable is sorely disappointing. It feels very cheap and thin, even is detachable.
The foam earpads are very soft and smooth. This is the second most comfortable "real" headphone I have ever worn. The headband is well padded and the headphone was designed to fit on a human, not a rock, a rhino, an elephant, or a unicorn-monkey-horse. I can wear this for hours at a time and the only discomfort would probably from when my ears get hot from the leather (not too bad). Very comfortable.
First off, the isolation from the earpads is black-magic superb. A seal is achieved but it also causes the driver to flex when put on. The driver-flex that makes a slight popping noise is annoying sometimes. Isolation is superb to my HD25s and matches that of my cheaper IEMs such as the Brainwavz M2 earbuds. However, at times it can put pressure on the ears.
The sound is....relaxed, rolled off, no sibilance at all or any sort of harshness, maintains good level of definition and clarity, absolutely no detail for cymbals (e.g. jazz-ride rivet sounds dull), lower-highs well articulated and clear with medium level of detail, smooth texture. The mids seem delicately pushed , showing signs of slightly bloated lower-mids; upper-mids have oddly good detail, vocals sound superb but sometimes too bassy.
Upper bass has little punch, smooth texture, "lush" feeling - little impact but lots of body (not one-note bass by the way), making it sound very slow and draggy but in a pleasing and buttery smooth way
Lower bass is accentuated, giving the headphones a "sub-bass" feel - almost like a cheap car subwoofer. However it is impressive at the low hertz, at least compared to other headphones in the price category
Soundstage, as expected, is very narrow, very pushed together but with strangely good depth. Not sure why. Overall very very smooth, like a cup of rich hot chocolate. Non-fatiguing, to say the least. 
Overall Signature
The P5 really does gets weird; this is one of the most odd sounding headphones I have heard. It is dark yet well defined and with detail pushed from strangest parts of the frequency spectrum, and detail pulled away from other parts. It sounds mediocre to an "audiophile."
But the P5 sounds oh-so-satisfying. I can't really describe it. 
Overall, I have mixed feelings about the sound. But if I want some solid sound, I grab my full-sized pair of extreme-detail-retrieving, frequency-refining, extreme-critical-listening headphones. For what its worth, the P5 is great for a non-audiophile user.
Your initial impressions match mine very closely. When I put these on all I though was how muddy they are and also how expensive they are. I guess it is possibly that the industrial design could appeal, and the sound might appeal especially to non-audiophiles who don't know how much of the music they are missing. But there are so many competing products that can produce a smooth, non-fatigueing sound with more extension and detail across the frequencies IMO, but most of these off the top of my head are in-ears. These are definitely not a a headphone I would recommend for fidelity of music reproduction. In fact there is something almost comparable to Indy subculture ie. the resurgence of polaroid cameras and cassette tapes, except coupled with high-fashion aesthetics - very odd.


New Head-Fier
Pros: Beautiful design, comfortable, good all-rounder
Cons: Price, finding sonic sweet spot
Firstly I'd like to begin by saying that I've owned many many pairs of high quality headphones over the years, and indeed speakers. I'll not reel them all off here, but suffice it to say I've owned (and still do in many cases) Grado, AKG, Beyer, Senheiser and Shure are just a few of the companies I've bought from over the last 35 years. I'd also like to say that obviously everybody's ears are different. What seems blatantly obvious to some will be missed by others, and also everybody's taste is different. Just look through all these reviews. Many decry the rolled-off treble whilst others say the p5's have a crisp, defined top end. How can this be? Well because as stated, everybody likes different things from their audio equipment, even if they don't realise it.
Unboxing is a refined experience. Quality box and printing is followed by equally lavish packaging inside. This extends to the phones themselves. I've found them to be extremely durable if looked after well, top class materials are used in construction. Af first I found they clamped my head a bit too snugly but after 3 weeks or so they seemed to slacken up a bit (in a good way). Or maybe I just used to them. Also, don't just plonk these on your head. You need to experiment a little with position to find the optimum place for the music to breathe. As someone else found, putting them on then moving them rearwards slightly seems to provide the best, clearest sound. Again, this may depend on your ear/head size and shape I guess. Experiment.
The sound itself (after 150 hours of run-in time) is very pleasing to the ear i find. The bass is deep without being crushing, the mids are well-placed and intimate when needed. Listening to Carly Simon sing "Nobody Does it Better" via FLAC yields wonderfully personal vocals and defined sound staging.
The top end is not as shimmering as it perhaps could be, but that fits in for my personal preferences - I hate a tinny and overly cutting hi-hat or crash cymbal. Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" provides a good benchmark here. It's an album that splits opinion in terms of recording and production. It is an extremely clean and clinical piece of work. I've found it to be unlistenable on some equipment (speakers as well as headphones). My Grado SR-80's for example made an already incisive treble a bit too painful for my tastes. The p5's just warm this area up a touch. Some would say that's a sacrifice of detail, I'd say it provides a smoother and more comfortable listening experience. I won't bore people with any more specific examples but needless to say, I've tried these with many different genres of music from all over the world. Most are pleasingly rendered. These headphones are pleasing. I did find that Drum and Bass and House Music etc. wasn't handled particularly well by these. The bass probably isn't crunching or nimble enough for that sort of music I'd say. Having said that, sometimes the bass can be a little too much. On Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny", I found it a bit overbearing, but still listenable. The p5's to my ears seem to excel at easy listening, jazz and orchestral music. Try listening to a lossless version of the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" soundtrack and you'll be amazed by the placement of instruments, richness of low-end and overall detail. In fact I've noticed that these headphones always seem to expose flaws in recordings, or unintened noises. You can hear musicians shuffling papers and creaking chairs in this case for example. Jazz, again seems to benefit from a clear and natural reproduction and excellent placement of instruments. Anyway, I could go on all day but I will finish by saying that if you enjoy easy listening, jazz, pop and orchestral music etc., you'll be very happy with the p5's. If you like fast, heavy music with a skull-splitting bottom end then you should probably look elsewhere. Dr. Dre Beats or something even. That's not my bag really. It's a testament to the p5's that despite all the other headphones I posses, these are the ones I reach for mostly when I want to relax, close my eyes and be soothed. There is a slight softening to the top end but I don't understand people saying there's a lot of coloration to the sound - I just don't find that myself. Still, we're all different as I say.
Run them in, get the positioning right and you fall in love with them.
Bit of a harsh recommendation there saying that fast music is best presented by Beats. However, nice review.


New Head-Fier
Pros: comfort, design, sound
Cons: cord, price
I've had these cans for a few weeks to give them a fair trial.  To keep this short and sweet.  These are one of the best sounding portable headphones you can purchase, perhaps not the very best, but one of them.  Make sure you're comparing apples to apples.  These won't compete with Grado's or similar open headphones, but for portables, they are VERY impressive.
A few things to note:
  1. These do have a very lengthly break-in period before they really warm up, especially the treble.
  2. These are very sensitive to placement on the ear.  I find putting them a little further back on the ear sounds best.
  3. It will take around two weeks before they loosen up physically, they may hurt your ears at first, especially if you wear glasses.
  4. These are closer to reference headphones in terms of input required.  Most MP3's will sound horrible unless they are lossless---and even then it really depends on what was used to rip them to MP3 in the first place.
As long as you keep those things in mind, you'll have an incredible listening experience.  Ignore one of the above, and you'll find they're just mediocre at best.  Once you hear what they're really capable of, you'll be tossing your Bose QC'a and Sennheiser HD's in a box.
I owned the p5s and thought they were very good. I moved up to the t5ps. Like most people, the bass was off in my opinion but the mids and highs were very nice.
they sound like music, ie. you do get that high end audio response where the world disappears
and auditory vibration turns into synthesis....expensive but worth it...drblue
i meant to say turns into synthesis...seeing the music in colors, experiencing the texture of music as shapes and the music
telling a story beyond the lyrics...bravo b & W.


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Comfort. Like-- you can sleep in them.
Cons: Loose low end, Treble lacks definition and soundstage.
I bought these at an Apple store after jumping around between a few display models, and they certainly were the best of the lot that they had, in both sound quality and comfort.  I didn't want to take them off, so that told me something.
What's wrong with them-- Well the mids can get mucky-- like there's a film over them.  The bass is loose on the extreme low end-- it gets really slappy in the extreme lows below 200hz.  The treble gives me the most bother.  There's a real lack of imaging in these phones-- they bowl over the transients and there's little soundstage anywhere.  Compared to my UE Reference Monitors, well, there isn't really a comparison.  The UE's do everything so right, it's laughable when I jump to the B & W's.
So you'd think I'd be chucking these in a drawer and never look back, but a funny thing-- despite their shortcomings (I tend to address them with EQ- and if you want a different appreciation for them fire up iTunes and put the "electronic" eq on them and dial them in a bit) these headphones are like a comfy pair of old slippers.  They don't do anything particularly well, but I find myself reaching for them often because they're so darned comfortable to wear.  I can take a snooze while wearing them and they're wonderful. Beware- in warm weather, your ears will sweat!  
One final note-- because of their flat profile, there are about five positions they can rest on your ear, and each sounds entirely different.  Play around with placement before dismissing them, you might find a really good position and spend the next two months trying to figure out where you had them on that great night of listening they provided way back when.  
Yeah, they're quirky and expensive, but they look good and feel great.  I'm not getting rid of them, they're a creature comfort my ears appreciate on the right occasion.  They're not for detailed listening.  They're for curling up with a good book on a cold night.  Soul food for your ears.
This is a good review imho also..
The positioning on the ears made me laugh..upon my first day with them bending to increase clamping pressure (bought used) and fiddling with ear position and pressing INTO my ears improved everything considerably!
I didnt want to take them off again for fear Id never find that position gain!
If only the memory foam would "memorize"..
Kind regards


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Overall sound, look, easy to drive, good noise isolation
Cons: difficult sweet spot for best sound, needs lot of break in, cable quality, maybe a little bit more detailed on top?
FIRST: don't believe any reviewer who listen to the P5 only few hours or a couple of days, they need minimum 60 hours of break in to start sounding decent, at 100h they sound ok. At first they're so closed in like listenin' with a big and heavy curtain in front of your head, no detail in any frequency, no dynamic, just ugly sound with boomy bass and not even punchy. I was shocked the first time I hear them, "who could ever buy this crap?" was my first impression.
SECOND: pjoliver182 mod is essential and the cheapest and easiest upgrade to gain bass detail, dynamic and better definition in any freq. Just add a little isolation material (also cotton will work for testing differences) in the upper part inside the ear pad. I've done this review with this essential mod, before I was very close to return the P5. Thank you again pjoliver182!
THIRD: They're very sensitive to ear pads position, move pads up/down/front/rear to get best results for your head. You need to experiment a bit to get best bass extension and articulation, focus, dynamics or to retrieve more ambience and soundstade depth.
The target for me was to select a portable HP without the need of a stand alone dedicated headphone amp, so they must be not too big and sound ok with an iPod, smartphone or a notebook.
Any difficult to drive or low sensivity HP is ruled out.
Overall rating is based on this needs.
I've used for testing: iPhone 4, iPod Classic 160Gb, Blackberry Bold 9700, Dell Precision M6600 Notebook with IDT hd audio codec and JRiver MC16 with WASAPI Event style in Windows 7 64bit, Linn Majik Kontrol or Naim Supernait+HC2 built in headphone amps with Linn Majik Ds or Naim CD5XS+FCX2 as sources. Lots of HD tracks 24 bit downloads tested. I think some of the listed equipment is good enough to judge overall quality and differences of HPs I targeted.
I've tried a lot of different types of HP so to have a general reference, I still have the following for testing purposes and to add some direct comparisons:
Sennheiser CX300 (in-ear)
Sennheiser HD535 (low sensivity)
Grado GR10 (in-ear)
Grado SR125i (low sensivity)
Monster Beats Solo HD
Overall the CX300 (best buy in ear for Whathifi) presentation is the most similar to the P5, a lower level P5 if you will: less detail and dynamic, less articulated and punchy bass, less separation and ambience, less armonics and less stable at high volumes.
Grado's are much more dry in sound, if you like them you'll hate the P5 tube like sounds. At first Grado's seems to pull out more details but now I think they loose some body in the sounds which for me is another part of the details and they've a mid/high freq bump not so comfortable to use with common headphone sockets, don't know how things goes with dedicated amps, but I'm not interested as stated before.
Monster Solo HD is much less detailed and too much boomy and exagerated bass to be serious.
My ratings:
Value 4 stars: they're not cheap nor they're too much expensive, very good VFM given the quality of construction and overall sound. At nearly 300 Euro they've more VFM than Monster Solo HD at 200 Euro for example.
Design 5 stars: I love the design, colors and materials used. I rate this parameter very high and I'm proud to show them around to anyone. Very appropriate even for older guys like me at 44 who don't like to emulate rappers and prefer a classic but modern look. Beautiful bag.
Confort 3,5 stars: at first they seems very confortable, but during long listening they start to pressure your ears too much. For over the ear they could be improved at least half a point, I'll give five stars only to around ear and light HP. Also it's not so easy to find again the sweet spot position if you change the distance of the earpads for storing them in the dedicated bag, it's so narrow and that detract a little to confort of use. Last cons: If it's hot they could make your ear hotter. Isolation confort is very good even if it's still possible to do better.
Audio Quality 4,5 stars (with pjoliver182 mod, without mod 4 stars, see SECOND point above): The sound is on the warm side with very good timbre fidelity, good dynamic and detail but not the champ here especially if you don't do the mod. I can't believe some reviewers stated they could be spitty or aggressive. I wish a little bit more HF detail and extension for perfection, that's why not a 5 star rating. Maybe a better cable could do the job but it's very difficult to upgrade it given the type of implementation: 2,5mm jack and even smaller than normal to fit it inside the ear pad, 3,5mm on the amp side.
With break in AND mod AND correct sweet spot, the critical bass is excellent, powerful enough to give justice to any kind of music, controlled and detailed enough to not miss anything in that department.
Midrange is british, its stronger feature for the one like me who appreciate it that way. It's detailed and full of body, not sterile. Voice M or F, saxs and pianos are very enjoyable. Some sounds even ambient sounds or voices from people speaking in live performances like jazz sessions seems so real sometimes I pull off the P5 to ask my wife if she was speaking to me or look around if there's someone moving in my room...
Overall what is so easy to love about the P5 is the coherent sound, it's not coherent in a neutral cold way, it's coherent in a tube like fashion. Any frequency is colored in the same way, so there is not a disjointed rappresentation of the music, you don't hear a super detailed HF and at the same time a boomy undetailed bass for example, nor you need to listen to only one kind of music or just a few tracks which are recorded optimally for your headphone. Any recording and genere could be enjoyed in a satisfactory way because even if colored any parameter is in good condition. Think about giving 7, 8 or 9/10 to various aspects of the music and sound instead of a 4, 7 or 10/10. The latter is less enjoyable in the long run even if some aspects are better. So you don't have the best HF extension but it's good enough to enjoy details and the meaning of the music and interpeter. The Prat factor is very high, the midrange british and tube like, the sensation of lots of harmonics add to the musical presentation. You can feel the body of instruments even if they could be more detailed, Grado's Hps on the contrary seems to loose some weight to instruments and voices even if they're perceived more detailed. Drums are not so fast like Grado's but are much more punchy and more full. Pianos the same, not so detailed nor so thin, more round and more decays and harmonics. I like much more now this type of presentation. I think Grado's are colored too, just in another way. Just b/c you could enjoy lots of different recordings or generes not means the P5 color the music in such a way all sound the same, not at all. You could hear great differences between recordings and that's why you are always happy to check the sound of the new HD file you've just downloaded.
Another strong feature is the volume you could push these little babies, more you pump the volume more details and dynamic you gain without fatigue and without congestion or lost of control. So in the end you start thinking, are they really less detailed or I just need a stronger amp to achieve better results? On the contrary with Grado's you think, maybe a dedicated tube amp could be the right choice...
Overall an excellent 4,5 stars: they could be more confortable, less picky sweet spot, maybe more detailed, maybe...
they are not bassy, don't even compare them to monster's, my guess is that they didn't build the newer ships properly, because my P5 sound like they should without the mods, because a friend of mine got them and did sound like the crap many users describe them as. with the mod they sounded properly but still not as good as mine do, maybe because that haven't been fully burned in.
Ah, and all over the blog it has been proved that the perceived difference in cable affecting SQ is just in your mind, argument invalid.
Hi DarkSleip,
I'll try another set when possible.
Regarding cables, they do make difference especially using high quality gear which are more sensible to small changes. It's not this is better than that, it's all about synergy. If someone can't hear a difference it depends on low quality or too much colored equipment as such as any difference is barely audible. Any cable have a technical carachteristic like inductance, capacitance, resistance, material, diameter, length, ... and any of these alter the system synergy or the sound, it's not a matter of opinions or price, some cables work well with some gear others do not. Anyone who stated there's no difference is contradicted by reality of technical facts. Ther's a lot of snake oil around but electrical parameters are well known and they're not always the same. For example in my system a speaker cable like the Naim NAC A5 is not working good, the cheaper Linn K20 is ok and change some aspect of the synergy of sound for the better. In a Naim system the NAC A5 is ok and it's difficult to find a better alternative.


Pros: comfort, can be used for long periods of time, warm sounding, isolation
Cons: price depenable
If you are a serious audiophile then these arent for you.

Goods :
  • very very comfortable
  • a very relaxing sound
  • very well presented
  • looks
  • (iphone cable/detachable cable)
   6.  very good for travel, easy to drive. ISOLATION
  • expensive (but varies)
  • can get hot on your ears
  • case a bit large (but is very nice)
  • can get scratched.
  • THAT GOD **** TREBLE ( improved .... look at the edit.)
When i first listened to these cans i thought they were not worth it. But after long periods of time and travel then i find these to shine in a place of their own. Their sound is subtle and not fast-paced these cans are for relaxing(as i said) and not for head banging. 


pendulum - immersion 256kps VBR

metallica - discography ( cept the new things ) FLAC

chase & status- no more idols FLAC

avenged sevenfold - discography FLAC 
Beethoven - symphony 5 and 9 320kps

I found that the cymbals in these metal bands are very recessed and are very picky about SQ. The cymbals are there just not as florishing as they could be. 

I found the sound staging impressive to be honest i found it to be like a small recording room feel but this varies to the quality of the music .

The build quality is pretty good too with the leather and metal finish. The cable looks like it can break but a replacement from my shop costs £5-10 so that doesnt really bother me.

I also want to say that my headphone are a 54k serial number so relatively new.


i would not pay the full price but for £200 i found this to be a much more reasonable price. Not for audiophiles but for travel and a welcoming, warming sound i find these superb. (love or hate sound). 


After I recently got a new one (old one broke me being clumsy, not the headphones fault.) I found the treble to be ALOT better. Voices seem alot closer and not as far as the first version i had. Cymbals still sound a bit off but defiantly improved.

The serial number is RC 9mil series.



New Head-Fier
Pros: Decent looks, New Zealand sheep's leather
Cons: Poor sound, uncomfortable, overpriced
I can't add much to skylab's excellent review. I was so seduced by the idea of soft sheep's leather against my ears that I pulled the trigger on these only to regret the decision and have to sell them. The sound is muffled and dark and without body. They get uncomfortable against your ears after about half an hour. They look (and smell) nice, but that alone can't justify $300. The people giving them rave reviews on the consumer websites have either never heard good cans or are utterly hypnotized by the B&W brand aura and can't stand the cognitive dissonance of having spent $300 on subpar headphones. Back to the drawing board, B&W!
Exactly the reason I returned mine!
"The people giving them rave reviews on the consumer websites have either never heard good cans or are utterly hypnotized by the B&W brand aura and can't stand the cognitive dissonance of having spent $300 on subpar headphones."
Wow, really?!
Just because you don't like them doesn't mean that other people will. Audio quality is subjective and different people have different tastes in sound. What you said in your review reminds me of those 1-star reviews on Amazon from people who have listened to them in the Apple Store for 5-minutes or so and then concluded that they suck. You need to give these at least 50-hours of play time before the sound opens up. They are also VERY sensitive to how you place the earcups onto your ears, comfort-wise.
I happen to love mine. No cognitive dissonance here.
By the way, what you referred to as "cognitive dissonance" is actually called "buyer's remorse", usually felt by people who did not do the proper research before buying something. That is hardly feeling the conflicting stress of having two conflicting beliefs at once, which is the proper definition of cognitive dissonance.
Go here and learn something:


Pros: Very comfortable, seems durable, sounds very good
Cons: Expensive
I think the best way I can describe myself is an aspiring audiophile. I haven't the money, or the time to audition high end gear. That being said, I do scour the internet for information and save up my pennies for things I really want, and that's where the B&W P5s come in. I was able to experiment with them several times in an Apple store before finally exchanging two previous pairs of headphones I had bought there; one being the Skullcandy Aviators (which sounded surprisingly good despite their track record) and the other being the Klipsch Image One headphones. While purchasing these at their 150 dollar price points, I still knew I was making a mistake in not saving up and just pulling the trigger on the P5s. Luckily I was within Apple's 14 day return policy and in possession of a shiny new paycheck.
The P5s originally caught my eye at the store because of their beautiful, classy, sophisticated look. As I walked over and picked them up, I was astounded by the craftsmanship that went into designing these. Sheepskin leather ear pads, and otherwise metal construction. Seems fitting that it would be in an Apple store. In any case, they are very lightweight, but solid feeling at the same time. Picking it up, you can tell you have a quality product in your hands. I am almost afraid to bring them out into the real world. The only gripe I could possibly bring up would be the somewhat thin cable that it uses. However, this possible shortcoming is allayed by the fact that the cord is replaceable and cleverly accessible. The ear pads are magnetic, and removing the left side pad reveals that the cable is connected not at the base, but snakes up towards the top. I like this because it takes away stress that would normally be subjected to the plug and directs it more towards the main part of the cord.
I have not had the luxury of trying out really high end, full size cans, so I can only compare them to what I've used before. I have a pair of Shure SRH440s (among a few others) which I've always thought sounded really good; excellent balance and whatnot, but the ear pads are almost hard and make lengthy listening session difficult. It also has quite a long, thick cable, making it a hard choice for portable headphones, even though I know they're not really meant to be. In any case, the P5s are the best sounding headphones I've heard to date. The bass is...delicious. It's not overpowering, but you can feel it, and more importantly, distinguish it. The mids are nice and powerful; very in your face, and the highs are sparkly and clear. I listen to primarily classic rock, and these deliver in a big, comfortable way. Also, if you're listening to low bit-rate files, the P5s will grab you by the shirt collar and let you know immediately.
Once again, being an amateur in the world of headphones and high quality sound, this would really have to be my first real foray down this road. I have read that there are better sounding headphones for the price, but with this kind of care and design in build quality, craftsmanship, and comfort, the B&W P5s stand out from the crowd, IMO. If you can find the money, I definitely recommend these to anyone looking for a better listening experience.


Pros: Comfort, Form Factor, Excellent Passive Noise Cancelling
Cons: sound isn't there for the money spent
When I first heard that Bowers & Wilkins had entered the mobile headphone market I was very excited. Anyone who knows anything about high end audio has heard the name Bowers & Wilkins. The company has a long distinguished history amongst the audiophile community with their excellent product line of stereo speakers. I've never owned a pair of B&W speakers but I have been lucky enough to hear a set and I was blown away at the sonic signature of their stereo speakers.
First lets get the pros out of the way. The build quality on these cans is excellent. They have a very firm very solid feel in your hands and if properly taken care of they will last for many years to come. B&W also provides a sturdy display box and a nice travel pouch to help protect your 300 dollar investment. Included in the pouch is a spare cable and a standard 3.5 mm head jack. The fit of the P5 is incredibly comfortable on the ears and have got to be the most comfortable set of cans I have ever owned. I have been able to wear them for 3 to 4 hours on end and have felt no discomfort whatsoever.
The passive noise canceling capabilities of the P5 is very impressive. The headphone cuffs and the fitted leather over the cuffs act like a sort of tight sealing suction cup over the ears allowing no noise leakage in or out. I've sat on a packed bus with these cans blasting away and have not disturbed anyone around me. I've even worn these cans blaring away in a library where I was in close proximity to the working librarian and have had no requests to turn the volume down due to the noise leaking out into the surrounding environment. I've walked down a busy sidewalk with rush hour traffic zooming by barely 3 feet away from me and have been able to enjoy my music undisturbed by blaring horns and rumbling buses and trucks.
The con is unfortunately where it matters the most which is the sound. Before I begin I want to make it absolutely clear that the P5's are good sounding headphones. The problem is when I think Bowers & Wilkins I expect great sound not just good sound. When I first tried my P5's out I was left for a lack of a better word disappointed. I did try to give them a chance though and proceeded to loosen the drivers up (burn) by playing music nonstop through them for a good 50 to 60 hours. I also chose a wide selection of different genres to see how they would perform. Although I did notice some improvement the overall sound was still lacking.
Depending on the music the bass seemed hollowed out and not properly balanced with the treble. In certain spots the mids and highs sounded grainy and other times almost nonexistent due to the bass drowning everything around it out. Vocals on other headsets that sounded like the singer was standing 3 feet from me on the P5's sounded distant and even at times tinny. Transparency was lacking on so many of my song selections. One band I've always loved is Epica (Symphonic Metal) and on the P5's I found many Epica songs so lacking in transparency it was almost painful to listen to.
It's not to say the listening experience was all bad. For whatever reason when I played various songs from Disturbed (alt Rock/Nu Metal) I was pleasantly surprised. For whatever reason that bands sound or maybe just how the music was mixed paired with the P5 very nicely. Vocals were clear in your face and mids and highs seemed acceptably clear with the bass seeming less hollowed out. I also took the liberty of running various different mixes of Darude's (Electronica) Sandstorm through the P5's and was again pleasantly surprised with good mids, highs, and less hollowed out bass. Matter of fact the P5's seemed to mesh well with most of the electronica and dance songs I threw at it.
Final Thoughts:
I don't hate the P5's but I'm not exactly in love with them either. As a mobile headphone they offer a extremely comfortable fit, excellent passive noise canceling, and have a very solid form factor that will last for years to come if the consumer takes care of them. What bothers me the most about the P5's is for 300 dollars there are far better sounding headphones on the market. I'm not a huge fan of Dr Dre Beats headphones but given the 300 price tag a future consumer might consider Beats headphones as a slightly cheaper alternative. Sonicly the P5's aren't that much better sounding then the entry level Dr Dre headphone. Klipish also just recently put out what I'm told is a good sounding mobile headphone at a good price point.
Does this mean I'm going to dump my P5's? Probably not. I think they're generally good headphones. My main problem with the P5 is I think they're overpriced for the sound quality they offer. I also can't help but think that if Bowers & Wilkins were going to put out a headphone they should have taken more time and done better sound benchmarking. Considering this is a product with the Bowers & Wilkins logo on it I expected far more from a company whose name has become respected for putting out  great products with great sound.


1000+ Head-Fier
Well, I just had a rather special experience with the P5 which results in me selling my T50p and ESW10jpns while retaining the much battered P5. Here it goes -
I haven't thought of getting the P5 after Skylab's comprehensive write-up, and other concurring views from other members. I was rather happy with my ESW10s, and later the T50p. I mostly use ER4S and Monster MDs these days, but there are times when I'd like to reach for a headphone. I just grew curious about the P5 after someone, who is a known Bose hater, asked me to try them. He himself got a little surprise with them. I didn't asked him in details and thought I'd come up with my own conclusion. Luckily the P5s are relatively easily available for trial.
I brought with me a light setup, just my iPod Classic and SR-71A, with my iPhone and the iQube loaned by the shopowner being guest performers. My music is mainly classical orchestral pieces, with plenty of pop to supplement that. Rock is scarce but also available.
Maybe my review would be better understood if I begin by saying what I DON'T LIKE about my own portable cans, namely T50p and ESW10:
T50p: I absolutely HATES its bass. Overpowering, embracing YET lacks impact and bite. The lower half of the spectrum is a bit too lush and mushed, while the upper half is a dry-ish and rather coarse presentation. Does that sound awful? Well no I like its presentation of slower, lazier music like jazz and small-scaled classical pieces, mostly solo works, but in larger-scaled works they sound a bit bland and lacks transparency. It shows its weakness in tonal coherence when there was an upward swoosh in strings in an orchestral piece (forgot which one now) where the lower notes and the latter upper notes sound like they come from different instruments, which was not true. Soundstage is quite disappointing, and details are present but drowned out by the all-embracing fat bass. One thing the T50p really stands out is its isolation - until its release only the HD25 performs well in that department.
ESW10: I have no gripe about its sound - it's simply 1st class, period. A bit coloured in the mids (but less so than other ATH phones), its detail rendition is jaw-droppingly good and is nicely extended at both ends of the spectrum. The one and only one possible deal-breaker is its isolation - it's almost non-existent in noisy environment, like on the underground or on buses, not to say on a flight.
OK so I know the perfect portable can would be a ESW10+T50p mixture, which is a distant dream. I'm not saying the P5 is anywhere near that dream. But, as a portable can (ultimate one maybe, as I've been looking for the ultimate one for a long time), I think it does wonders in every department in a portable can. And the obvious caveat when judging a portable can is that sound quality must be balanced with other factors, such as build quality and durability, looks (for some), weight, size, isolation, practicality in general, etc.
When I first put on the P5, I immediately searched in my memory for something similar in the sound signature, and if my memory serves me good the can appeared first in my mind was the PX200-II. Both sounds pretty balanced, but nothing excels. Both suffered from a lack of extension at both ends of the spectrum. That said, I was expecting a very, very dark sound from the P5 after all the others have said here, but the sound I got from the P5 out of my iPod directly is far from being dark. There is a peak somewhere in the mid-high region, creating a pseudo-high-extension feel - actually this feeling is quite similar to the Monster tuning in the MD and the Copper Pro, the difference being the P5's peak is located a bit lower in the spectrum, while the Monster peak is located a bit higher up. This renders the sound somewhat coloured, but not overwhelmingly so.
Besides this peak, the P5's sound is pretty balanced overall. I don't find it muffled - in fact I find its detail rendition at least on par with the T50p, which is very surprising considering Beyer's claim of the driver technology and T1's track record. When listening to classical symphonies the P5 reminds me of my bedroom Onkyo system - a rich, warm sound, with bite and grit, but not too weighty. And P5 is very good in soundstaging and presenting layers of instruments in the correct orientation with transparency and clarity. This even the ESW10 fails to satisfy me, and the T50p is a complete failure in this area.
The bass is good, not overwhelmingly deep, but comes with details and impact. Definitely not overpowering, and not lacking.
Needless to say, P5 excels in build quality and comfort, and I do not intend to repeat what others have said in these areas. What proved it to me as the able partner to my iems is its isolation - it is not iem-good, but it is miles ahead of PX200 and ESW10. It IS usable on trains and flights. And its size, together with the more reasonable approach in its method of stowing away, adds up to a winner, not in the sound department perhaps, but in the overall package.
Is the MSRP justified? As I've mentioned its sound is PX200-II-ish and though it betters the PX200, it isn't a night and day difference. I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to consider this question solely on sound quality. For the listed MSRP I think the isolation alone worths 20%, the design/looks/size/weight/comfort worths another 20%, the brand (yes I think that's the part which haters hate most) worths maybe 10-20% (though trust me the B&W brand is not THAT marketing oriented and not THAT well-known here in Asia, at least their campaigns are way less aggressive than Bose, Sony and Shure, and their showrooms are located in obscure places). The rest goes to the sound. Fair enough, eh? Yes it is way more expensive than the PX200 but doesn't offer too much improvement in sound, but to sum it up in one word: PRACTICALITY, makes it all worthwhile IMHO. It is small (relatively), extremely simple to handle, extremely intuitive in folding and storing (by contrast the T50p case, thought handsome, was HUGE and occupies too much space in my briefcase, while it's always a hassle to tug the cable of the ESW10 into the seperate cable pouch to protect the wood from scratch), great isolation making it usable in many difficult situations, the single-sided cable is very handy in everyday life situations, and the Apple-friendly remote/mic cable, if you can stand a very slight deterioration in sound, is again very handy if you use a iPhone. Even when i'm listening to music on my iPod (not my iPhone), i can just yank out the cable and plug it into the iPhone in no time if a call comes in. And if I want to listen to the broadcasting on the underground, I can turn down the volumne or stop the track in no time. Practicality may not be for all audiophiles or head-fiers, but for myself, I know there are times when I'm chilling out with my ER4S and some Mahler, I become desperate when a call comes in and I wanna fetch my hands-free buried somewhere deep in my bag.
And it sounds good, not jawdroppingly good, not $299 good, but plain good. You know what you're paying for, and that's fine.

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