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Over-Ear item created by starfly, Oct 11, 2013
Pros - Build quality, Accurate Sound, Comfort, Aesthetics, built in microphone
Cons - Case is kind of a waste, Cost
I was able to get these from a friend who used their employee discount, so ignore the price paid.
I would consider myself a rookie when it comes to headphones, but not sound quality.
My background: I am an absolute audio snob and have a great ear. I compete in sound quality competitions in MECA (Car Audio). I have been very sucessfull in competing and am known for having a great ear. I have auditioned a healthy amount of headphones.
I drive these using an Iphone 6+. I have tried them with a DAC/AMP combo, but they don't need it.
Build Quality: The build quality of these is remarkable. Once I got past the honeymoon phase, I ditched the carrying pouch and just toss these in my work bag. They have held up perfectly and are just as solid as the day I unboxed them. I am typically very gentle with my electronics, but I DON'T need to be with these. They are easy to clean, never tangle
Value: Although they are 399.99 on amazon, I would still consider these a good value, based on the build and sound quality. These will last me years and years of every day use. I use them in the office to make calls, and listen to music. I can wear them for 6+ hours without discomfort. They isolate noise very well, and contain sound the same. If you are willing to spend 399.99, I am not sure you can find anything that can compete.
Audio Quality: If you are looking for something that ACCURATELY reproduces the intended sound, they hit the marker. I listen to everything from EDM, Folk, Rock, you name it, I listen. The only place to potentially say these could be improved, would be the 25hz and lower range. The only thing that really gets that low is EDM, but these are sealed, and not open, so I can't really hold that against them. Everything else is super accurate, I really can't ask for anything more. I am ultra sensitive to sibilance, and these have NONE. I have not experienced any distortion with a good quality source and VERY high volumes. My idea of very high volume is 110db+
Design: I genuinely don't know if they could be better. The fold up small enough (for me). They are durable, pretty to look at, and sound great.
Comfort: As I previously mentioned under value - they are ultra comfortable. No complaints.
Pros - Powerful, punchy sound makes the P7 a treat for use with classical music - nice warm tone - beautiful design - high quality construction
Cons - High price (but worth it!) - not 100% comfortable out of the box, at least for me
I paid 270 Euros for a used set of B&W P7, and I've compared it to the following headphones (in various price ranges):
Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
NAD VISO HP50
Sennheiser Urbanite XL
To make a long story short:
I pretty much exclusively listen to classical music these days and on the B&W P7, strings and brass can have such an incredible amount of bite: Musical climaxes are delivered with tremendous force just like a real orchestra would and it sounds SO majestic - you really have to hear it to believe it. I literally just lie on my bed, smiling, every time I hear it!
Also the tone of the various instruments is spot on.
I've had a few headphones at home for demoing besides the B&W P7:
The Denon AH-MM400 has a beautiful neutral tone and everything is nicely integrated and balanced, however many people, including myself, will no doubt think that the MM400 is a "bass light" headphone. It also lacks punch, at least for use with classical music.
The NAD VISO HP50 has a highly musical and entertaining sound with a nice bass and I would probably have picked it if it wasn't because the headband was way too tight for my head. There was just no way I'd be able to expand the headband enough so they'd be a comfortable fit for me.
The PSB M4U2 has a big soundstage and good sound where everything is coherent and well integrated just as with the Denon's above. Furthermore the PSB is a flexible headphone because of the 3 different modes you can choose between on the headset: normal, amplified or noise cancelling. Normal mode sounds fine in itself, but the amplified mode will probably appeal to more people as it sort of enhances the sound, making things sound "sharper"/clearer while still maintaining a balanced sound. Again the headband was too tight for me however and besides I preferred the warmer sound of the B&W P7 and Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 to this.
That brings us to the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 (called M2 from now on), which were the headphones I first thought were the perfect choice for me.
The M2 has a warm, almost tender tone – it's sweetness is pure magic and it quickly becomes very, very addictive.
Switching back to the B&W P7 after listening to the M2 I couldn't help but noticing that some of the fun in listening to music (for lack of a better description) was now gone - and it's not like the P7 isn't entertaining to listen to, it certainly is. It just can't quite match the warmth of the M2.
However instruments do not have the same aggressive bite as with the B&W P7.
If you haven't actually heard the B&W P7, it's possible you will be content with the M2's sound/tone on aggressive passages in classical music - I know I was to begin with – in fact I got completely seduced by the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 However I ended up returning the M2 and buying a set of used B&W P7 because I quickly realized I simply could not enjoy classical music fully on the M2 – I missed the powerful, punchy sound of the P7.
As for comfort, the B&W P7 is not as comfortable "out of the box" as the M2, however from what I've been told you should be able to expand P7's headband a little. Then they will be fine for me.
I will receive the used P7 in the mail tomorrow according to plan.
If you're looking for a more neutral-sounding headphone than both the B&W P7 and Sennheiser Momentum 2.0, I can heartily recommend the Sennheiser HD 600 which I've been using every day since 2007. Just be aware that the HD 600 is an open headphone.
Anyway, I've used the B&W P7 plugged directly into my iPad Mini Retina but will probably hook it up to my computer setup which is this:
Optical out from pc's motherboard -> Cambridge 840C dac/cd player -> balanced out to Behringer HA4700 headphone amp.
Here are some photos:
(Above: black = B&W P7, brown = Sennheiser Momentum 2.0)
(Above: Sennheiser HD 600 and Behringer HA 4700 head amp)
(Above: Cambridge 840C on the floor - along with some cat toy )
I may expand this review later but for now, I hope this review was of use to you all.
Thanks for reading this.
Pros - Build quality, looks, build quality, refined/controlled bass, build quality, great mids/vocals, build quality, not too harsh, and build quality
Cons - can feel a bit heavy, clamping is pretty tight when new, head band numbs my bald head without periodic breaks
That's right, I mentioned build quality as a "pro" 5 times. These things are sexy.
Until the P7's, I went back and forth between Senn Momentums and Beyer DT770Pro-80's. The reason I went back and forth so much is because they both had features I liked, but were lacking in other areas. They are basically polar opposite in many areas. In my quest to find the medium between them, I narrowed it down to a few sets, including the P7's. Since Best Buy carries them locally and have a no-questions-asked return policy, I went ahead and bought them. Needless to say, Best Buy will not see these returned.
Below is a quick Goldilocks analogy of my impressions. Mind you, I am not a trained audio technician. Everything below is purely subjective based on what my ears tell me, without any strict ABX tests, fancy lab equipment, or magic wands. Auditions were performed in this config: iPod classic (lossless ALAC) > Pure i20 digital dock > Modi 2 Uber > Magni 2 Uber > Headphones. I also did a fair bit of listening directly out of my Fiio X5.
Momentums: Emphasized and smooth, but lacking impact, and gets boomy in the midbass/midrange freqs (around 250-400 range).
DT770's: Great lower bass with decent control and impact, but rolls off quickly as you get into the midrange freqs, separating the bass from the rest of the presentation.
P7's: Heavy, controlled, good impact, not bloated or boomy, and finds a great balance into the mids. (Juuuuuuuust Right)
Momentums: Great mids. Lower mids are a bit overemphasized, but the rest of the spectrum is buttery smooth. Vocals are terrific.
DT770's: As soon as I find some, I'll let you know...
P7's: Very similar to the Momentums, ever-so-slightly more recessed, but better cohesion with the bass. Vocals are even better. (Juuuuuuuust Right)
Momentums: Man, treble falls off quickly in these headphones. No sparkle at all, leading to a very dark and airless signature.
DT770's: Not bad, but they get harsh quickly. Pretty sibilant depending on the recording.
P7's: Nice sparkle without getting harsh at all. Very balanced. (Juuuuuuuust Right.)
Momentums: Not much. These headphones have a very black/dark sound signature, which some find pleasantly intimate, but I find a bit claustrophobic.
DT770's: Not bad, definitely better than the momentums.
P7's: This might be the P7's strongest attribute. For a closed headphone (or any headphone I've listened with, for that matter), the soundstage is huge.
FIT AND COMFORT
I won't say much about the Momentums, other than for my ears, this category is their biggest weakness. The ear cups are simply too small for my (smaller than average) ears. I always find myself adjusting them, which is very annoying. In contrast, the DT770's are very comfortable, and are easy to use for hours at a time. The velour pads make for a very comfy fit. They're also pretty light for their size. Ear cups look large, but since they're circular in shape, they're actually a bit smaller from top-to-bottom of the ear as compared to the P7's. Speaking of the P7's, this is the one category where they didn't come out whole-heartedly on top. They are very comfortable, but clamping is pretty tight. Fear not though, the clamping will decrease over time. The sample set at Best Buy were much more loose. Also, I'm bald, and the P7's headband compression on the top of my head gets uncomfortable after a while. For those with hair, this probably isn't nearly as annoying. For me, I have to take a break and/or move the headband forward or backward from time to time. It'll hopefully get better with more break-in. The P7's are also the heaviest of the 3, though they don't feel "too" heavy. Just enough so that you feel like it's a solidly made product (which it is). Personally, the absolutely PERFECT fit of the ear cups more than make up for other fit issues. Even with the large ear cups of the DT770's, I found myself re-adjusting them because my ears still touched the top or bottom of the cups if not placed optimally. Also, the DT770's never made a perfect seal because of the shape of my jawline. The DT770's always gapped just a bit right where my jaw hinges. The P7's and their oval shape take care of that completely. The fit won't be this perfect for all ears, but if you have ears like mine, you'll be VERY happy. If you have a Best Buy Magnolia center nearby, drop by and try on both the Momentums and the P7's if you want to know for sure. Most Best Buy Magnolia centers carry them both in stock and available for audition (as of the date of this review, at least).
Are the P7's worth $399? You'll have to answer that for yourself. They're over $150 more than the Momentums or the DT770's (current Amazon pricing). For me, when you combine the superb build quality, stylish looks, fit, and superior sound quality (subjective, I know), the result is worth the price.
Pros - Build quality, Present bass, Comfortable, Portable, Nice treble sparkle, Good soundstage for a small can
Cons - Pricey compared to a lot of other models, style is love or hate, mids are slightly lacking.
For some reason these reminded me of my DT990s when I put them on in terms of sound signature, not as sparkly treble (which is sorta sibilant on the DT990s) with a nice low end. Mids are a tad recessed I wouldn't say it really takes away from it though. The earpads seem like a perfect size and fit. Originally I didn't like the style, but it grew on me much like how the HD598s, and HD650 looked strange to me at first. Definitely the only headphone I really liked out of the B&W line-up, I just have not tried their C5. Got myself these as a new years present, I needed a closed back around ear headphone and I tried them out at work. I was sort of turned off to their headphones when I first tried the P5s we had out laying around (They don''t say P7 on them, but since they all look so similar I thought it was the P7 so I thought..."This is their flagship headphones?" Then later on I saw a picture of the P7s...and I saw the P7s weren't on-ear they were around ear...dumb me. So I went to one of the B&W displays and behold the P7 hiding. Plugged in my X3 tried them out during slow times and my lunch. Ended up buying them for a good price (I won't list it here) and am very happy with them. The soundstage was pretty good for a tiny little headphone. I did wish companies would stop making proprietary replacement cables, but at least the cable is replaceable, I also would of liked a 90 degree angle jack 45 degree, or even better the momentum's rotating connector. Overall I really like these headphones, I've only had 3 days of owning them but definitely a great buy.
Pros - Clear, spacious, very accurate bass does not distort Great construction with classy look of their own
Cons - A bit pricey ear pad replacements a little pricey as well
These have been a real dream to listen to. They have a really good range of sound not artificial sounding at all. They have have as a matter fact excellent tremble. They don't pull the mids to upfront they throw them a little bit in the background for a more natural approach. Best way to explain this would be if you were in a concert you wouldn't be on stage in front of the singer or hearing primarily only their voice and having their instruments in the background. This is more like you're sitting in the concert hall seven seats back able to hear the instruments the ambience of the hall and all the enjoyment of the full vocal execution of any song were vocality is the main point. Sometimes in my experience with headphones they push the mids up in an unnatural kind of way to the point that you do kind of lose the acoustic qualities of their voices be it male or female vocalist. With these there's a much more balanced approach that benefits the whole spectrum of sound by not being to overbearing in anyone department. So what it means is you have a very strong base but not a natural sounding yet doesn't lack when is required to be needed. The highs are there and they're executed in my opinion properly. The lows are equally as great not pushed out in a way that seems unnatural and places that are required of them but executed in a very subtle and natural kind of way. It's a pretty smooth sounding headphone excellent with any kind of jazz an orchestra and rock and pretty much any genre you throw at it. Unless if your bass head and your idea of a good bass is thump thump thump with tons of distortion well then these won't be for you because they don't distort. They are very much something amazing to listen to from a long day of work to get home send the couch kick back and hear some your favorite tunes on. Don't get me wrong the good pair speakers are good even great but when you get home early in the morning and you don't feel like cranking volume up the disturb anybody you will hear things in these that come through better than some speakers simply for the point that they are directly to your ears less air to travel the sound to your ears. Since hearing these headphones pretty much I have heard such subtleties of music like the vibrations of piano strings even after the notice been played and even when the pianist is stepping on the piano feet during the song in many tracks actually I've never heard that before and I've heard the songs for years. Violinists and saxophonists and all jazz musicians be it vocal or instrumental are really something to behold on these not to mention of course rock with electric guitar electric keys, they all come through with precision clarity and naturally to basically make these headphones the very best I've ever heard. Their build quality is excellent with only one piece of plastic on the whole thing but contained under in the air cushion they are built to last you a lifetime if treated right and not abused like anything else. Are there better ones out there I'm sure there may be yet being the best or even being good or bad is completely subjective to the person explaining the experience to anybody else. My experience though these are my best I've ever heard definitely five stars I would recommend anybody to give them at least a fair shot even if you don't buy them sample them. Thanks for your time.
Pros - Refined sound, well extended treble, nice punchy bass, fantastic build quality, great isolation, gorgeous looks, folds into a rather compact shape
Cons - Sound a bit boomy on first impression, initially not the best comfort
I'd just like to mention that this is my first review for headphones (or anything musical) and probably isn't going to be the best thing you've ever read. Still getting used to putting what I hear into text so the sound section might be a bit shorter than expected too.
Initial impressions and build quality:
The box itself seemed very well made, thick cardboard and much larger than the headphones themselves which is usually an indicator that the headphones would be quite well protected. Upon opening the box I was struck with how gorgeous these headphones look in person. If I could put it into a single word it would be 'Luxurious'. All metal and leather construction (as far as I can see) and all solidly put together, no squeaks or creaks anywhere. The headphones are folded up in the box and I was quite impressed with how they folded, seemed like a nice solid folding mechanism with nice subtle clicks as it folds into place.
The earpads on the headphones are not exactly super soft but definitely aren't too firm either. The leather is wonderfully soft though. I found that the padding on the headband of mine was a fair bit firmer than the earpads but the leather is just as soft.
Overall I was highly impressed with the build on these headphones. They just scream quality!
Right out of the box I have to say that these weren't the most comfortable of headphones. The earpads fit fully around my ears and they were a lovely soft leather but unfortunately I found the foam itself was quite firm and coupled with the high clamping force they would start to squeeze my head uncomfortably after 30 or so mintues.
As with my old audio technica m50's I left them stretched over the headphones box for a night after massaging the headband outwards a little. After a couple of night doing this I found they'd loosened up to a comfortable level of clamping force.
The earpads and headband were very firm upon first putting them on my head but again, like my m50's, I've found that just using these over the past month has softened up the foam considerably and they are now very comfortable. It did take them a while to get to this stage however so that's definitely something to keep in mind. I can currently wear these headphones comfortably for hours on end without feeling discomfort. I've used them out and about town too and they stayed on my head and comfortable for the duration. As with all closed headphones with leather or pleather earpads they can get a bit warm on your ears while walking about so that's another thing to keep in mind if your ears are sensitive to that sort of thing.
As mentioned at the top of this review - this is the first time reviewing anything audio so it's still a little hard for me to get my thoughts into text!
These impressions are all from either my phone (a nexus 5) unamped or from my computer (with a cheapish $50 soundcard) so again, not the authority in source sound quality. I've heard these headphones can scale quite well with better equipment so I might update this review when I get a dac/amp combo like the new headstage arrow 5g or something.
I listened to a mix of genres from classical, edm, rock, 80's pop, soundtracks,alternative and some other random songs that I find a little difficult to define. They were mostly flac files with a few 320kbps mp3 thrown in for good measure.
Once again starting from my initial out-of-the-box impressions I actually wasn't incredibly impressed with these the first time I put them on my head. Although they sounded a LOT more refined than any of my other headphones on hand at the time (sony mdr v6's, mdr-1r mk2's and ath m50's) the midbass was quite overbearing and the treble seemed quite harsh and glaring. I'd heard that these mellowed out over time with some burn in so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and left them playing music while stretching out the headband for a few hours. I repeated this for a couple more days until I'd decided they'd probably had enough time.
Not sure if it was the burn in or the reduced clamping force from the band but I was surprised at how much the sound had improved!
The midbass was no longer as bloated (although it was still a bit prominent) and the treble had also mellowed out too. Playing my first few songs brought a big smile to my face. This was the sound I was waiting to hear!
Now after many hours of headtime I am still very much enjoying the sound signature. They do have a slight V shape (not as much as I would've thought though!) although it is very refined sounding and I think it gives them quite an exciting and fun sound signature which is great for actually listening to and enjoying the music. I've caught myself with my eyes closed and foot tapping a few times now!
The bass seems quite well balanced now, and the midbass bloat seems to be pretty much gone now too although I may have just gotten used to it (although swapping to other headphones and back I still don't notice it so who can say?). It has a nice punchy thump to it which doesn't overpower the music.
I also found that these headphones have nice detail retrieval and they sound very lively and dynamic. This can make lower quality recordings sound a bit harsh but it's worth it for the overall fun factor they bring to the sound and I've certainly picked up more details in tracks that I've never heard before with my other headphones.
The treble is absolutely fantastic. It seems to have very good extension and just a bit of sparkle but I would say overall it's probably a bit brighter than neutral. I personally like the sparkle as it adds a bit of excitement to my music and is a great contrast to the punchy bass which makes edm awesome on these headphones.
The only downside I've found with the sound so far is the mids which seem a little bit recessed although they're still very nicely detailed and textured. I just wish they were brought a bit more forward (this is where a warm sounding amp might bring a nice boost in sound quality) as it would make the headphones a bit more lush which I think would be my ideal sound sig for some great non critical listening.
Overall I'm really enjoying the sound signature of these headphones and the great isolation (both ways) means I can use these out and about and still hear plenty of detail in my music without disturbing the people around me too.
These headphones are quite pricey but due to the fantastic sound and build quality as well as decent comfort I'd say these are a great choice if you're searching for some exciting, dynamic, isolating and beautifully built cans for portable or home use. For me they were well worth the price of admission. Great work B&W!
Pros - Glossy sound. Easy to drive. Extreme comfort.
Cons - Pushes size limit for a 'portable'. Soundstage a bit tight.
I was a happy P5 owner and I've been a huge B&W fan for quite a while. Their products always fall into that "Bose done right" category. B&W makes the consumer grade products which Bose SHOULD be making. Extreme high quality without sacrificing sound quality.
Enter the P7. I'm happy to report with the P7, B&W took everything they learned in the making of the P5, and improved upon it. The prime difference between the P5 and P7 is the P5 is on-ear, where the P7 is over-ear. The P5 were very picky when it came to ear placement. You could get 5 different sound signatures out of the P5 by simply changing how they sat on your ear. The P7 does away with all that fiddling. Put them on, and they're good to go.
But not right away. The P7 required significant break in before the bass came to life.
Out of the box I was immediately impressed by the build quality. This is another high-end assembly by B&W. The attention to detail is obvious. Highest quality leather ear cups and head pad. Beautiful chrome skeleton and brushed aluminum. These are remarkable headphones, and like the P5, they hug your head like pillows without any fatigue. They fold up nicely and come with a largish case. If you're looking for super-compact travel phones, these might not be for you. The other note on comfort and fit-- if you don't like phones touching your ears at all, these aren't for you. They are close on the ears. Sound isolation is excellent.
The sound quality is what I call glossy. Bright without sibilance, punchy without bloom or bloat. The sound is cohesive in the extreme-- very musical-- but there's not a lot of air between the instruments. The soundstage is decent for a closed headphone, but it's not of the HE-500 or HD-650 class a few hundred dollars up the road (and open as opposed to the closed P7 design). I like to call the sound 'winning' at first listen. It's an intimate appeal, I was drawn to the sound signature immediately and if you have nothing of a higher end to compare them to, you're likely to fall in love. Switching over to the HD-800 and you immediately hear the lack of air. Then again, the HD-800 is $1000 dollars more and is open backed.
The P7 is easy to drive. They can be used right out of a smartphone, but obviously benefit from decent amplification. My Pico Slim matches up very well with them and I imagine the Woo Firefly or even a Burson is probably the ultimate pairing for this headphone. My WA5LE was overkill.
I'm currently using the P7 at work, where I spend long hours wearing headphones. They've all but replaced the ATH-M50, which I rarely turn to anymore (at 1/3 the price). I've not done direct A/B comparisons with their nearest competitor, the Momentum, but I've heard both independently, and I favored the P7. I consider the P7 to be best in class at the consumer grade $400 price point.
If I were considering the Momentum, or a Bose active noise reduction headphone, I'd definitely steer you to the P7. You will be rewarded.
Pros - Clarity, Bass Extension, Soundstage, Design
Cons - Price, Propriatary Strainrelief Design
I started this review with the intention of pointing out the things I don't like about it, but man, there really isn't much I don't love about these.
Out of the box they sound very thin and anemic, but still good transparency. I took them off immediately, and put them in the included case, then turned the volume up pretty high for 30 minutes. When I returned to check on the status of them, I was stunned. Coming from a pair of UE Triple Fis and some K701s, I knew it was a downgrade, but at the moment up putting them on after the 30 minutes..... I realized I shouldn't have assumed. In a nutshell, they remind me A LOT of my old silver cabled K701s (after burn in of the 701s). The transparency, the attack, the huge soundstage (seriously....they're in the K701 tier), and the coldness of the signature. I read every review I could, and the word "warm" kept popping up, but I have to disagree. Imagine the very cold K701s with some of the most lush liquidy bass you can imagine, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect from the P7s. These are obviously just my thoughts with my past setups, and is extremely opinion, so from this point forward I'll try to touch every aspect of the phones, and then I'll do some music testing.
Okay, I'm not going to try to use sexy words that compare them to high-end automobiles. These things are tanks. They're mid-weight. The leather smells like high-end by itself. I was concerned about the rod design, as I've never owned a pair of Bowers and Wilkins before, and I didn't know what to expect, but they're rock solid. The replaceable ear-cups are a great touch, and I don't have a doubt that I'll probably own these for a few decades or more as long as I can get ear-cups and cables. There's honestly not much to say about this area, because you instantly realize why they are so costly from the very second you slide the lid off of the box, and it's not just an initial reaction.... it's one that never goes away.
It takes a few minutes to get the comfort just perfect, but once you get it all situated it's like putting on a marshmallow helmet. The headband will hurt if the sizing isn't adjusted perfectly, and I mean perfectly... an inch off throws everything off. Undoubtedly, if you're in the market for these, you've read some reviews talk about the excessive clamping; out of the box they were way too strong and hurt, but I stretched them out in a realistic manner (what it takes to put them on plus another three or four inches), and now they remind me of the Sennheiser 5xx series. I've worn these for 15 hours at a time, and I simply forget they're even on my head, but granted I don't have the hugest head around (avoid these if you're a Stewie Griffin). I assumed that the ear-cups would be too warm after hours, but so far no issue (no sweat or anything).
I just want to add this for anyone that may wonder: I use my headphones to watch TV while I'm trying to go to sleep. I lay down on my pillow with these on, and they don't do anything unusual like most OTE headphones do.
These really can sparkle. They aren't harsh though, and I can honestly say they're within my treble sweet spot, because they don't fatigue, nor are they harsh, but they are right there at almost being able to do that. In a nutshell, they treble is about perfect for the music I listen to, and they handle distorted guitar solos well if you're into that, while the K701s were a bit too harsh for extended listening of this genre. I do use these to watch TV too, and the treble is good enough that I can hear the variances in the audio tracks during a single scene... like a CRT sound when one character has dialogue, and the character responding doesn't have it. Cymbals, snares, and reverb audio is extremely clear. Be warned, however, these SLAUGHTER compressed audio, and it almost makes it unbearable.
The mids are very intimate compared to the rest of the spectrum. Male vocals are probably some of the best I've ever heard through any headphone, but female vocals are very good as well (though not as good). 90% of the music I listen to is electronic, and any Moog synth mid-basses are stunning (like deadmau5's stuff). While I think the mids sound wonderful, they don't sound top in class to me, as in I can't point out any problems, but also can't point out anything unusually good. I don't feel that the mids are recessed though, so don't take what I'm saying as that.
I think these headphones REALLY shine in this area, so to speak. I haven't heard a headphone handle the other frequencies so well while genuinely impressing me within it's bass range. Like I said, I do listen to mostly electronic, but I'm an audiophile electronica junkie... not a V-Moda bass junkie. These things are extremely accurate with their bass, and have been using them for some music production (electro-house and progressive), and they really do keep up with what I KNOW is going on behind the scenes. The most impressive part about all of this is how low these things go... I mean they love to wrap your mind in a lush liquidy layer of sub bass (~30-40hz) while still extremely accurate with the kicks, snares, and synth riffs I'm throwing at it. As a test, I threw about 40 instruments together in a DAW, and I could pick out every single instrument while I had a steady bass pad going (FYI, the k701s would distort significantly faster than these... but this is borderline abuse for any non-BA speaker).
Now I also play acoustic instruments, and have a bunch of acoustic recordings and music. I down-tune my acoustic guitar to D standard, and the P7s play it as naturally as I play it. I'm adding this because a lot of headphones that love bass will bloat this sound out, while these don't as far as I can tell.
Music Samples (all are 24-bit 96kHz vinyl rips)
Carbon Based Lifeforms - Frog
There's a DX7 synth during the intro, and man it sparkles. Xylophones quickly accompany the DX7 within the first 30 seconds or so, and the xylophones dances around in mid-air. The entire track has a VERY warm pad that makes you all gooey inside, and it's almost bazaar how it stacks into the background... almost like it's been there since before the song started, and is a very natural and organic sound. This isn't a bassy track, in case you aren't familiar with it, and don't want to go hear it, but there's a very great mid-bass that goes on throughout the track, and I physically feel this on my ears (the presence of this is very powerful IMO).
M83 - Midnight City
Okay, this song is very fun, and it's very synthetic sounding. The stabs are very detailed during the beginning, and the Moog bass is delicate. The layer of low bass that creeps in is very hot and just lovely, but it doesn't overwhelm the other instruments at all. The vocals are FANTASTIC... absolutely my favorite part paired with the P7s.... very smooth and natural. The snares throughout the track are almost overly detailed, and I hear everything about them (I'm not sure if the headphones are emphasizing on this range, or if the song does). There's a looping sound towards the last quarter of the song that sounds like wire sticks hitting a symbol... I have never heard this part before, and it's a great example of how detailed the highs are on these.
Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance
I'm going to go ahead and say that I've never heard drum kicks so amazing on any other headphone of any price-range ever. Seriously, I'm not sure what it is about these drums, but it's almost like they were made for the P7. I know drumming equipment well, and these sound very real and right in front of me (and a little to the left ). The palmed guitar strums are very sparkly, and as a guitarist I can hear every detail of what's going on with that. The vocals are very good, but not as good as Midnight City, but it still sounds amazing. I've never been the hugest fan of this song, but when paired with the P7s it becomes EXTREMELY fun. Just when I had them pegged as cold and heartless it pulls something like this out.
Days of the New - Die Born
What can I say, I'm a sucker for acoustic. This song is HUGE, organic, warm, and extraordinarily detailed. Such fantastic recording in this song, and it is the highlight. The guitars dancing around on a 3D plane all around you. The vocals are very dynamic, and right in front of you (sounds like 10 feet in front of you). The cymbals within this track are extremely detailed, yet light. The distorted guitar comes in and is not dominating, but rather paired with the organic sound of the acoustic instruments like cheese is to wine. This song is a bit hot towards the half-way point and all the way to the end, but even though the P7s are trebley at times, they aren't harsh during any of this.
Goldfrapp - Strict Machine
This song is has some of my favorite vocals in it, and it really proves me wrong about female vocals not sounding amazing with the P7s. There's those dry airy vocals that demand to be heard, and you can't not analyze every single second of the vocal track. This entire track is composed of square waves, and boy do the P7s perform. Out of every song on this list, the award for hugest soundstage goes to Goldfrapp. Some of the instruments sound like they're 20 feet away, some are right next to me (like the square waved bass), and there's a vast ocean of extremely intricate instruments dancing everywhere. There's these bass riffs that play every measure, and they sound like they're developed in the distance, and rush towards you... which is something I've never experienced. This song has so much stuff going on in it that it's like static of amazing sounds, and they're all covered up with a blanket of deep deep deep bass that you'd expect from only a sub-woofer.
Well, there you have it. These are fantastic headphones, but I don't think I would say they're quite reference. That isn't to say they aren't as detailed, but rather there's a little bit of color. The mids are of good quality, but the highs and lows are AMAZING quality. I would say these are the bassiest cold headphones I've heard, and that seems like a strange thing to say, but that's the impression that I'm left with. I think that a few years ago, when you had the three kings: HD650, DT880, and the K701s, if you prefered the K701s, but wanted more bass and something a lot easier to drive, then you should give these a test drive. If you loved the HD650s, then I doubt these would be for you unless you want something a bit less "dark". I'm not going to say that the P7s belongs with those three headphones at all, but I'm using that as a reference since most people know of those, and we can't all go to a local hifi shop or apple store to give these a try. The fidelity of these is top-notch, and I recently sold my triple fis; I got these with the assumption that I was stepping down in fidelity, but I was wrong to assume that, however they are a lot different (you simply can't compare a headphone to IEMs, and I'm not going to try).
UPDATE: So I love these headphones a lot...they're fun, they're built great, and I wanted to up their game some. I decided to recable them since they have a modular cable design. I ended up squeezing 18G copper into the cup without moddification, and without stressing the interior at all (I'm weird like that). The soundstage exploded, and sound more open than any non-soundfield design I've ever heard (they actually remind me of the Sony PFR-V1's soundstage). Most importantly, however, is the transparency! Anyway, if you own a pair of these, or are going to get a pair of these, just make sure you swap that cable out!
Pros - Superb sound quality. Gorgeous design. Luxurious build. Excellent isolation. Excellent comfort. No need for amp.
Cons - A tad large for a portable.
Just as I thought it couldn't get much better than the KEF M500 as far as headphones to plug in your smartphone goes, Bowers & Wilkins update their range with the P7.
Design & build quality
When you first unbox the P7 and see it laying there folded in its tilted presentation, you instantly know you are dealing with quality of seldom seen measures. The all leather and metal built P7 smells like a brand new car when you take it out of the box and B&W have paid attention to every little detail. The design is basically a larger and slightly refined version of the P5. The quality of the leather, the precise stitching, the steel accents, the brushed aluminum nameplates with the same flawless edge-cutting you find on the newer Apple iPhones and iPads - everything just screams luxury and quality craftmanship. The hinges feel a tad fragile, but other than that build quality is unquestionably top notch. The headband seems thicker than it needs to be, but hey that's part of the design.
To put it simply, I think the P7 is one of the most beautifully constructed headphones ever. My only real complaint is that it's perhaps too fancy to carry with you outside. B&W have also confirmed for me that the leather is not coated for water and sweat resistance, so I wouldn't wear these outside in more extreme weather conditions.
I really like the cables of the P7 too. They are nicely thick (unlike the pathetic cord of the P5) don't tangle and don't feel stiff. The remote on the I-device cable is of very nice quality. Its fit and finish is as good as the rest of the P7 and the buttons are easy to press, unlike with the frustrating remote of the KEF M500.
The P7 is not a small headphone. It's not huge by any means, but it's a substantial piece for something to transport with you. Unlike the KEF M500, I can't put the P7 in my pocket. But B&W has at least done the best they can with the size and included a very well designed folding mechanism. The pouch in which you store the headphones on the go won't provide a whole lot of protection, but at least the cans are covered from dents and scratches. The pouch is also leather, closes magnetically, and has a very soft interior. Nice!
In terms of comfort, the P7 is initially a little clampy. But the pads and headband will soon soften up a little bit and the pressure loosen up enough for you to enjoy these headphones for multiple hours with no pain. They are not the most lightweight portable cans in the world, and I wish the headband was just a little bit softer, but I still find the P7 to be a very comfortable headphone. The earpads provide ample space for your ears (unless they are on the really large side) so you'll feel no discomfort on the ears after extended use.
The moderate clamp (which, by the way, makes sure the P7 sits firmly and securely on your head) of the P7 combined with the great seal of the ear cushions provide excellent passive noise isolation. With music playing decently loud, these will shut out your everyday life with no issue. For frequent airplane or subway use, in-ears or noise cancelling headphones like the Bose QC15 are probably better choices, but as far as passive noise isolating over-ears go, the P7 is up there with the best I've used.
I was never impressed by the dark and colored sound of the P5 and P3. But with the P7, Bowers & Wilkins prove that they have the skill to compete with the big players!
The P7 is the most naturally resolving portable headphone I've yet heard, while at the same time providing a tremendously musical listen.
The bass is warm, firm, very well extended and wonderfully well defined for a closed headphone. It punches with strength and weight, but does so with excellent control and finesse and a surprisingly low sense of resonance, resulting in clean and pure bass notes. As with most portable headphones, the bass has some extra potency to it - but just the right amount in my opinion. The bass blends marvelously well into the midrange, with no unwanted thickness. The bass is even better than that of the KEF M500, with an added sense of control and refinement. B&W have some special attributes with regards to the handling of airflow from the driver inside the cups, and whatever it is it seems to have worked out. Wonderful.
The midrange is equally fantastic. Voices and instruments are reproduced with beautiful clarity, acuity and no sense of hardness whatsoever. Vocals are brilliantly defined and the midrange tone of the P7 is very open sounding. I hear no strange dips or peaks in the frequency response at all. If I am to nitpick, I think the P7 is just a tad lacking in organic presence. But just a tad.
If you've previously discarded B&W headphones for their recessed treble then the P7 will come as a surprise. Expect no veil or lack of extension here, the treble of the P7 is as excellently defined and refined as the rest of the spectrum. It's lively and rich, with tremendous detail and resolution for a closed headphone. But it's never harsh. It's never shrill, thin or hard sounding. The biggest issue I have with the KEF M500 is the somewhat metallic sounding treble, and the P7 has no such issues. The treble is quite accurate, and reproduces those hard-to-get-right high frequency instruments faithfully. Like the bass, the treble is marvelously well integrated with the midrange, and the coherency of the P7 is as good as any sealed headphone I've listened to. Some will find the treble of the P7 to be a little bright, but this has not proven to be a problem in my case. The treble is in fact livelier than perfectly neutral, but it seems to always stay on the fun side, rather than crossing into strident territory.
And then there is that tremendous soundstage. The P7 images amazingly well for it's size and handicap (meaning the sealed construction). Providing the recording is up to snuff, the P7 paints the soundstage accurately, with a great sense of depth and ambience. Vocals are pushed up front and centered, instruments have proper space and excellent focus.
Now, the P7 is not a reference headphone. I have heard even tighter bass, I have heard even more transparent mids, I have heard even smoother and more refined highs and bigger and more precise soundstage abilites. But not from a portable headphone. Not from a closed-back headphone at this price. And, to my memory, I've not heard another closed-back headphone at any price which does so beautifully in every area and provides such a coherent and natural sound as the P7. At least not at the time of this review.
How much better can portable headphones get? I mean come on! I know it's a dangerous thing to say, but I think it's gonna take a while until a company releases a new contender that's as uncompromising as this. The P7 looks fantastic, it feels fantastic, it's very comfortable and isolates very well, and it SOUNDS just beautiful. If you seek a high fidelity headphone, value both form and function and have $400 to spend on a portable, I can't think of anything I'd recommend more.
Pros - Solid imaging, transients, Beautiful/Unique Design, Build Quality, Folds up, Inline Volume Control.
Cons - Thin midrange, boosted treble, unnatural representation, Loosey-loose midbass, Isolation.
I did not like the B&W P5's b/c of their dark/bloated sound but the P7's changed everything! It may be because it's not an on-ear headphone like the P5's that "muffles" out the higher frequencies, I don't know. But regardless, these have an exciting and detailed sound that is very engaging. Some disadvantages the P7's face is its slightly thin midrange, boosted treble, and unnatural representation. The soundstage is great for a closed headphone but that means nothing because the presentation is very unnatural; and it sounds somewhat synthetic because of the boosted treble and flabby loose bass. I'll admit the P7's imaging is great, but the resolution and tonality is nothing special (just because you have boosted treble doesn't mean your gonna have a tonally accurate or a highly resolving headphone/speaker). If you want a portable headphone with a more accurate and natural representation along with a more connected bass and fuller-sounding midrange, get the PSB M4U 1's instead. If you want the best of both worlds, get the FOCAL SPIRIT PROFESSIONAL HEADPHONES. All in all, these are still one of the best portable headphones currently available.