B&W P5 Modifications

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  1. pjoliver182
    Hello all - this is my first post.
    I have had such success with my P5's that I decided to sign up to Head-fi for the sole purpose of sharing the following information:
    As with everyone who tries the P5's I was looking for the ultimate closed back headphones for ipod/iphone etc.
    I burned them in for days using a mixture of pink noise, white noise, frequency sweeps....actual music too!
    I've never been happy with the sound.
    Far far too much bass...boom boom boom...muddy sound...or 'veiled' as some have described it.
    Recently I started experimenting...
    I took the ear pads off completely then pushed the cans against my ears and listened to some music.  Obviously it was really trebley and tinny...but I also noticed it was very very detailed.
    Conclusion - ear pads 'create' bass
    Next I took the 'round the ear' pads off my Creative Aurvana Live cans and listened to the P5's through them.  This time I got some bass back with no loss of detail.  The space inside the Creative's cups is far greater than that inside the P5's.
    Conclusion:  The size of the cavity inside the ear pads affects the amount of bass.
    Looking inside the P5's ear pads you can see that the opening for the sound to travel through has been reduced by the shape of the foam.  I decided to be brave and take a pair of scissors to mine and 'open them out' to match the shape of the grill on the driver unit.
    ...although reckless you might say...this is the best mod I've ever done!  I did it in stages and noticed the drop in bass and reduction in 'muddiness' with each iteration.  They now sound almost perfect to my ears!  The detail and separation between instruments and vocals is amazing for closed back cans!
    I decided to see how far I could push the 'envelope'...
    At this point I decided that the engineers who had likely designed the 'perfect' headphone driver were not responsible for the ear pads.  Here I assumed that the goals were luxurious comfort and that this may have impeded the sound quality.  You'll noticed that there is a 'void' in the upper section of each ear pad where there is no foam.  I concluded that this had been left out in order to increase wearing comfort on the ears, but will likely cause internal reflections of sound.  I took one of the girlfriends make-up removal pads, rolled it up into a cylinder and pushed it into this void.
    This made a marginal difference, but to my ears it tightened up the bass slightly.  It also makes the cans less comfortable to wear though; confirming my suspicions that the placement of the foam is to optimize comfort, NOT preserve SQ.
    Finally I have replaced the cable with a section of Sennheisser HD595 that I'd chopped off months ago.  The small 2.5mm jack was a pain in the bum however and in the end I bought one from Maplin, removed it from it's plastic barrel then used a hand-held rotary grinding tool to reduce it's diameter to fir the P5's cavity.
    Another large step up in performance!  I would say that you should be careful with cable choice here as the amount of clarity and treble may not be to everyone's liking.  I tried to use 24AWG SPOFC Van Damme microphone cable initially but not only was the cable too fat to fit inside the P5's, the treble was too much.
    I'll get some photos sorted out to show you all when I figure out how to do it :wink:
    Anyhoo...that's about it.
    I just wanted to share the joy since I'd been looking for a thread like this to 'show me the way' with my P5's.  I hope that this will allow all you other P5 owners to get the most from your investment!

  2. pjoliver182
    photo1.jpg So here's what I did to the foam in the ear pads.  This is the CRUCIAL mod and will take you about 5 mins to do

  3. pjoliver182
    photo2.jpg Excuse the yellow electrician's tape please - I'll be adding proper heat shrink soon.  Note that the 2.5mm jack has been removed from it's barrel and ground down to fit.  The cable used is from some Sennheiser HD595's.  I'm only using 3 out of the 4 conductors however.

  4. pjoliver182
    photo3.jpg Here's the P5's assembled showing the shiny new 3.5mm jack :)

  5. gjohnston
    How do they sound with the mods?
  6. gjohnston
    I think what I'm wondering is whether you'd rrecommend buying a pair to mod or simply invest elsewhere?
  7. pjoliver182
    Unfortunately I have not tried enough high end headphones on the market in order to be able to be able to say.
    What I can say is that I have tried the infamous Dr DRE Monster Beats and various Sennheisers and Bose headphones in stores up to £350 and I can say that my modded P5's beat them all for balance and clarity.
    I now have no need to look at any other portable headphones; I cannot hear anything that could be improved upon.  I'm currently working on a portable amp that is worthy of my P5's as I can hear every flaw in the reproduction of the music now.
    Many on head-fi consider the P5's to be 'the king' WITHOUT modification, simply extensive burn-in.  But I can empathise with all of the negative reviews concerning the flabby bass and 'veiled' sound. I bought mine 2nd hand off eBay for about £120 but still I was fairly disappointed with how they sounded.  In fact I ended up shoving them in a drawer for months and went back to my HD555's.  It was after I started modding the HD555's that I thought about modding the P5's.
    The cable was a bit of a nightmare but 'trimming' the ear cushions is a piece of cake and is a must.  I firmly believe that the P5's were designed to live up to B&W's reputation but were spoiled right at the end of the engineering design process by the sloppy implementation of the foam cushions.
    Clearly I am biased....but to answer your question I would say buy a pair and snip a bit of foam out of them.  You won't be disappointed.
  8. gjohnston
    Much appreciated. I'm sorely tempted to get a pair before I go on holiday on Friday. Especially if I can carry out a quick mod and enhance the sound. 
  9. pjoliver182
    I can't promise they'll sound as nice as mine if they haven't been burned-in but there's no way you could be disappointed with the P5's.  Their build quality, looks and materials alone are truly awesome.
  10. pjoliver182
    gjohnston - did you get yourself a pair in the end?
  11. Jackk127
    HOLY CRAP scissors plus p5's scare me, i could never do that to my p5's id just freak out. Glad that it worked well for you tho.
  12. Thraex
    I've just subscribed here to post a big THANK YOU pjoliver182!!!!
    I was really close to return my P5 then I've tried this simple case mode and now I love them!
    All you have to do is put some soft material inside the removable earpad (even cotton is ok to try) and you can tell the difference yourself, try it before returning these lovely headphones.
    The bass isn't loose anymore and you gain more dynamics and detail. Cheaper biggest upgarde of all time!
    I'll post a little review here to push up some review point for the P5 which aren't high enough for the real potential of these B&W's HP.
  13. pjoliver182
    You're very welcome mate; did you try snipping a bit of the blue foam out with some scissors?  This was the biggest improvement in clarity and balance to me.  If you like very bass-heavy music then perhaps you might leave them as they are, but I like to listen to every detail of the recordings so I was going for clarity and a neutral tonal balance.
  14. Thraex
    Thanks again, maybe I'll order some replacement pads to experiment, but actually I like this kind of bass, considering actual clarity and transparency is enough for me. Coming from Grado's maybe I'm so bored I just want the opposite.
    What could be interesting is to upgrade the cable, but apart that particular 2.5mm connector I'm scared to enlarge the metal thin cable passage inside the ear pad. I'm not sure I'll try it now, maybe after warranty ends.
    So to upgrade and check the ultimate potential of the P5, now I'm searching a portable amp with iDevice connector + USB DAC 192k combo so to convert digital files from iDevices or notebook and battery + USB powered. Don't know if it exist...
    I've read a good notebook solution with iBasso D7 (usb powered 192k dac/amp), but I still miss iDevice connector for universal use.
    Any suggestion?
  15. DarkSleip
    maybe many of them were not tuned correctly at some point, because I bought one pair of P5 myself and thought they sounded wonderful, one of my friends got them as well after hearing mine and that sound just like you describe them, mine sound far better even without the modifications you are mentioning here, it would be cool if you or B&W made an alternative set of ear pads that make them fit as over ear headphones
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