Bowers & Wilkins P3: surprisingly (to me) good after all these years
Dec 19, 2019 at 5:24 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 6


Apr 9, 2011
I recently had to replace a pair of inexpensive but quite fine headphones - Creative Aurvana Live's, from a few lifetimes ago - which I was using both as my always-connected-to-my-Mac-desktop-and-laptop headphones - and, occasionally, for travel. The CAL's bit the dust when one of the hinges (of the cheap, poorly-constructed, plastic variety) finally snapped off - and I needed to replace them on a semi-permanent basis.

My temporary replacement were my old standard portables, also from a lifetime ago - Martin Logan Mikros 90's - are fine cans with possibly only one defect, overly tight clamping which makes them comfortable for shorter 'listens' but not longer ones.

My other requirement was, simply, affordability - I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg for my computer 'phones.
So I looked for CAL's - but they sadly have been discontinued, can't be found in good used shape, and their replacements (the CAL 2's) weren't up to snuff. I checked out some other nice portables I've used on and off - the classic Phiaton 400's - and the Noontecs - only to discover that they, too, have largely gone the way of the dinosaur.

Then I remembered all the press, both good and bad, that the early generations of Bowers & Wilkins portables garnered - and specifically that the P3's rank high in comfort. They also got quite a few critical reviews which trashed them as well. But beggars can't be choosers as the saying goes - and there are still quite a new P3's around, both new and lightly used, for very VERY reasonable prices. So...I bought a pair....they just arrived today - and I've spent a few hours listening to, among other things, symphony orchestras, string quartets, jazz, and heavy metal. And....guess what?

For portable, lightweight, and damn comfortable headphones....they really sound surprisingly good to me.

So much so that - and this is by no means a technical review but simply one user's observation - these are really, really nice portables. And, I remember, one of the big gripes when they first came out was that they were overpriced.....well, now, in 2019, they seem like incredible bargains.

My bottom line: everyone knows the Bowers & Wilkins desginers make cool products....but their engineers are no slouches either....and the 1st gen P3's are, to my way of thinking (AND listening!) truly fine 'cans'.
Dec 20, 2019 at 8:13 AM Post #3 of 6
No, actually, the pair I bought were lightly used - very very lightly used, that is, almost-but-not-quite in near-new condition. Which makes me think that they have not really (yet) been fully broken in. I purchased them from a legitimate (and good) seller on flea-bay. Must add just one other thing, which surprised - at how small they actually are. In my infinite initial stupidity, I had honestly thought they would be closer in size to the P5's, but nooooo - they are soooo much smaller. The only other headphones I've (recently) owned that were that small, physically, were my old foldable 1st generation Noontec Zoros, a surprisingly underrated inexpensive headphones. The Noontecs were plastic-y and both felt and looked cheap, whereas the P3's feel and look quite the opposite. The carrying case is impressively small, as well.

I remember many of the reviewers complained about the P3's initial pricing, those who liked it (and there were quite a few) all seemed to agree that it was a great little set of cans except for the (at-the-time) really high price. Well....guess what? That impediment has been removed - nowadays, it seems that new or lightly used P3's have devolved down into the extremely-affordable category.

I know I'm repeating myself, but I'm exceptionally glad I got them. For comfortable, lightweight and travel-oriented headphones....they really rock.
Dec 20, 2019 at 8:23 AM Post #4 of 6
Thanks for sharing. I’m very tempted to pick up a pair now. I’ve always been a big B&W fan, older releases especially, and remember that the sound and portability were exactly what I was looking for when I picked them up day of release. It would be fun to revisit them.
Dec 20, 2019 at 9:01 PM Post #5 of 6
Only one other observation to keep in mind: the P3's are actually beautifully 'made' (as opposed to some much more cheaply manufactured smallish portable headphones) - but they are not the most solid or heavy-duty feeling headphones. Compared to them, my Martin Logan Mikros 90's - which, at least in terms of speaker dimensions, are not all that much larger than the P3's - feel solid as tanks. The P3's are portable but need to be treated carefully - and used, not abused - to extend their lifespan.

Apart from that, they more than live up to the positive parts of the critical hype they garnered years ago - but without the penalty of a overinflated price :)
Jan 3, 2020 at 2:31 AM Post #6 of 6
Managed to pick up a pair new from a local seller for a reasonable price - hugely enjoyed the first couple of days’ listening, very much in line with my fond memories of them. Very glad I picked these up again - thanks for the inspiration!

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