Walk into any Apple Store, and you will find a number of different headphones hooked up to iPods and iPhones on display. The B&W P5 Mobile HiFi Stereo Headphones will quickly stand out as a handsomely stylish set, but do these live up to their $299.95 MSRP price tag? Are they even worth a second glance? Find out after the jump!
From music moguls like Dr. Dre, to high end home theatre power-houses like Bose, the market for high end headphones has nearly exploded within the last few years with contenders coming from almost every direction. Most consumers will not have heard of the brand Bowers & Wilkins, but the popular British home theatre audio company has produced reference quality equipment since the 1960s. They enter into headphones market with style and class with their stunning P5's...and present them to consumers exclusively through Apple.
The first thing you will notice when it comes to the B&W P5's is the design. The headphones meld a combination of retro aesthetics and modernism with accents of chromed metal and sheepskin leather padding. The leather is soft and supple, covering memory foam on the removable earpads that cover the 40mm drivers. Although there are fears of sweaty and hot ears while using these headphones, this reviewer found no such issue after hours of listening. These headphones are extremely comfortable and the on-ear design allows for a pleasant listening experience. Beyond the leather padding, the P5's metal accents and sculpted curves make these headphones very distinct in design and quite beautiful in this reviewer's eyes.
The P5's come packaged in an elegant and sturdy box along with manual, quilted carrying case and extra cable. The overall presentation of the headphones within the box is quite stunning itself and the carry case will remind you of a ladies designer handbag. The cable appears to be the weakest link in this product, as it is thin and likely to wear down if not cared for. B&W provides customers with 2 cables: one with an in-line volume rocker switch and microphone, and one without. The cable is easily replaceable by removing one of the earpads to reveal an input jack. We can see a real thoughtfulness in design on B&W's part; first that they consider the variability in the consumer's usage, and second that they allow us to replace the cable which is much easier than replacing the entire headphone.
The B&W P5 headphones can be described as a great performer, well rounded in most aspects. The cans do not offer reference grade sound quality, but music that flows out of them is satisfyingly detailed and clear. After hours of burn in, what is present is a slightly warm tone, with nicely pronounced mids and lows. Highs travel nicely too, although it appears these headphones are more present on the lower end of the spectrum. Bass is not too heavy, but is punchy and controlled instead of loose and muddy. The limitations of these headphones unfortunately lie inherently in their design; the closed type driver housings pull back on the soundstage just enough to make these cans place just shy of open-air counterparts from Sennheiser or Grado. Although vocals are clear and fluid, one can't help but desire for just a bit more air and separation of the musical components. Despite this, in all, the P5's are perfectly dynamic and will do very well unamped and plugged straight into an iPod, iPhone or media player.
Now are these headphones worth the 300 bones? That is a matter of perspective, but this reviewer finds the build quality, retro aesthetics, charm and overall musical punch offered by these headphones to be worth the premium. The P5's fill a specific niche. For those looking for a closed, noise isolating headphone that is stylish, solidly constructed, and somewhat minimal in size, look no further than the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile HiFi Stereo Headphones.