I’ve been eyeing (or should that be earing?) the Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones ever since they were released a few months back. The steep $300 price tag (about R2400 right now) is, however a put off.
That is, until you see them. Any doubt that is left disappears as soon as you hear them.
Last weekend the iStore here in Costa Rica (very appropriately name iCon) received a pair and I was finally able to spend some time listening to them. And they certainly do impress.
Design and build quality
The first thing that strikes you about these headphones is the design. Sleek, industrial and minimalist are the words that came to mind when I first saw them. The weight is surprising in that there isn’t much of it. Considering the aluminium construction and the fact that it ‘looks heavy’ I was expecting these to tip the scales, but they were pleasantly lightweight.
The second thing you notice is how sturdy they are. Lightweight as it is, this set doesn’t feel flimsy or ‘breakable’ in the hand. One thing that did bother me on the hardware side was the cable. The way that the joints and connections are made lead me to believe that this will be the first thing to go.
if you’re the kind of person whose ears heat up when you have an idea, it’s something to consider.
As soon as the sheeps’ leather earpads come in to contact with your ears, you suddenly get the feeling that everything around you is somehow classier, more luxurious. They are phenomenally comfortable and even after wearing them for a while, there was no squeezing or movement. One downside is that they do tend to get quite warm, being leather and all. It’s more noticeable than uncomfortable, but if you’re the kind of person whose ears heat up when you have an idea, it’s something to consider.
click images to enlarge
I listened to Bonobo’s “Black Sands” album since it is one I know extremely well and has some great dynamics. The bass was very well represented, though not as forceful as my Sennheiser HD212 Pros (a good thing) but not quite as detailed as the HD200s. I found that I was able to turn the volume all the way without getting the uncomfortable ‘headphone drone’ I often experience with closed design headphones. The sound is warm in a very good way and delivers punch without over-doing it.
I now know what smooth cream cheese would sound like if you could play it at high volume
Treble was crisp and airy and very detailed. On some of the tracks it did seem like there was a little ‘sparkle’ missing in the top end of the treble, possibly around 10khz, but not so much that it would be a deal breaker. If you’re not switching from high end headphones you won’t even notice this.
The mids are were these headphones really shine. I’m not sure how better to describe it other than ‘silky’ or ‘creamy.’ Such esoteric terms might sound like B.S, after listening to the mid range on these headphone, I now know what smooth cream cheese would sound like if you could play it at high volume. It’s delicious.
What adds the extra special sauce to the mids is the stereo imaging. The sound stage is wide as well as deep, meaning you get very three dimensional sound. You can pick out where the instruments are from left to right and front to back (if you were visualising it on a stage) with ease and accuracy. The warmth added to the great mid representation and this excellent imaging made these a pleasure to listen to.
I didn’t have the opportunity to test the included microphone.
The B&W P5 headphones are great. They look fantastic, they are built well and the sound is exceptional. The only problem is the price, which is a bit high when you consider that they are being marketed as iPhone headphones (i.e. not studio headphones) but they certainly get very close to audiophile territory.
That being said, I think I can safely say that it is only a matter of time before I have a pair of these keeping my ears warm. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some noodles to eat…