Review: Bowers & Wilkins P5

Our score: 4/5
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September 3, 2010 9:53 AM
Published: August 31, 2010 11:00 PM
By Tristan François
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
Bowers & Wilkins is a brand that's synonymous with (very) high-end hi-fi equipment. For a few years now, B&W has been expanding into new product markets with devices like the Zeppelin iPod speaker or the Panorama sound bar, both still offering high-quality sound. Let's hope the same will be true of the P5 headphones.

Design: did someone say portable?

When you first unwrap them, the P5 headphones don't seem quite so portable. They come in a big, heavy box that looks like something straight out of a hi-fi headphones catalogue. Plus, with their luxury build and finish and their not-so-foldable design, we had serious doubts about whether the P5 headphones would really be suitable for use on the move. They're even a bit on the heavy side (although not too much to be truly problematic). However, it soon became clear that B&W had simply designed these headphones with luxury in mind.

The P5 headphones are incredibly comfortable and you can wear them for hours on end ... so long as it's not too hot, that is. As the earpads are covered in leather, they could soon become your worst enemy on the stickier days of the summer. The headband is spot on though, with a fit that isn't too tight or too slack.

B&W doesn't supply the most impressive accessories bundle, but you'll at least find a sturdy case and a separate cable for use with mobile phones. These headphones aren't the most compact though; the earphone parts can be swivelled flat but they can't be folded.

Audio Quality: we were hoping for more

Given the size and weight of these headphones, not to mention the reputation of B&W, we had very high hopes for the P5 ... maybe a bit too high.

In spite of the medium frequencies coming through noticeably stronger, the spectrum isn't particularly unbalanced. The main problem is that the P5's output is limp and lacklustre. The bass isn't overpowering and is perfectly controlled, but it can be surprisingly bouncy-sounding for headphones of this quality. High frequencies aren't drowned out either, coming through strong enough for you to notice they're there.

It may seem like we're being unnecessarily harsh, and it's true that on the whole, the P5 have a very refined sound output. However, we noticed a small defect typically found in hi-fi products (not usually with B&W however): the sound is too warm. This warm sound is certainly flattering, with soft and comforting overtones, be we would have preferred a more neutral, more accurate output. That said, you can rest assured that the sound will still be very pleasant to listen to, and that Bowers and Wilkins isn't ripping you off with the P5's high price tag.

We can't hide the fact that we were a little disappointed with the P5. The headphones are stylish, sleek, well finished and well designed, but for a top-of-the-range product from a luxury manufacturer, we would have hoped to see it walk its way to a five-star score. Looks like it'll just have to make do with four.

4/5 Bowers & Wilkins P5 DigitalVersus 2010-09-01 00:00:00

Pros

  • Luxury design, high-quality manufacturing, excellent finish
  • Robust design
  • Flattering sound output

Cons

  • Sound is a bit too warm and thus less accurate
  • Sound is a bit limp
  • Not the most compact, lightweight headphones around

Conclusion

The P5 are a definitely good pair of headphones, but we were hoping they'd be excellent. That plus a few minor design issues (such as being bulky to carry around) ultimately cost these high-end headphones their fifth star.

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