Bowers & Wilkins P5 featured
PRIME AUDIO 2017

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless – review

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Today I’ll be looking at the P5 Wireless on-ear headphones (from hereon known as the P5W) that boasts a 17 hour battery life and exquisite craftsmanship. But is it worth the hefty price tag? I’ll let you decide.

Bowers & Wilkins has been around for over half a century and is still at the forefront of premium home audio. It all started in 1955 with some ingenuity and later the company was officially formed at the urging of an elderly lady (Miss Knight) who apparently had a good ear for quality audio. From the Bowers & Wilkins website:

Bowers & Wilkins is now a very large company, with distribution chains and customers all over the world. But it started life with John Bowers hand-assembling speaker systems for local clients in Worthing, West Sussex, in the back of the electrical store that he ran with his friend Roy Wilkins.

 

Thanks to Music+Cinema Thailand for arranging the sample. The P5 Wireless currently retails for around $299.95 on Amazon.

http://www.bowers-wilkins.net/

Pros
  • Beautiful materials and craftsmanship
  • Mature, balanced sound
  • Solid battery life
Cons
  • Clamping force is a little tight
P5 Wireless on Amazon

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Packaging and accessories

The P5 Wireless arrived in a high quality, glossy, black box. On the front is an image of the right earcup and the brand name and model embossed in silver print. Inside are the headphones, sitting in a sort of rubberized foam tray.

Take out the tray and underneath is a very classy fabric pouch that seals with a magnetic clip and has a diamond pattern stitching. It’s a really nice pouch that looks and feels premium. It should provide some decent protection though obviously not as much as you’d get from a hard carry case.

There’s a little inner pocket inside the pouch and in here you’ll find an extensive user manual, USB charging cable and a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm audio cable for the headphone.

The supplied cable is a very thin rubberized affair that is full of kinks and while it works as intended it looks and feels very cheap in stark contrast to the finely crafted headphones.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Build, comfort and isolation

Bowers & Wilkins are well known for creating quality products and it’s easy to see with the P5 Wireless. From the luxuriously smooth, black leather headband and ear pads to the twisted aluminium arms these headphones are crafted from fine materials and build to last. They have an appearance that’s classic yet modern at the same time and oozes with a timeless elegance.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 WirelessBowers & Wilkins P5 WirelessBowers & Wilkins P5 WirelessBowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

The ear pads are attached magnetically and can be easily removed to reveal the drivers beneath. Inside of the left earcup is a cleverly hidden jack for the 3.5 mm cable that is not only stealthily minimalist and helps maintain the outer styling but also doubles as an enhanced form of strain relief.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

On the back of the right earcup are the 3 control buttons (volume + and – and play/pause/answer calls). The buttons respond eagerly to your bidding without any delay. Under the left earcup is a dual purpose switch that powers the headphones on and off and puts them in pairing mode.

Connecting is fast and easy and there are little audible cues to let you know the current status of operation. The P5W comes equipped with aptX for high-quality wireless audio.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Battery life is rated at 17 hours and that’s right on what I was getting from a single charge. If used for only an hour or two each day you can enjoy the P5W for weeks without needing to recharge the battery.

I found the P5W to be pretty comfortable to wear although it did take a little getting used to. The almost flat ear pads and considerable clamping force were a bit unpleasant at first but after a couple of sessions, I guess the pads softened up a bit and my ears became accustomed to the feel.

There’s some nice padding on the underside of the headband that works well to distribute some of the pressure but most of it comes from the sides with the clamping force. At 213 grams the headphones feel light and fit securely even when moving around.

Isolation is a little above average for an on-ear headphone, with the genuine leather doing a good job of creating a solid seal. That coupled with the closed back style block out quite a lot of external noise. The P5W, therefore, is more than suitable for noisy environments and will do the trick if you feel like taking them outside with you.

Sound

Sources used for testing

ATC HDA-DP20
Acoustic Research AR-M20
Flac/Foobar2000 > Topping DX7 (USB) > P5 Wireless

An evolution of the P5 Series 2, the P5W carries over much of the former’s audio attributes. It has a nicely balanced sound with a slightly boosted bass, great clarity throughout and a non-fatiguing signature.

Bass

Bass has some good impact and speed but a natural decay that adds some weight to the low end. It’s only slightly boosted, adding to the mature signature the P5W portrays. A playthrough of Scarface’s “Untouchable” reveals a sub-bass that extends surprisingly well and rumbles nicely in the earcups without upsetting the overall balance of things.

Mids

The midrange has great clarity and a very clean presentation. There’s a hint of warmth in the lower mids then a slight dip before it gains some more emphasis in the upper midrange. I found classical music, in particular, to shine with great tonality and realism.

Treble

Treble has good extension and sounds great, sitting slightly behind the upper midrange. It doesn’t have any noticeable peaks and is not sibilant or harsh. Cymbal sheen is well recreated and seems to hang in the air without rolling off too early.

Soundstage

Soundstage is pretty impressive with plenty of width and a good amount of depth. Listening to the live version of “Beethoven’s Symphony 6” by Carlos Kleiber and the Bavarian State Orchestra gives a great sense of the area and collective instruments feeling rather epic. Imaging is also on par and distinctly indicates where different sections are.

Comparisons

Thinksound On2 ($199 USD)

The On2 has a similar amount of bass but some extra warmth in the lower mids and more pronounced treble. Vocals sound a little airier than the P5W which is a bit more intimate – This is probably likely to the On2 having much thicker earpads adding space between the driver and your ears.

The P5W has an undeniably more premium look and feel but there is a certain charm to the wooden earcups of the On2. The two cables that come with the On2 are of a much higher quality than the weedy little one packaged with the P5W but in the latter’s defence, it is marketed primarily as a wireless headphone. With much lighter clamping forces and thicker ear pads, the On2 is the more comfortable of the two but there’s not much in it.

I’d be happy with either of these headphones as far as on-ears go as they both sound great. The P5W has the added versatility of aptX Bluetooth so that could be a deciding factor for some.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

Conclusion

So, is the B & W P5 Wireless worth the price? In a word, yes. The materials, high-quality build and great sound all make it so. These headphones make a statement with their appearance and feel, something akin to designer watches or bespoke suits. Not only that but they sound great too. Throw in aptX Bluetooth and 17 hours worth of nonstop listening on a single battery charge and everything adds up to a fine product.

For those not concerned with Bluetooth, you can grab the P5 Series 2 for about $100 less. But if you’re looking for a wireless headphone and have an appreciation for the finer things in life then be sure to put this one on your short list.

You can buy the Bower & Wilkins P5 Wireless on Amazon HERE.

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