Sales of headphones have skyrocketed in recent years, largely due to the sales of mobile devices. Another reason is sound quality. High quality headphones offer great sonic performance, and for some audiophiles they are a good substitute for main speakers. Whatever the reason, the huge selection of headphones gives buyers lots of choices. Serious music listeners would do well to look to one of the most revered speaker makers to find good headphones. I'm referring to Bowers & Wilkins, or B & W. The new B & W P5 Mobile Hi-Fi headphones are promoted as a 'Concert for One'. Is the concert worth the price of a ticket?
The P5 headphones, the only model offered by B & W, are on-ear headphones, meaning they cover the ears but do not completely surround them. The replaceable ear cushions have a base of memory foam covered with luxuriously soft sheep leather. The design provides effective noise isolation without completely isolating the listener from the environment and they add a measure of personal safety when using the P5s for mobile listening on the go. Aside from the practical benefits, the soft ear cushions provide very comfortable long term listening. The headband, also covered in sheep leather, is easy to adjust. Their low weight (< 7 ounces) makes it easy to forget you're wearing headphones. Everything about the P5 headphones has a classy look and feel, including the metal enclosures and the soft carry case. Even the packaging suggests you've purchased a quality product. They come with two interchangeable cables. Each of the cables has a 2.5mm jack on one end and a 3.5mm jack on the other. One cable includes the Apple in-line remote/mic for iPod control and hands-free phone calls and the other is the same cable without the in-line remote/mic. See Specifications for player compatibility.
The stylish look of the P5 headphones is nicely complemented by its sound quality. The two 1.5" drivers in the P5 have a frequency range from 10 Hz to 20 kHz and they deliver a lush, detailed presentation that's easy to listen to for many hours. The P5s made me wish that my speakers sounded as good, particularly the bass. Eugene Friesen's cello in "Remembering You" had deep extension and the electric bass had clear pitch definition that is frequently difficult to achieve with loudspeakers, considering the speakers' interaction with the listening room. The clarity and detail of the piano, even the subtle sounds of the foot pedals, came through clearly on the P5s. To many audiophiles, nothing is quite as pleasing as analog sound, particularly vinyl records. I transferred the best of my vinyl collection to CD and the warmth and fullness of these recordings sound great on the P5s. B & W offers downloadable binaural recordings from their website, available to listeners who purchase the P5 headphones or join the B & W Society of Sound, a music download service featuring high quality recordings in Apple Lossless and FLAC sound formats.
Conclusions & Specifications
Add the B & W P5 headphones to my top pick list of headphones. It's no wonder that many audiophiles use headphones as main speakers. Whether used at home or on the go, the B & W P5 headphones offer superior style, comfort and sound quality. The P5s are a concert for one that's truly worth the price of admission.
- Description: Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones with noise isolation
- Design: On-ear, closed back
- Drive units: Two 1.5" drivers with Mylar diaphragm
- Impedance: 26 ohms
- Frequency range: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
- Distortion: <1%
- Sensitivity: 115 dB @ 1 kHz
- Finish: Leather and metal
- 2.5mm mini jack cable
- 3.5mm mini jack cable
- Mic & iPod/iPhone remote control cable
- 1⁄4" jack adaptor for home audio
- Soft Carry case
- Price: $299.00
- Contact: bwspeakers.com
Note: iPod/iPhone compatibility: The P5 is compatible with the iPod touch 3GS and later (iPhone 4), the iPod nano 4th generation and later (5th and 6th), iPod touch 2nd generation and later (3rd and 4th), iPod classic all generations, iPod shuffle 3rd generation and later (4th).