A buddy of mine is a headphone enthusiast. He’s had more headphones, earphones, noise isolating and ear speakers than I’ve had hot dinners. It did not take him long to pick up the new Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones. B&W has a great reputation for high end speakers and now in the domain of the lifestyle audio consumer. The very popular Zeppelin iPod sound dock, the Zeppelin Mini and the new MM-1 computer speakers are testament to this direction.
I managed to borrow the P5s for a couple a days to report my findings to you. B&W says they are noise isolating (rather than Bose’s electronic fiddling, ‘cancellation’). The quality leather earpads sit directly on your ears and do block out a lot of sound. They do not give you the the head turning reaction like when flipping the Bose noise cancellation switch, but they do a great job of keeping the ambient noise out, and without batteries.
The product, like all B&W products, oozes quality. These headphones will stand a lot of wear and tear. They are very comfortable (though warm to the ear with thick leather) and I listened for hours with little or no fatigue.
The sound is excellent and is very balanced with no obvious boost of upper and lower octaves. That said, the bass is fantastic on these cans — totally integrated and very low in the ear. I was quite surprised just how low they go. Organ fans will be happy campers. The treble is effortless without the tizzy effects that so many manufacturers seem to think listeners enjoy. The midrange is almost non-earphone like; it sounds like the natural effects heard from a really good two channel setup.
B&W are out Bosing Bose in the style department and in natural sound. When first listening to the P5s, you may feel they are too ‘blended’, for want of a better word. Things do open up after a couple of days, I’m told, but this is how natural sound is replicated through ear pieces, in my opinion. Balanced and relaxed. Integrated and non fatiguing. Beautiful.
I love the allure and technology of the Bose Noise Cancellation, but the sound quality makes the the B&W P5s the best $300 headphones I’ve tried. If you want an iPhone compatible, portable, comfortable, no battery, isolating headphone with superior sound, then this very refined product is it. Highly recommended.
Further information: B&W