The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones

by admin on April 28, 2010 · 13 comments

in Headphones, Star Components

by Anthony Kershaw

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.

[It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones. Congratulations! - Ed]

The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones

Manufactured by B&W Group North America
54 Concord Street, North Reading, Massachusetts 01864
Tel: +1 (978) 664 2870
Fax: +1 (978) 664 4109

Price: US$299.99


iPhone compatible remote control
Driver type dynamic
Mylar diaphragm
Neodynium magnets
High precision diaphragm resistance material
Closed back for noise isolation
Fold flat
Single sided detachable/changeable OFC cable with low handling noise
Adjustable leather headband
Carry pouch
3.5mm/ 1/4” jack adaptor included
Standard cable included
Memory foam changeable earcushions
Real Sheep Leather used throughout
Description Mobile supra aural headphone with noise isolation
Drive units: 2x Ø40mm
Impedance: 26 ohms
Frequency range: 10Hz to 20kHz
Left/right tolerance: +/-1dB at 1kHz
Max. input power: 50mW
Distortion @100dB: I25<0.05% for 80-20kHz <0.2% for 20-20kHz
Sensitivity: 115dB/V at 1kHz
Inputs: 3.5mm stereo mini jack (on cable)
2.5mm mini jack (on Headphone)
Height: 180mm
Width: 150mm
Depth: 35mm folded flat, 60mm in service
Weight 195g
Finish Enclosure: Real Leather and metal

{ 1 trackback }

SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Ultra On-Ear Headphones — Audiophilia
11.13.12 at 3:38 pm

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Atane 04.12.10 at 4:05 pm

The P5 “out bosed” the Bose huh? Does that mean it has no highs and lows? I kid. :) Great review.

admin 04.12.10 at 4:19 pm


dalethorn 04.30.10 at 1:05 pm

Compared to the Bose QC-2, the P5’s don’t have the bass boost - the P5’s bass is neutral/flat. But the QC-2 had a superb midrange that I haven’t heard on any other headset I’ve owned, except perhaps for the Stax models. The Bose QC-3 sounds awful - I haven’t heard the QC-15 yet. It’s nearly impossible to evaluate headphones, since none of the big stores will allow you to plug them into your own player with your own music.

admin 04.30.10 at 1:46 pm

Hi Dale:

Thanks for your comment. I’m reviewing the 15s now. Stay tuned.

Cheers, a

Aces over Kings 12.18.10 at 12:46 pm

I am a poker player and spend an inordinate amount of time listening to a wide range of music. We are kindred spirits in the fact that I too am looking for the perfect set of headphones. Portables present specific challenges such as size requirements balanced with sturdiness and performance.

My specific requirements for the poker table are isolated to: no earbuds, comfort, portable and good performance with the iPhone. I like keeping the price point in the $300 range.

I appreciate your informative review. If the headphones live up to your evaluation, there will be a new set in my poker bag soon.

In your quest, have you found anything better in the $300-$400 price range?

dave 12.31.10 at 2:05 pm

I got these headphones for christmas and I can’t emphasize how great they are. From a style standpoint,, I don’t think anything comes even close. B&W managed to find the perfect blend between retro and minimalist-modern styling to give the P5’s an amazing (and functional) look second to none. Even though they are “On-ear” opposed to “Over-ear” like some of the larger headsets, I can honestly say that they are the most comfortable headphones I’ve put on for an extended amount of time. The leather adds a nice touch and the headphones stay snug on your head without inducing too much pressure on the noggin.

I have an iPhone 4 so I really do love the fact that it has the volume control as well as the microphone built in to the cord. The cord itself is a bit short but it’s opportune length for someone such as myself with their iPhone in their pocket. If you don’t want the controls on the cord, you can VERY easily swap the cord out with a standard one which is provided. This ability will also allow you to swap in a longer cord if need be.

I can’t stress how great these headphones are, I was hoping to get “Beats by Dr Dre” or Bose noise cancelling headphones, but I’m glad I didn’t. The sound is concert rich and the bass is in no way overwhelming like it can be with the Beats. They are not “noise-cancelling” per se, but with the leather ear peices and the snug fit, the sound is as isolated as you could wish for without having a battery or that annoying “Hissing” noise that some noise cancelling headphones have.

I recommend these headphones to anyone that is looking for a stylish headphone with some of the Best sound quality on the market. Don’t waste you money with beats or bose, go B & W.

They fold flat in a beautiful quilted case, making them ok for travel.

admin 12.31.10 at 2:45 pm

First, welcome, Dave, and thank you for the detailed comment.

Glad you like the headphones. Longtime readers know that I’m not a great fan of headphones, but the B&Ws are so stylish and give such a balanced sound that I could live with them easily. My ‘phone of choice is the Bose Comfort 15s. They sound good, but as I fly so much, the noise cancellation is what I need. I can listen and review even on an airplane or train!

The Beats? Ugh! You’re right, just bassissimo!!

Happy New year to you.

Cheers, a

Ruth 01.07.11 at 11:18 am

Hey guys,

I’ve been deeply considering both the Bose Comfort 15s and the B&W P5. Which do you reckon is better?


admin 01.07.11 at 11:26 am

Hi Ruth.


The Bose 15s are a little more clinical (which, for headphones can be a good thing) and the B&Ws have superior bass. I rarely use headphones except when in a coffee shop writing or on planes, so I went for the Bose 15s because of the amazing noise cancellation. YMMV. I think you’ll be fine with either.

That said, there are many headphone aficionados (a musical oxymoron, IMO;) who don’t reckon much to both of them. I really like both.

Hope that helps. Let us know which one you buy and how you like them in the long term. You can audition both at the Apple Store.

Cheers, a

dave 02.16.11 at 3:12 pm

It really comes down to preference. Everyone listens to different music and likes to hear different things when they do. Everyones head is also shaped differently. Both the Bose and the B&Ws are of superior quality, so I would thoroughly test both at a store before you purchase either one. By thoroughly test I mean bring your iPod and listen to what you would regularly listen to and make a decision then.

Pranav 06.14.11 at 10:35 am

Hello Sir,
I desperately want to buy a very good pair of headphones and i do not want to regret buying them in the future. I have no idea about headphones but i have been hearing a lot about the P5s. I do not want the Noise Cancellation headphones as i don’t have that requirement. Please suggest something really good to me. My price band is about $300.

admin 06.14.11 at 10:43 am

Hi Pranav: I would buy the B&Ws in a heartbeat. Head to Apple Store and have a lengthy listen. For a different experience, check out the Grados. Cheers, a

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