Bowers & Wilkins have been rolling out the red carpet for our MP3s for quite some time. The B&W Zeppelin is a sex symbol of modern tech design, pumping out some of the best sound we’ve ever heard from an iPod dock.
Can B&W transfer that success to the mobile music market with the high-end audio specialist’s first ever pair of headphones? In a word; yes.
The P5’s bring not only the trademark audio quality associated with the brand, but also a beautiful design. With an SRP of £250, they certainly come at a B&W-like price too.
B&W P5 headphones: Performance
But it’s easy to see where that extra few quid goes. These headphones allow us to discover parts of our favourite tunes that we’d never heard before. Testing the cans to Weezer’s Blue Album opened our ears to subtle guitar parts we didn’t even know existed. It was a similar story with Guns ‘N Roses Appetite for Destruction, an album the world has listened to a million times over. These cans allow us to appreciate these tunes in a new light.
Audio quality is very warm, with excellent clarity and a great middle range. Heavy bass audio isn’t as good as we’d hoped and can sound a little distorted, while Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones' cleaner guitar parts sound great. The B&W P5's can’t do wonders with poor quality MP3s though, and often highlight imperfections rather than hiding them
B&W P5 headphones: Noise isolation
The P5 headphones don’t boast noise cancelling-tech in the truest sense of the word, rather noise isolation. There’s no battery powered system to keep out the external racket, but with these cans nestled closely to the ears there’s very little room for outside interference to interrupt your listening pleasure. However, you won’t be disorientated by complete isolation from your surroundings.
B&W itself says the attractive closed-back design and secured ear-pads - which are magnetically attached to the speakers - are responsible for this excellently functioning system. Like Bose’s QC range, these sit on the ears rather than engulfing them, so it’s a real achievement to cut out external noise without the noise cancelling tech that define the Bose cans.
They may be an expert at keeping noise in, but had a few annoyed glances when hammering out some tunes at half volume using our iPod Touch on a packed tube.
B&W P5 headphones: Comfort
The hinge which swings the speakers towards the ear gives the P5's a very unique feel. However, they are a little heavy at times, and on a warm summer ride into work, prove a bit much for us to handle. There’s also the slight problem of them slipping off the back of your head ever so slightly when you move around; it's only very minor, but they don't feel quite as secure as you'd lilke. They can be a little too restrictive when worn around the neck, although the pads rotate inwards to sit flatly, which helps rectify that.
Audiophiles can further enhance the quality by unhooking the double-ended 3.5mm jack to replace it with one of their choosing. This is certainly preferable for home listening rather than on the move. The original cable is perfect for on-the-move Apple owners though, with stop and start and volume controls, as well as a microphone for iPhone voice calls. The B&W P5 headphones are pricey, but sound quality is excellent, noise isolation excellent and design wise, well, these are unquestionably the iPhone 4 of headphones.
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