These are amazing headphones. Everything about them is high quality. They feel like a well worn hat with soft covers over your ears. The sound is incredible, with outstanding imaging. The negative, they are expensive, but you know that already.
From the moment I cut open the two clear tape rounds and started to open the box, I knew these were special. Oddly, Apple had them put a peg board hanger on the box - yes these headphones hung on a rack like any cheap old Apple accessory in the store. Inside the box, the headphones are nestled in a carbon fiber looking velveteen covered plastic holder. They lift out easily and the instruction manual (more like advertising literature for B&W), the straight audio cable, and 1/4 inch headphone adapter were underneath. A really beautiful black cloth case with a diamond weave is included. The interior is suede, and the flap is held closed with an invisible magnet. There's also a small pouch inside that exactly fits an iPod or iPhone, sweet.
The headphones themselves are beautiful. The black leather (they do make a big deal out of this being sheep's leather) cover over the headband and ear pieces is flawless. There is ample foam padding all around for the top of your head and ears. The metal swivel, headband, and speaker covers are machined beautifully and are heavy duty.
The headphone wire is interchangeable. Remove the left ear piece cover to reveal a jack and the headphone wire. The headphones come with two different wires, one with a microphone and iPod controls, and the other straight through. The little strain relief holds the wire snug. Unless you exchanged these wires every single day, that relief is never going to harm the wire. The great news about this arrangement, if the wires ever broke, it is a simple matter to replace them - both ends of the wire are 3.5mm jacks. The headphone wire is decent, a rubbery insulation, that looks like it will survive a good long bit of wear. May 22, 2010 update - a reader has mentioned that one end of the cable is 2.5mm and the other 3.5mm, so this might not be a super easy cable to replace.
These headphones feel fantastic on my head. I have a rather large pointy bald head (go ahead, conehead jokes are allowed) and a lot of over the ear headphones are uncomfortable. The P5's are just about perfect. The band expands large enough and the padding is thick enough that the top of my head isn't pressured. Over the ear is comfortable.
Oh you don't care about all these cosmetics, other than you don't want to look like a Bose lemming on your next flight (and these headphones are handsome compared to those by Bose). You care about the audio quality. I was stunned. The bass is solid and smooth. Vocals were crystal clear. These are warm speakers, there is good bass but it is not overpowering. The response seems to be very smooth across the full tone range - highs and lows were not emphasized. The first thing I noticed was imaging. In recordings that I thought were not good, I could actually pick out and position instruments that were blended across the soundstage before. These are audiophile grade headphones.
My frame of reference is five years with a pair of Shure E3c's. Those are absolutely crystal clear, accurate, efficient speakers. The downside, they don't deliver much bass. The P5's are nowhere near as bright; they are not sharp and crisp in the high end like the E3c's. But they make up for that in warmth, in some ways the P5's are like adding a subwoofer to my Shures. The P5's are not as efficient, they require about 2 notches more to reach the same volume. On my Sony DVD player, the E3c's are perfect volume at 1, the P5's need to be set at 3 or 4. There is still plenty of room to get huge volume out of the P5's.
From a music standpoint, the P5's are stupendous. I won't miss my Shure headphones at all. When I first listened to these headphones I was reminded of visits to the special rooms in high end audio stores, my eyes moved all over trying to find the musicians in the room. For movies, these headphones will work very well. Dialog might not be as clear, but special effects and music are much better. Sound is better localized to different parts of the screen.
The iPod/iPhone cable has a little tiny in line controller. It is simple beyond imagination. One click in the center (there is a depression for your finger) starts and stops music or answers a phone call. Two clicks advances one song. Three clicks moves back one song. It's kind of strange taking a phone call through these; the sound is so much fuller and warmer than through the crummy iPhone speaker. On the other hand, the microphone is no substitute for a Jawbone or Bluetooth set up. The only way this microphone thing makes sense is if you happen to be listening to music or watching a movie and a call comes in.
Sound isolation is surprisingly good. The world isn't as dead silent as in ear canal headphones, but I was hard pressed to hear much going on around me. I was aware of noise, but it was muffled and way off in the background. These will work very well on a plane. There is no need for crazy electronics to create the sound isolation.
April 2, 2010 update - in the back of a twin engine jet where the engines are connected to the plane body (some of the loudest jets in captivity, the Embarer 150) the headphones do a decent job on the engine noise. It is not a silent world, but much quieter. My Shure headphones were pretty much dead silent, and I would guess the Bose are also. But I'll still take a bit of noise trade off for the sound quality.
Overall these are outstanding headphones. They are super high quality. I expect they will last a very long time. The sound is wonderful, the comfort high, the materials sensuous, and they are unique (you likely won't see two of these on a flight any time soon).
April 30, 2010 update - something very unfortunate happened, while traveling I accidently left these headphones on a plane. The sad part of the story, United Airlines can't seem to find them. There is a crew member that is very happy right now listening to my headphones. I certainly hope they enjoy them, I will miss them. This might be a cautionary tale, if you are used to earbuds, you'll need to figure out a home for a much larger package if you travel with them. I really messed up.
Wow. I wish I could come up a more fitting word, but I'm currently listening to these as I type this review and I can barely think straight. Seriously.
I have several different full-size earphones, but I've been primarily reviewing IEM's as of late. These seem to be the "big thing" right now and what most people are looking for. People just want something small to use with their iPhone/iPod/MP3 player and full size headphones don't really fit into that equation. A shame, really. To me, over-the-head headphones always sound better than their earphone counterparts. But IEM's definitely have their place and a good pair can really sound awesome.
Moving onto the P5's specifically.
FIRST IMPRESSION/BUILD QUALITY: The box is pretty unassuming and the Apple store even had it hanging from a peg, right next to the Dre Beats and Skullcandy's. Say wha??? But fret not. It's whats inside that counts, and these count in a BIG way. Once the box is opened, you're greeted with the sexiness immediately.
Accessories include a nice magnetic closing pouch, the typical 1/8" to 1/4" headphone adapter, the manual, the warranty card, etc. Pretty much what you'd expect to find when de-boxing headphones. But you're not reading this to hear about accessories, so let me get right to it. The P5's are, to me anyway, a beautiful piece of retro-art, that are built like a tank. There's not a single piece of plastic to be found. The entire set is built with metal and leather. But, don't be fooled. These are still quite light and even after several hours of listening, my ears feel fine. A bit warm, but fine. You actually feel as if your money was well spent.
AUDIO QUALITY: Outstanding. Amazing. Uncolored and Unparalleled. I've got probably 50 pairs of earphones/headphones floating around, and none sound as clear and uncolored as these. Including $350 Klipsch x10i's, $250 Grado's, $400 Sennheiser's, $400 Shure's, $300 Denon's, crappy Dre Beats, Skullpoision's, etc. etc. etc. These, to me, sound better than all of them. And there are a couple pair in there that I swear by!
The sound is ultra smooth from the lowest of bass notes (I tested to 18hz with a frequency generator) through the mids, and all the way up to the highs. Everything just sounds...perfect. These aren't the headphones to buy if you're a total basshead, but the bass is surprisingly strong without being overly so. In other words, the bass doesn't completely wreck the rest of the signal. Mids and Highs are spot on and showcase every nuance of the instruments being played. You really feel as if you're in the studio with the engineer! Even though these are closed-back cans, the sound stage is still quite airy and open. Unreal. I can listen for hours on end without any physical or audio fatigue.
MIC/IPOD CONTROLS: These utilize the same plastic "indented stick" as genuine Apple earphones use and operation is exactly the same. I found mic clarity to be a bit muffled, but definitely not anything I would consider a negative.
CONCLUSION: I simply cannot recommend these enough. If you've been primarily an IEM user, and aren't going to the gym everyday, you owe it to yourself to try a QUALITY (i.e. NOT Dre Beats) pair of headphones, such as these. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
Now, don't get me wrong, there are some amazing IEM's. And as I mentioned earlier, I have couple pairs that I absolutely ADORE, but when it comes down to it, if I'm not out jogging or at the gym, I reach for the B&Ws and leave the world behind. For a couple of hours, anyway.
on February 25, 2015
I bought these headphone a couple of years ago, expecting a high-quality and durable piece of hardware. The headphones themselves offer very nice sound quality and are reasonably comfortable to wear. However after just 12 months i started having issues of losing audio connection in one ear. Replacing the cable helped for a period of time but after 2 years of light use, audio in the right ear ceased completely and of course they were now out of warranty. I sent them to the official B&W service center in France and after long delays was informed they couldn't be repaired. So they offered to sell me a "refurbished" set of the old series (even though a newer model had since been released) for 150 euros and tried to claim they were offering a 50% discount. The service center misleadingly calculated the discount on the basis of a brand new set of the latest series headphones, not the price of a refurbished now out-of-date model. Very disappointed in the durability of the headphones and even more disappointed in the customer service. If you plan to spend this much money on a set of headphones, go with another brand as the after-support service is very poor.
on November 9, 2010
I walked into the apple store a regular person and left an enthusiast.
After listening to the different headphones at the apple store: the Bose, Monster Beats etc. I finished my test by listening to the Bowers and Wilkins P5. I had never heard of the company at that point. I was blown away. I listened to the same song on every device: Fireflies by Owl City. The clarity of the voices and spatial imaging are amazing. Suddenly listening to music was more fun than I ever remembered it being. When listening to duets you can isolate each voice where with other headphones you can only hear the harmony of each voice together. It was night and day between the other "expensive headphones."
Later that day I went to one of the best hi-fi stores in Manhattan. I had already bought the P5s but wanted to listen to the Grados and Sennsheisers just for comparison. The salesmen informed me that Apple products often have problems powering the Sennsheisers, but moreover told me to come back the next day. They had something new coming in that blew the other head phones they had in stock away. Needless to say, this experienced audio salesman was talking about the P5s.
The conclusion: you may prefer other headphones, there may be better cans out there. However for the crowd using portable devices for their music I doubt you'll find any headphones that match better with the device than the P5. In audiophile circles they talk about matching products to get synergistic effects between preamps, amps and speakers. The P5s are the perfect match for iPhones, iPods, iPads and any other portable device.
on January 22, 2015
I was also pumped to purchase these headphones but had a similar experience. B&W has a great reputation, I think the P5s look beautiful and use premium materials - but I had several issues. And, I baby my headphones. I love these things. They stay in the pillowed case or around my neck. I only wear them while I work or for air-travel:
• The audio cables do suck. Mine failed multiple times - only replaced once by B&W under warranty within the first two months of ownership.
• The adhesive that they used behind the felt on the earpieces (the piece the ear-pads connect to) kind of oozed out from between the metal and felt on warmer summer days.
• The right driver gave out after 2-1/2 years. No kind of help from the warranty...and it have it serviced, I have to pre-approve a minimum of $75 and maximum of $200 charges, plus shipping. That's almost as much as the headphones cost today ($260 on Amazon).
Insane. Buy a pair of Sennheisers. They may not look as good, but they'll be much better quality, less money, and probably better customer service.
on May 29, 2012
B&W have produced high quality loudspeaker products since 1966 and their focus on clarity is well known. So it's no surprise that B&W's headphones would be impressive, at least as far as sound goes. I have owned this headphones for about 4 months and wanted to 'break them in' before I reviewed them as many make the mistake of reviewing them before they are at their best.
Sound: 9.5 out of 10
These headphones sound fantastic. They really do, they give a natural sound without adding anything unnatural and the bass has punch without being annoying or overpowering (Dre Beats anyone?). That being said some people prefer to have artificial adjustments to headphones such as extra bass; if your looking for headphones like those then these aren't for you. However, if you are looking for clairy and accurate to the recording sound these are your headphones. (If possible use uncompressed lossless audio files, they really make these headphones shine). As far as headphones with cost around $300 concerns these are the top of the ine and seem like they should be charging more.
Range of Genre Effectiveness: 10 out of 10
This is really where these headphones shine.The headphones bring out the smallest details and really make detailed music a treat (Electronic and symphonic are crazy on these!). I listen to literally all kinds of music and I need a headphone that can make all genres sound great. By not adding anything synthetic to the sound, these headphones can be used for any genre of music and sound fantastic. Meal sounds great, twangy country gains a depth that I have never heard in a headphone before. (negating some super expensive headphones) It goes from soft to very hard music flawlessly. I tried hard to find a complaint about it's ability to play all genres but I could not find a thing.
Range of Use: 9.0 out of 10
I not only listen to alot of music but also watch tons of movies and I play alot of video games. For me a headphone should not only serve as a way to listen to high quality audio on the go, but also be able to be able to handle video game audio. When I play a game I want to know that someone is trying to sneak up on me. These headphones deliver this vision, you can hear people trying to walk up to you AND the direction they are coming from. The P5's are very impressive and give you a slight edge when gaming. However, after around 2 hours the headphones start to become uncomfortable, especially if you have a large head. This being said audio freaks who will be wearing this for a while will be annoyed from time to time and have to either take them off for a second or readjust them. The sound of these headphones however outweigh this negative aspect in my opinion.
Comfort: 6.5 out of 10
This is the disappointing aspect of these headphones, they literally come so close to being perfect in their price range except for comfort. Don't get me wrong these headphones are amazingly comfortable for about an hour with their New Zealand Sheep Skin Leather and memory foam cushioning. However, after 2 hours your ears begin to hurt, especially if you are someone who wears glasses (I have to tilt my glasses so they dont touch the headphone otherwise I get red marks where the glasses were ) The sad part of it all is that it would not be hard to fix. First off they dont use enough memory foam for the padding, it's so thin that it doesnt even hold a shape and after a while you begin to feel the hard backing. Also these headphones have alot of tension and fit very snugly so loosening the tension would help with the comfort problem. (this could also however hurt the design as they would have to make the headphone fit larger and expand the ear cuffs to allow for more memory foam). There are positions you can put the headphones in to make them more comfortable, I just find it annoying that I have to do it.
Look:9.7 out of 10
These headphones are beautiful and dont look too flashy. Wearing these in a suit even looks nice without being to attention drawing. I could not give it a perfect score however as some people are put off by square earcuffs. I however believe these headphones look great.
Build Quality of Headphones: 10 out of 10
Just pulling the earcuffs apart give you a feel for B&W's attention to durability and quality. These headphones feel solid and I have (sadly) dropped them a few times and it did NOTHING to the headphones very impressive. I have no complaints about the build quality of the headphone unit, the quality of the cable however......
Build Quality of Cable: 7 out of 10
The cable used for the headphone is a 2.5 to 3.5 jack which can be annoying if one needs to replace it. Also the cable is very thin making it more capable of breaking. On top of this, part of the cable rests inside the earcuff and must fit in the designed path for the cable so upgrading to a nicer cable can be troublesome depending on the thickness of the replacement cable. I had a really bad incident with the cable in which I knocked into it really hard and it bent the cable. It looks weird and is bent but didn't lose any sound quality which did impress me. For the thiness of the cable it does have surprising strength but their is no reason for it to be this thin anyway and imagine how strong i'd be if they made it thicker!
Overall Review: 8.5 out of 10
I love these headphones, they sound great, they look great, and they deliver clarity as well as detail in my music. It makes me sad that they have comfort problems. They would not be hard problems to fix and it is all that is preventing them from getting a nearly perfect review. All in all I would recommend you buy these headphones if you want the best sound for a budget of $300. The B&W P5's are awesome and I get down with these headphones.
on February 12, 2014
I had these for just over a year and one day I noticed something around the edge and thought someone spilt or dropped it in something. Trying to open the magnetic ear cover off was like melted cheese looking tar and attempts to wipe it down without water or solution was futile. Then I noticed it was all on my ear and in my hair... When I asked customer service they have a specific drop down list saying glue leak as this is known to happen. When I asked what could be done they didn't offer to help without the receipt for proof of purchase date. If it was just shy of a year for a known issue why not help the customer? These weren't left in a car or stored in high heated areas and for the most part rarely used or in the bag it came in. For 299 you would think they have better support... I will never ever encourage people to buy these or recommend them at an apple store.
on March 22, 2010
I just received my P5's at lunch and my first impressions are that these are a great looking set of headphones. The packaging was very impressive and protected the headphones during shipping. I was happily surprised to find that they came with a leather lined bag for storage. The headphones are also very comfortable and really do seal very well despite the small size of the cups. The leather pads are very comfortable and the headband easily adjusted to accommodate (large) my head. The metal finish is outstanding and does not disappoint. Sound so far is amazing and very detailed without break-in time. As with other B&W speakers these will not hide any imperfections in music or add anything to your music, they simply reveal what is there. I only expect the sound to open up with break-in. Package also includes 1/4" plug adapter and spare cable without the in-line mic. You also get 3 months of membership to B&W's Society of Sound when you register your headphones.
on March 28, 2016
I rarely review anything, but I felt the need to do so in this case based on my profound disappointment.
Firstly let me say that I've owned a pair of B&W P5 headphones since 2011, and I LOVE them. I own various pairs of high-end headphones, and for consumer listening - music, movies etc. - these are my absolute favorite.
However, all good things have a life span, and my P5s have become a bit worn out, although still fully functional.
So I decided to buy a new pair, and found the "recertified" version on Amazon and figured saving a few bucks for essentially the same product was a win-win.
I'd read an answered question that stated the recertified P5s came with the carrying case and both accessory cables. Nope. Instead of the swanky packaging that the brand-new product comes in, the recerts arrived in a cardboard box, no manual, no warrantee info, no case.
This on its own would not have been a deal-breaker, since I already had the case and additional iPhone accessory cable, but I was a little disappointed.
I inspected the product and discovered the leather had marks and damage, and was not in particularly good condition. Also not the end of the world, but for $200...
I plugged the recerts into my iphone and pulled up a piece of music I am intimately familiar with and checked out the audio quality. The phones sounded tinny and harsh, nothing like the P5s I'd known and loved for all those years. I demoed a few other diverse pieces of music, from bassy hiphop and dance all the way to acoustic and classical, and A-B'd the recerts with my original P5s. They sound completely different, and terrible, while my P5s sound great as always, even with worn out ear pads.
Wondering if B&W had completely changed their product, I proceeded immediately to Best Buy and checked out the B&W listening station. The phones there sounded awesome, just as I was used to experiencing with my P5s. So I just bought a brand new pair there, filed a return ticket, and am now writing this review.
The B&W P5s are amazing headphones. But do yourself a favor and buy the brand-new ones at full price. They are worth the money. If I hadn't been familiar with the product already, I'd have just thought they weren't very good, which is a shame.
Hey B&W - please stop selling these garbage recertified phones! You are doing your loyal customers a disservice. We can tell the difference! And any new consumer buying these will immediately regret their decision.
on October 18, 2010
I've owned Bang & Olufsen ear phones, Shure SE530's, and others. The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Mobile HiFi Stereo headphones are the first set that isolates, sounds great, is easy to put on and take off, and are comfortable to wear -- I mean sheepskin padded leather comfortable to wear...
Don't confuse "Noise Isolation" with "Noise Cancellation". Bose has great Noise Cancellation technology -- a little computer listens for repeating predictable "motor sounds" (like a jet engine, helicopter blade, air conditioner compressor, or other unnatural sound). The computer generates a sound wave to cancel out the motor sound. Nice for an airplane, but what about the obnoxious person in the cubicle next to you? Or the bus? Noise Cancellation won't work!
This is where you need "Sound Isolation". Up until I found the B&W P5 phones, I had to insert a foam ear bud directly into my ear canal. When someone came up to me to ask a question, I had to go through the pain of pulling out the plugs in my ears, then inserting them again and again. These headphones actually do the same job! I can't hear anything around me and they are a breeze to put on or off.
The genuine sheepskin leather ear pads are extremely comfortable. (PETA fans stay away..). Comfort and great great sound. I suggest trying these at an Apple Retail Store. You can put on a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15's (same price) and see what I am talking about (the Bose Noise Cancellation won't block out the mall noise at all..). The package includes a soft case and two connection cables (one with a 3.5mm plug for 3 circuits including microphone, and one with 2 circuits). One of the phones pads comes apart to switch between them.