1. Are you ready for the Galaxy S20? Here is everything we know so far!

Review of Bowers & Wilkins B&W P5 Series 2 on-ear premium headphones w/lots of pics!

Discussion in 'Android Accessories' started by twister6, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. twister6

    twister6 Android Expert
    Thread Starter

    This is a review of Bowers & Wilkins P5 (updated Series 2) on-ear premium portable headphones. Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 headphones

    When it comes to B&W headphones, they are considered to be among the top brands combining quality and performance with a true luxury. I think it's a very important point to make because I came across a number of other headphones with luxurious looks from a distance where upon a closer encounter you feel plastic and pleather. With Bowers & Wilkins you will pay a reasonable premium, but you will also know exactly what you are paying for once you hold it in your hands. I typically don't start my review with a talk about the luxury and the price, but I felt compelled to do this because B&W P5 Series 2 really stands out from most of the other on-ear and over-ear I have tested in the past. Here is why.

    Actually, let me reiterate the last statement because unboxing on-ear P5 felt like a deja vu since I already had a pleasure to test and to review its bigger brother: over-ear P7. The P5 model I had an opportunity to review is actually an updated Series 2 version, and because I didn't have a chance to listen to the first gen P5, I will review it without comparison to the original one. But regardless of this deja vu feeling, it's still a very exciting experience to take a cover of the hard carton black box which from the start sets a "formal attire" tone.

    Under the cover you have a form fitting tray with P5 sitting flat thanks to 90 degree rotated earcups. Unlike P7 which folds inward of the headband for storage to occupy smaller footprint, P5 has the ability to rotate its earcups 90 deg for a flat storage. In my opinion, flat storage is more practical for traveling since it lays flat without putting too much stress on the joints when inside of your luggage. To assist you in traveling, P5 comes with a very unique padded quilted soft storage bag, though you have to be very secure in your masculinity since it does look like a make-up purse (an actual comment from my wife). But either way, it's definitely a luxurious "designer" type of a carry case which goes along with a whole luxurious design of these headphones. In addition to a very educational booklet, the only other included accessory is a second set of audio only cables.

    The second set of cables is a replacement for an original removable cable which comes with in-line remote/mic. I know B&W is very clear to point out this is iPod/iPhone/iPad specific remote, but in reality only volume up/down controls are unique to iOS devices. Multi-function button in the middle works PERFECTLY with all the common Android phones from Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and some others where single click performs Play/Pause/Call, double click to skip next, triple click to skip prev, and long press to start Google NOW. Mic portion of the remote is very adequate for taking calls and typically works great to pick up your voice without a problem. In a noisy environment sometime you have to bring up mic a little closer to your mouth.

    Unlike other headphones with a removable cables, B&W P5 (similar to P7) has a proprietary cable with a standard 3.5mm on the side going to your audio source and 2.5mm angled connector hidden inside of the left earcup. It's really a clever design which makes a cable attachment to earcup look like it has a hardwired seamless connection. To get to the connector you remove magnetically attached earpad to access internal 2.5mm plug. Actually, right side earpad is magnetically attached as well for an easy replacement. It's a similar design used in P7, and I do want to comment about being careful if you have sharp nails not to damage the leather since these magnets are quite strong. The cable itself feels strong yet thin, has a round shape, and feels soft. Also, due to a construction with a removable connection inside of the earcup, I didn't sense any microphonics effect.

    Similar to earpads where a leather covers soft memory foam, the back of earcups also have a leather material covering around the sides with a black brushed metal plate in the middle and etched "Bowers & Wilkins" name. Earcup is attached on one side to a solid curved chrome metal double wire that waves into the headband. Beside previously mentioned 90 degree rotation, earcup also have some degree of tilt to adjust to your ears/head shape. The headband is leather wrapped and has a soft foam padding on the inner side. The whole construction feel very solid, and headband adjustment is buttery smooth while still requiring a little bit of force so it doesn't slide out loosely. Out of the box, similar to P7, clamping force is a bit tight and requires some break in period. After a few days it felt more comfortable while still offering an excellent sound isolation. Regarding sound isolation, you do have to be realistic this is on-ear design which can't be compared to over-ear like P7, so you should still expect to hear outside noise though with a decent attenuation.

    I guess by now I established a point where these look like a million bucks, or maybe a few dollars less since I made the same comment about P7, and P5 is just a scaled down version of it :) So how do these sound? The sound signature is balanced warm with L-shaped emphasis - yes, the bass here is phenomenal!!! At the same time, though bass quantity is enhanced, mids are balanced without perception of being too recessed. The sound feels very analog, almost like you are listening to actual speakers, but it required a good 20hrs of burn in since out of the box it had too much of mid-bass bloat which settled down nicely afterwards. Ironically, B&W is well known for their speaker products so I have a feeling their design/sound engineers use a lot of that reference when it comes to headphones.

    In more detailed analysis, low end has a textured sub-bass rumble that can put a smile even on a basshead face, and an aggressive punch of the fast mid-bass. After burn-in, bass became very tight and more controlled with just a slight hint of spilling into lower mids. But in no way does it over powers the mids. Mids are clear, very smooth and warm with a lush delivery of vocals. They tend to be a bit too smooth which could affect some retrieval of details, but still have a good definition and clarity. I think a lot of it also has to do with how bright or dark your audio source is, where a brighter sound could give a better perception of the details. Treble is smooth as well, feels a bit rolled off, and without a hint of harshness or sibilance. Soundstage is average in width and depth, though gets enhanced with a proper amping. This is typical for on-ear model, where over-ear P7 had an edge in soudstage width.

    Since I have been mentioning P7 in comparison reference, I figured to summarize it with a few other headphones. Going back to P7, I can hear a lot of similarities when it comes to low end, but P5 mids sound more forward while P7 treble has more extension. Also due to over-ear fitment of P7, they have a better isolation and wider/deeper soundstage. Also, P5 is a little less efficient and required on average 10 more volume clicks. Comparing to on-ear Beyer T51p, P5 bass felt deeper and had a bit more quantity, while T51p Tesla drivers delivered more low end details. When it comes to mids, T51p is more recessed and less clear/detailed. Comparing to V-Moda XS, P5 bass is head'n'shoulders above XS, while upper mids/lower treble is brighter and harsher in XS. P5 also has a better isolation.

    Overall, I found B&W P5 performance and design to be of an exceptional quality. I can't compare the original P5 to the updated P5 Series 2 which I have reviewed here, but I had a chance to read a technical paper regarding new Series 2 which lists a significant amount of internal improvements including everything from an updated driver (based on P7 design) to a new speaker plate and ear cup enclosure with an updated type and amount of damping material, and even a new ear cushion/padding. It almost sounds like a brand new headphone! It's still not a match to overtake a throne from their flagship P7 model, which is not an intention of this model to begin with, but they did an excellent job to align them in terms of technology and design. This could also mean that in a future we might see P7 Series 2. But at the current moment if you want to spoil yourself with a luxury and have a budget of $300 or you can stretch your budget to reach this goal, and if you are craving some serious bass performance with clarity of mids and smoothness of top end - B&W P5 Series 2 is a serious contender in this category. For those who are looking for a reference audiophile sound or super isolation while riding public transportation, these might not be their cup of tea. But if you want a "modern" audiophile fun sound when you are on the go or traveling - give them a serious consideration!

    Here are the pictures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     



    1. Download the Forums for Android™ app!


      Download

       
Loading...

Share This Page

Loading...