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B&W P5 Hi-Fi Headphones Review  Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Hart   
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
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B&W P5 Hi-Fi Headphones Review 
Listening

Listening

One philosophical issue I have with iPods is I feel that they have made music listening too casual. Listening to music used to be an event. I’d buy the album and after I cued it up I would read the liner notes or check out the cover art while listening to the first side and really sit down and listen. CDs took some of that away as the liner notes and cover art were too small, but the music listening event was still there. The convenience of an iPod accessible music library is too compelling to ignore, and I feel B&W P5s are the vehicle to recapture that event. As I stated earlier, I have stored a majority of my CD collection in WAV, and although these are uncompressed files I can still get over 3900 songs on my 160GB iPod Classic, so I am not exactly limiting myself.

Ear Pad side viewI started off with Frogs from Alice in Chains MTV Unplugged CD. This recording I have used for years as I felt it was one of the best rock recordings I have run across for dynamics, midrange clarity, and detail. Cantrell’s guitar has a vibrant presence as each string pluck at the beginning of this tune takes on an almost three dimensional quality where it simply hangs in space slightly to the right of the soundstage where he is actually positioned within the band. Resonance and decay of the harmonics through the P5s sound more natural than through the Shure SE210s that I used regularly. The P5s definitely have a wider and more spacious soundstage, as well as a much more balanced presentation. Another quality or difference from the Shure in-ear headphones and the P5s is that the P5s sound feels roomier. I attribute part of this to the actual location of the sound source being further from the ear drum than the Shure’s, and the other part to the noise cancellation aspect of the design. And physically I can see why that would make a difference. I feel like in-ear headphones don’t let the ear breath like external head phones do, which may have a lot to do with hearing damage that we are reading more and more about.

For female vocals I used a FLAC file ripped from the DVD-Audio version of Sheryl Crow’s The Globe Sessions. This 24 bit/96 kHz file I played using my PC through the Asus Xonar soundcard capable of decoding high resolution FLAC files. The P5s did an admiral job of portraying Crow’s voice on A Difficult Kind. The slightly raspy quality of her voice floated in the dead quite backdrop the P5s allowing the tiny details to come forward, which is a hallmark of this recording. The sibilance and micro dynamics are the best I’ve heard in headphones of any kind.

Breaking Benjamin’s I Wish I May from Saturate was one of those tunes that is better the louder it gets. And on the next song, Sugarcoat, which has a nice melodic section that rips into an aural assault, showed that the P5 s can transition without any congestion or fatigue and not sacrifice the nuance when that is the requirement.

Downside


The $299.00 price tag will take the B&Ws P5 off of the radar for the casual listener simply because they won’t feel that the added performance is worth the extra cash. And the size of the P5s will not fit everybody’s life style of portability. I feel that although they are larger than in-ear sets the size is justified by the performance you get.

Top View
The MFI cable and the other standard cable are very delicate and look ready to break if you look at them too hard. Minimizing micro phonics is important to any headphone design so I understand the intent. But if you are rough with your headphones be prepared to order a replacement cable as these don’t look like they can take much abuse.

Conclusion

For me the B&W P5s were a prayer answered. A true high fidelity closed back headphone that works with the iPod met my portable listening needs perfectly. iPhone users can also spend their time wisely while waiting for that next phone call enjoying the audio quality of their recordings through the P5s. Making listening to music an event in today’s hectic lifestyle has become a reality thanks to B&Ws P5 Hi-fi headphones. Highly recommended.





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