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B&W P5 Hi-Fi Headphones Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
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B&W P5 Hi-Fi Headphones Review

ImageBack in my jaded days of audiophilia I can remember clearly discounting the iPod as any serious means by which to listen to music. Sure, they were convenient and sure you could put a lot of songs on them but at what price. I knew the answer as I had heard music ripped to the mp3 format with even more jaded ears and pronounced them unfit. Done, game over. It’s ok for kids but…I have since lightened up quite a bit but I am still not willing to compromise too much on certain things and sound quality is one of them.

I finally bowed to the iPod phenomena only because I was given the ability to control the quality of the format I used to store my music. I bought the 160 GB iPod Classic and ripped my CD collection to WAV files, which was acceptable. But using the supplied ear buds was like putting Big O tires on a Corvette. What is the point? No bass, less than stellar fit and mass market sound that negated the effort I went into preserve the quality of the files I was listening to. I explored dozens of options for earphones and settled out of exasperation for a pair of Shure SE210s in-ear headphones because I really couldn’t find what I wanted that would play on the iPod and I was not going to pay a lot of money if it wasn’t what I wanted, so I parted with my $110.00 and waited for the right solution to come along.

The in-ear style ear phones are not everybody’s choice but again they are very portable and you can get decent sound provided you’re willing to pay a little more than the cost of the player. What I wanted though was a full sized closed back design. The problem was that the iPod couldn’t drive a big set of headphones and I was not willing to pay for a headphone amp in order to get the big sets benefits. As luck would have it B&W offers a product that seems ideally suited to my type of listening and happens to be iPod and iPhone compatible in the P5 Mobile Hi-fi headphones. It would seem my search was over.

Closeup leather view


The B&W P5s are designed pretty much for the Apple players although they can be used for other players, which is why the P5s come with 2 connection cables, one of which is the MFI cable that takes advantage of the latest iPhone and iPods so you can change tracks and control the volume using the buttons on the cable. For iPhones there is also a built in microphone near these buttons so you can take that important call as well.

The heart of the B&W P5 Mobile headphones is the two 40mm diameter drivers that utilize ultra-linear Neodymium magnets. With optimized Mylar diaphragms the P5 frequency range is on the order of 10Hz to 20 kHz and has a sensitivity of 115bB/V at 1 kHz. The noise cancellation aspect of the closed back design works surprising well. This helps to keep your music as unadulterated as possible and is said to preserve enough ambient sound to give the listener a sense of space. I found that after about 100 hours of operation that the drivers loosened up nicely and produced a more relaxed and a more complex sound than I heard when I first listened to the P5s, so if you like them right out of the box it only gets better.

Side View

The quality of the materials used for the P5s sets it apart immediately. You would expect that from a company that, arguably, makes some of the finest loudspeakers in the world, and the P5s maintain B&Ws reputation in that regard. The eye is immediately drawn to the brushed aluminum outer cases which sport the Bowers & Wilkins name tastefully embossed on the lower portion of the case. The smooth movement of the swivel allows the New Zealand leather wrapped ear pads to properly and effortlessly align to your ear or lay flat so you can store them in the supplied carry pouch. The memory foam under the leather completes the interface to your ear. The leather wrapped headband adjusts with the right amount of tension so that you don’t have to fight it to extend or retract the ear pad for a better fit.

The ear padding and headband give the P5s a very comfortable fit, although I felt the fit was more comfortable after a couple hours of use. A small quibble is that it is not readily apparent which is the left or right hand side, which after some searching I found that they are marked on the ear pad pivot. A nice touch is the quilted looking carrying case that has an inner pouch for the standard or MFI cable and the included ¼” jack adapter so you can use the P5s with your home audio gear.


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