1. Kyle Matthews's Avatar


    We took a look at Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones a couple years back, and today are checking out their updated version - the P5 Series 2.

    Company

    Bowers & Wilkins, or B&W as they're generally referred to, have been around since 1966 making high-end audio equipment. Back then, it was John Bowers and his buddy Roy Wilkins, handcrafting speakers in the back of an electronics shop. They're a British company, based in Worthing, England (West Sussex) - and really, if you aren't already familiar with B&W, you probably aren't an audio enthusiast.



    In the Box

    Much like the original P5, the box is a matte black with a photo of the headphones on it (B&W's clean design ethic starts at the box, finishes on the ear), and inside has the P5s as your first view, nestled in a black molded bit of packaging. The standard black B&W carrying bag is also included in the box, and protects your phones while they're tossed in a backpack or carryon.

    There is also a 1/4 inch adapter and a separate cable which doesn't have the iPod/iPhone volume/mic inline. The default cable for the P5 does work as a mic, and has plus/minus buttons for volume - feel free to take a call on these. In our testing, calls sounded fine on both ends.

    Design



    The P5 Series 2 are brilliant pieces of design, visually nearly matching the first series (although big updates are in the driver - more on that in the Audio section). Created using aluminum and sheep's leather, they are extremely soft on the ear (I wore them on a long plane ride without ever needing to take them off). The phones fold flat to slide into the included carrying bag.

    The ear pads are held in place by magnets, so they're easy to remove for replacing a cable or repairs if they get damaged. You can keep these for years - B&W sells just the pads on their own. They extend as you'd expect for accurate sizing, and the look is understated and sharp. The Bowers & Wilkins name is raised on the outside of each ear pad, with a brushed black underneath.

    Mic and headphones are included on the cable, and work well for taking calls when plugged into my iPhone. I noticed on a couple calls the listener had an easier time hearing me when I moved the mic closer, although others didn't notice any issue. All around, these are great looking headphones which travel well and hold up to simple falls and being shoved in a bag.



    Sound



    Of the original P5s I said "These are probably the best over-the-ear headphones I've personally used." The Series 2 have an all new drive unit, and the clarity and brilliance of sound is even better.

    I am a fan of the punchy, accurate bass and vocals which sound like they're sitting next to you. I've loved the P5 headphones these past couple years, and the improvement in the Series 2 makes for an even cleaner sound and nuanced improvements in quality. Their volume is great, but you're paying for accuracy and clarity here. B&W knows good sound.

    Noise isolation means you're hearing very little ambient noise - and are able to hear nuances in the recordings you probably missed with your old headphones. These are not noise canceling - those are two different things. Noise canceling headphones need an external power source (battery) to generate a frequency which trick your ears and essentially cancel out a lot of mid-frequency sounds (airplane engines, ocean roar, etc). They also require you to have your volume very high to hear quiet passages of sound. Noise isolating (which the P5 Series 2 are) basically seal off the ear from outside sound (some by being in-ear, these by forming to the ear with memory foam) and only allow a small amount of ambient sound in. The P5 Series 2, like the originals, are passively powered (by your device, not an external source), and give you much more clarity in the subtleties of your audio recordings. This also gives your ear less fatigue, making it easier to listen longer.

    Overall

    If you use headphones a lot and dig high end sound, buy these headphones. I've used the original P5s for a couple years, and the Series 2 bring an even better sound quality to already brilliant headphones. They remain my favorite on-ear headphones.

    They're $299.95 on Apple.com - $0.04 more on Bowers & Wilkins own site.

    We're giving the Series 2 a 5 leaves rating - our highest. Great job, again, B&W - these are even better headphones than their predecessors.

    Last edited by Kyle Matthews; 2014-11-10 at 11:13 PM.
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    2014-11-10 11:01 PM
  2. Lawrence Coleman's Avatar
    Great headphones but you pay for it
    Having owned Shure, Klipsh, Sony, Etymotic, and Bose headphones/earbuds in the past, these are the best sounding headphones I've owned.
    2015-11-28 04:51 PM
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