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on 28 April 2014
I tested these headphones with basically the same Naim gear that I use at home and was blown away, they sounded so good.

They just produce so much detail and when playing a good 24bit download they are indescribably good, you just cannot ignore the music you are playing you get dragged right in! I was listening to a 24 bit LSO/Davis Mahler II last night and the first time the big drum was hit made me jump and the sound of the bases and the cellos was almost satanic - I was totally hypnotised.

I also plugged them into my iPad and they sounded OK on the iPad but obviously a big disappointment compared to using the Naim gear. I am not sure I would pay this sort of money to use these solely on an iPad. Not being able to play 24 bit recordings on the iPad is also a big issue and yes before you say it I do know I can actually play 24 bit recordings on an iPad but it only has a 16 bit DAC so they will be downgraded to 16 bit. A separate headphone amp did provide a small improvement but not that much.

I guess the problem is that these sounded so great on the Naim gear that downgrading to something like an iPad was gonna sound a bit of a disappointment. But don't get me wrong these were still very listenable on the iPad, in fact they sounded better than I though they would, an iPad is a small device with a lot of stuff packed in so it is reasonable to assume that the audio side ain't that great.

I think that if you are going to play these solely on an iPad, Android or similar portable then take it along to the shop for your demo, you may find that a cheaper pair of cans will sound as good. But if you also have a proper hi-fi then these could well be the cans for you.
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on 27 September 2011
I thought long and hard before buying these headphones, and did quite a bit of research because I don't want to hand over £250 of my hard earned cash without knowing I'll be happy.
And I couldn't be happier. The P5 headphones from Bowers and Wilkins are just incredible.

Before buying I did some research on the internet and these came out on top in everything I read. But I also listened to numerous different sets in the shops.
I used my noise cancelling Sony's as a benchmark and gauged from these how good other sets were. My Sony's were good but not in this league, but I was used to them so I found this a good test.
I tried the Dr Beats Studio and didn't find them a big jump over the Sony's, although they were better, but not as much as I was expecting.
I tried the P5's and had to buy them.

I found them to be far superior to my Sony's and the Beats, as well as the various Senheisers I had tried. I tried the Bose quiet comforts and they were good. But not as good as the P5's.
The sound has a richness and a depth that blows me away. You can hear the layers of music, and they give a clarity I've not heard before.
I have spent quite some time listening to the same songs on my old Sony's and my new P5's just to confirm that they really are that good. And they are. On some songs I can hear music I hadn't heard before. And on other songs, parts of the music I knew where there have been brought to life.
Like I said, the sound has an incredible depth, richness and clarity.

Everyone who has listened to them seems to agree.
Comfort wise, they are great. They are made with high quality materials and it shows. I could keep them on for several hours at a time with no discomfort.

Yes, they are expensive, but they are pure quality.
Don't be fooled by the 'cooler' Dr Dre Beats, they fail when compared to the P5's. The Bose are closer, but the P5's are, in my opinion, top of the tree in this range.
I am very happy with them.
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on 13 August 2011
Forget all the frankly irrelevant nonsense about aesthetics. The P5s are good looking and exceptionally well made, it cannot be denied, but the whole point of blowing 250 smackers on a set of headphones is - or at least should be imho - sound quality. And, judged solely by the criteria of sound quality, the P5s are the best headphones I've ever heard.

Now, it's easy to fall into the trap of writing a lot of gushing, fawning drivel about a really excellent product, but in this case it might just be excusable; the P5s are simply exceptional. I mean really, really, really exceptional. Plenty of bass, treble that can easily induce a nosebleed, in short the kind of reproduction that makes grown men weep.

The best headphones? Dunno, never tried 'phones costing over a grand so can't say. The best headphones under £[]? No question. And they *do* look superb...
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on 19 September 2012
I am what could be addressed to as an audiophile and I have owned or tried a number of headphones in my life. Grados, Sennheisers, AKGs, Beyrdynamics, Shures, Denons, Boses and many others. I must say that some of the headphones I owned or tried sounded better than these b&w (not by a lot though), but I have never come across this combination of sound quality and portability. I currently own a pair of Sennheiser hd650 and no, these don't sound as good as those, but these can be plugged into just anything and can be used to go jogging or on the train, whereas the Sennheisers can't. I also have a glorious pair of Denon ah-d2000s and in my opinion these b&w compete, with regards to sound quality, to those. Maybe the soundstage on the b&w is a bit smaller but then again the mids are better on the b&w, so I'd say it's a tie overall. But again, the Denons are huge and cannot, by ant means, be used on the go.

Bottom line: Full size headphones have always been on a different league in comparison with portable headphones. These B&W P5s, however, are such an amazing combination of sound quality and portability you will think that the gap between these two types of headphones is not as wide as it was in the past.
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The Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones show the rest of the world what headphones should be like. They are very expensive for headphones; but they do deliver on both the quality and audio fronts. All the materials in the headphones are tactile and feel excellent - from the steel surrounds to the leather of the ear cups. The P5's feel as well constructed as you might expect from B&W- very robust and the supplied pouch is not only padded; but quilted.

If you are looking for a set higher end headphones then these will be a treat for your ears inside and out. The P5's are comfortable to wear - unlike my Etymotic headphones there isn't anything stuck into my ear canal and unlike the bose quietcomforts I don't feel like my head is being compressed and the sheepskin leather on the earcups is so very soft. The downside to this is they do fall off if you lean too far forward or backward.

In the box are two cables; one so you can use it as a headset with an iPhone and one without the microphone; these slot into sockets behind the magnetically attached ear cups. Once plugged in the music that comes from them is flat with little preference shown to base or trebble - but it sounds so very warm which i unusual for headphones which tend to sound more compressed to my ears (and I have Etymotic Research ER-4P Portable In-Ear Earphones for when i am walking around.)

The B&W P5's try best to reduce ambient noise- but its passive not active so for use on a plane you are still better with some noise cancelling headphones unless you are happy reaching for the volume controller. At home or once you are at your destination though they are far better sounding and feeling than the Bose QuietComfort® 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones which you may be looking at.
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on 4 February 2011
I got tired of wearing my Shure in-ear 'phones (uncomfortable, kept falling out etc) and so found I wasn't listening to music on the move anymore. I have owned a pair of these P5s for a couple of months and have been extremely impressed. Sound quality is awesome and they are extremely comfortable. Net result is that I'm listening to loads more music again!

Tip: Audio source iPhone: although the P5s do go loud enough without additional amplification, you'll notice quite a difference in depth of sound and won't be pushing the iPhone volume right up if you pair the P5s with a Fiio E5 Headphone Amplifier.
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on 25 February 2012
I have long wondered why people are happy to part with £200, £300 or £400 for a Mp3 player, phone or media device yet are quite happy to use the free and often dreadful bundled earphones. The B&W P5's offer the most convincing argument yet for why you should upgrade, from freebies and from any headphones under £100, in my opinion.

I have had these headphones for just over a year now and I have loved them from the moment I took them out of their snazzy box. After owning many pairs of earphones ranging from £15 to £65 I finally decided I wanted a pair that would last me forever and would make the most out of my Sony X series MP3 player. I auditioned Bose models and the infamous Beats by Dre. I enjoyed the sound these created, and thought they looked good. However after trying the B&W P5's nothing came close. The Beats felt plasticy, showy and the sound was base heavy in comparison. The Bose models turned me off with the need for batteries for the active noise cancellation to work. The P5's however felt luxurious with the milled aluminium and the sheep's leather, the build quality is faultless and the design made them very effective at blocking external noise. I felt that I could see, feel and hear where my £250 was going, in a way that I couldn't with the alternatives.

I loved the look and the feel along with features such as the magnetic and detachable ear cups, which can be replaced if warn-out. It also allows access to the cable and this is one of the features that really made me want these. I have had countless earphones and headphones cables break, snagged on all manner of things. This is especially common when out and about listening to an MP3 player. The last thing I wanted was to spend a huge amount of money on headphones only for the cable to break at some point rendering them useless. This has been tackled by B&W, the cable can be easily replaced and in fact two different cables are provided in the box.

What about the sound? Its simply fantastic! What more can I say? Go and try them out you wont regret it. Some have said the base is a touch heavy, I don't believe this is the case. Although this may be down to the EQ setting I use on my MP3 player. Its no exaggeration to say that when I listened to well know songs through these it felt like listening to them for the first time, it was a real revelation. The sound is clear, balanced the instrument separation is fantastic, I could go on, however it would be easier if you just went and tried a pair as I did. (Try your local Apple store)

Simply put I love these, there are fantastic in every respect, and to those who think they cost too much I say where is the logic in upgrading your phone, Ipod or MP3 player every few years only to use cheap headphones? These will last you a life time, a one off purchase that will enhance future purchases for years to come.
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on 15 March 2011
I was lucky enough to be given a pair of these headphones when they first came out. I've owned Sennheisers, AKGs and Beyers, but the P5s are probably the best headphones I've ever owned. Two signs of how good they are: my wife (no geeky audiophile, but a real music lover) asked for some for Christmas after using mine. She never asks for anything like this. It's normally clothes or jewellery! Then at the other end of the scale, a BBC radio producer and voice-over artist friend asked for part payment for a piece of work she did for me with a pair of these headphones (after borrowing my P5s for a field recording). Everyone loves them because they're just stunning. Clear, detailed sound, well made and beautifully designed.
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VINE VOICEon 4 October 2010
Just to echo everyone else, these sound tremendous, are a great build (apart from the slightly flimsy feeling lead) and sit well on the ear to block out ambient sound passively.

I have a reasonable MP3 source (a Cowon D2) and music sounds wonderful - I don't need to turn up the volume as high as previous headphones and I keep discovering new details in live performances.

What most surprised me though is how much better audio drama sounds (e.g. Big Finish Dr Who) and the depth in the simple human voice revealed by these is staggering.

As someone who was slowly saving up for the dearer Bose I am very pleased that I found these instead.

Yes they are dear, but you pays your money and you takes your choice
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on 11 July 2011
When it comes to pedigree in producing audio equipment it doesn't get much better than B&W - after all, the world-famous Abbey Road studios have relied on B&W equipment for over 20 years. With a history of producing speakers of the very highest quality, consistently praised for their natural, 'authentic' sound reproduction, these headphones have a lot to live up to. Are they worth it? In a word, yes, largely because in addition to awesome clarity and range they are impressively natural sounding and boast the exceptional levels of audio fidelity that B&W are reknowned for.

The first thing that you will notice when you pick up a pair of these is the high-quality feel of the soft lambs' leather/metal design - these are a seriously tactile pair of cans. Combined with the classic approach to their design these 'phones ooze class, grace and a timeless elegance. More impressive is how comfortable they are to wear; I'd never been a big fan of on-ear headphones, preferring to go with around ear, but thanks in part to the memory foam padding the earpads provide a nice seal around the ear canals, blocking out a surprising amount of ambient noise, whilst not gripping your head like a vice, although they hold firmly enough that they won't be dislodged by regular movement. The result is hours upon hours of stationary or on-the-go wearability. However, it is definitely worth spending a few moments experimenting with earpad positioning to get optimum sound - I found that they needed to be slightly further back on my ears than, say, a pair of Sennheiser HD238s.

But who buys headphones to keep their ears canals warm, look at or be seen in (cynical fingerpointing at Beats by Dr Dre aside)? The bottom line is that even if you hate the look of the P5s it's almost impossible to be disappointed by the sound. Sure, they're marketed for use with iPods/iPhones but if that's all you intend to use them for you won't be doing them justice (although they will make your mp3 player of choice sound better than it has any right to sound). Hook these up to a decent source and clear your schedule. Crisp, clear vocals. Melodious, clearly defined mids. Punchy, responsive bass. Perhaps most astounding is how 'natural' and balanced they sound - this is not an accident but very much part of B&W's goal when developing these. Crucially, this means that what you're listening to is what you'll hear and thus they perform equally well when used to listen to more or less any genre of music (I haven't tried with Mongolian Throat Singing but they do compel you to experiment...!). The flip side is that you may discover that your 128kbps mp3s simply have to go.

As a counter example, some manufacturers (I'll name no names) integrate various bass boosting technologies to augment that low-down punch. However, as this is an 'artificial' measure you'll find that basslines which move around a lot become very inconsistent - try something like In The House from the 28 Days Later soundtrack and feel the tune in the bassline disappear as it moves out of the boosted frequency range.

An important thing to note is that these are very much a closed design pair of 'phones. There are plenty of articles online which explain the difference between open and closed 'phones much better than I could, but personally I tend to find open designs seem like the sound is coming from outside whereas closed ones seem like the sound is more in my head. Closed designs do have the benefit of not broadcasting what you're listening to to the world around you quite so much as well as allowing less ambient noise in. If you are a firm fan of open designs you may want to consider something like the Bose QuietComfort 3s, although I wouldn't rush to discard the P5s. Apple Stores and John Lewis tend to have demo models - try them out.

The frequency range on these things is astonishing and helps to add further versatility to the P5's locker. Whack Star Trek XI (or whatever, I won't judge if you won't) into your chosen HD player and try to remember you're not using a subwoofer, the bass really does go down that low and with substantial grunt whilst not overpowering, drowning out or dulling the high-pitched 'ping's of phaser fire or the dialogue. Again, the balance and clarity really stand out but it's the fidelity which allows equally impressive performance with something like the Planet Earth collection.

Some miscellaneous points. The P5s come with two cables, both ending in 3.5mm jacks but one with a fully iPhone compatible mic/controller which functions in the same way as Apple's own (i.e. press once to play/pause, twice to skip forwards, etc.). The cables are slimmer than many rivals' which may initially make them feel a bit delicate but they are pretty robust - I've caught mine on a few things with no ill-effects. However, if they do get damaged replacements can be easily sourced and swapping between them is easy - lift away the magnetically attached left earpad and hook up your lead of choice. Incidentally, this design feature also means that should an earpad become damaged or worn out they can be replaced without having to buy a whole new pair of 'phones. There is also an included 1/4 inch stereo jack adapter.

The white elephant for many consumers will be the price point - should you splash around £200 (£215 at time of writing) on headphones instead of £30 on some earbuds? They're not going to be for everyone but let's just say that the performance alone justifies the price to anyone who enjoys really listening to their music. I cannot stress enough how impressively natural they sound. Sure, they may not be the trendiest of cans (red-lettered or otherwise) but you're paying for the sound... right?? However, bear in mind that if you do shell out for a pair you may quickly find yourself binning large, older chunks of your digital music collection and frantically hunting for FLACs. These headphones will make you spend more money and time on music than you had intended... and you'll love them for it.
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