Bowers & Wilkins P5 Review


I’m a bit late to the party here but I finally decided to buy a Bowers & Wilkins P5. They are $300 and quite easy to find. I picked them up at my local Apple Store.


The P5 are headphones without true competition. I can't think of a single pair of headphones that have the same balance of build quality, design and relatively balanced sound. These are neither studio or fashion headphones. They’re eerily similar to my Sony RX1 - they’re in a class by themselves. 


The packaging. The headphones sit on a fabric covered tray. Extremely well executed but unnecessarily fancy. 


The contents, knolled. B&W provides two cables, one with an Apple compatible remote and one without.


The quilted pouch closes magnetically. The headphones don’t fold up but they still have a small footprint inside the case.


The P5 is a perfect example of beauty created through functional design and honest materials. Every component has a function and have been constructed with excellent materials.


Simple and honest. You can instantly tell that these guys are committed to creating a listening experience, not just a superficial fashion accessory. The headphones are completely covered with insanely supple sheep’s leather and garnished by supremely finished aluminum. Nothing feels cheap here.


Bowers & Wilkins products always have a very unique aesthetic. They’re not hyper modern like B&O but aren’t really retro like Grado either. Either way, there’s no doubt that these are attractive - and most importantly, attractive when worn. There are too many headphones that are designed on paper without context to the head. These form beautifully around the scull and make a tasteful statement.


The P5’s headphone pads are removable and mounted magnetically. Notice the blue foam inside the pads. The foam in combination with the sheep’s leather creates surprisingly good sound isolation during listening. These aren’t Bose Quiet Comforts but it’s enough for most normal scenarios.


One of my favorite features - the removable audio cable. The cables are always the first to fail on headphones so this is a nice insurance. The jack gently lifts up to make the jack easier to unplug.


The B&W P5 sound brilliant. They sound relatively flat compared to more “casual” headphones but are more punchy than reference headphones like my Shure SRH840. I adore the fact that the P5 has this balance - it’s what makes them so compelling. These aren’t for snobbish listening for audiophiles but they’re also not just about style like Beats. They’re for someone that appreciates music and want’s something that can be enjoyed everyday and anywhere. This isn’t a Ferrari super car but it’s also not a utilitarian Honda. This is Porsche. Able to be driven everyday but with plenty of legitimate performance. At $300, they aren’t cheap but it’s not too bad when you consider the beautiful construction. There are plenty of $500+ headphones that are built worse than these.


If I were to be a bit more descriptive, the P5 have a largely flat and even sound with an emphasis on the midrange. It’s butter smooth and a pleasure to experience. The sound is very warm, making it ideal for extended listening periods. I’ve spent all day listening to them without sound fatigue. These headphones have a serious issue though - they’re not for people with glasses. As with most tighter-sealing on-ear headphones, these end up pushing your ears against your glasses. The soft padding doesn’t do much help and the P5 become painful to wear after two hours. I sadly returned them.


I’ve heard that the Bowers & Wilkins P3 offer better comfort for people with glasses but they lack the luscious leather, sound isolation, and don't sound quite as good. I absolutely love the P5 and it pained me to return them. If you don’t wear glasses, please go out and buy them. For me.

Meanwhile, I think I may try out the P3.