The P7 has been sent by Bowers & Wilkins but this has had no effect on the review.
The box. Classic Bowers & Wilkins.
The P7 is $100 more than the P5 at $400. It’d be hard pressed to find anyone say they’re a “bargain” but I won’t let anyone call them overpriced. The level of craftsmanship on the P7 is significantly better than its competition such as the B&O H6. You really have to hold the P7 in person to appreciate how substantial and well built it is.
As usual, Bowers & Wilkins has used stainless steel for the headphone’s folding mechanism. The tolerances will make an Apple product envious and the finish is flawless.
There is a clear design lineage between the P5 and P7. I prefer the P5’s silver logo plate though; never been a fan of black anodized aluminum.
Like the P5, the P7 is almost completely wrapped in luscious sheep’s leather. The quality of stitching it top notch too.
Bowers & Wilkins has opted for a more durable audio jack and thicker cable for the P7 than the P5. It’s a great improvement but I would still like to see an L-shaped connector.
Even the built-in remote is well made on the P7. Puts B&O to shame.
The headphones have a folding mechanism for portability. The hinge feels durable and has a nice locking feedback.
A pretty well made carrying case is included in the box. The flap is magnetic.
Like the P5, the ear cups are held on magnetically and reveal the removable audio cable. Cables are always the first to fail on headphones so this is a great thing to have.
Comfort has been a key issue for Bowers & Wilkins headphones in the past. Everyone I know who owns the P3 found them uncomfortable for extended use. The P5 scored highly on comfort but being on-ear headphones, aren’t glasses friendly. I am happy to report that I’ve had no issues wearing the P7 for extended periods. There’s a catch though…
To create the tightest seal possible, Bowers & Wilkins added a lot of clamping force to the headphones. They have a tight hold but the cushions have just enough give to prevent discomfort. For most people with small to average sized heads, the P7 should feel fine. If your head's any bigger though, the pressure might be a bit too much. In terms of comfort, the B&O BeoPlay H6 is still my favorite.
Despite the tight fit and closed-back design, the P7 unfortunately has average sound isolation. They’re not noise canceling headphones but I found myself hearing a bit too much ambient noise while working at cafés.
Acoustically, the P7 could be my favorite headphones I’ve ever used. The sound is energetic while maintaining a good level of precision and balance. The headphones have a slightly earthy and dark sound – a result of their slightly forward mids. Regardless of this, treble performance is fantastic with lots of detail. I had initially sensed a bit of harshness in the highs but I think it was either a misjudgment or cured with burn-in.
I found the soundstage to be average for closed headphones. Bass response is just right with good low/mid-bass punch without overpowering anything else. Overall, the sound is warm, detailed and forgiving to a large genre of music.
If you have $400 and want to buy a nice looking pair of headphones, you have two primary choices: the Bowers & Wilkins P7 or the B&O BeoPlay H6. My advice? Go with the P7. The H6 does a wonderful job of producing surgically accurate sound with a generally light profile. It’s an interesting exercise in headphone design but for everyday enjoyment, the P7 does a much better job.
The P7’s sound is just as precise but has just the right amount of low-end emphasis to create a punchy, captivating sound. Other than the wider sound stage, I can’t really come up with anything else that makes the H6 a better choice. The P7 looks even better once you consider its far better craftsmanship and build quality.
The next question that might be on your mind is how the P7 compare against the P5. The P7’s sound is more accurate while the P5 prefers to be more in-your-face with very forefront mids/lows. Overall, the P7 sounds more understated than the P5, which in my books gives it a slight superiority. If you're contemplating on which of these to buy, the decision will come down to which form factor you prefer.
If you have $400 to spend on over-the-ear headphones, this is the way to go. Bowers & Wilkins is rapidly proving themselves as the most capable consumer audio brand. If you want great sound, high craftsmanship and attention to detail, it'll be hard to find a manufacturer that'll fulfill your needs better. I use the C5 on the go, the P7 at work, and the MM-1 at home and I've never been happier.
Introducing MM Score.
This is the first post to use a numeric scoring system. These are things that I look for in a product before purchase. The maximum score possible is a 10. It should be noted that "Aesthetic beauty" a purely subjective value.
Aesthetic beauty 6.5
Engineering advancement 8.5
Precision and craft 9.5
Fulfillment of intended function 9