Bowers & Wilkins, makers of some of the finest home theater and audiophile loudspeakers the world over have come on strong as of late with a host of mobile and iPod friendly products like the P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones reviewed here. Retailing for $299.95 and available at Apple stores nationwide the P5's are hardly what you'd call cheap, however they're not cheap sounding either. Wading into battle against the likes of Bang & Olufsen, Monster's Beats by Dre and even Sennheiser the P5's are arguably the best looking of the bunch, featuring a design style that is equal parts modern and retro for a wholly stylish combination.
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The P5s are a noise isolating design featuring two 40-millimeter dynamic drivers made from lightweight Mylar and Neodynium magnets for a reported frequency response of 10Hz to 20kHz into a 26-Ohm load. The P5s are exquisitely finished in black sheep skin leather with brushed silver and aluminum accents. The P5's ear cushions are made from memory foam and can be changed easily for improved comfort over the life of the headphones. The P5s, while large, weigh a scant 195 grams or less than half of a pound for a fit that is extremely comfortable and non-fatiguing during extended listening sessions.
The P5s are Apple approved and have been designed with today's Apple enthusiast in mind, working in harmony with the entire line up of Apple portable devices including the iPhone and iPad. The attached cable features an Apple device controller, which allows you to change the volume on your attached Apple device without having to reach for it. Also, the device controller acts as a microphone for iPhone users meaning you can go ahead and take that incoming call without having to remove your P5 headphones.
Lastly, the P5s fold flat and can be tucked away into their included carrying case, which looks as upscale as the P5s themselves with its quilted finish and magnetic clasp. For users wanting to listen to the P5s on devices other than an iPod, the P5s come with a quarter inch jack adapter as well.
But how do they sound?
In a word-brilliant. While some headphone manufacturers rely on noise canceling technology and bass boosters to recreate true full-range sound in a headphone design, the P5 utilizes none of that. The P5's sound is rich, full-bodied with just a hint of warmth that makes them suited for a wide variety of musical genres. The P5's smooth, refined demeanor also allows them to play nice with today's lower resolution downloads like the ones found on Apple's own iTunes. The P5's bass reproduction is taut and surprisingly deep all the while sounding very natural without the need for digital trickery or artificial boost that, to my ears, never works. The P5's midrange, a headphone staple, is pure Bowers & Wilkins and its high frequency performance is shockingly smooth and extended and never fatiguing. Over a three-hour listening period with my iTunes set to shuffle I didn't experience any listener fatigue both in terms of the P5's sound as well as their fit and finish.
• The P5 headphones look every bit as good as they sound and are far more upscale and able to be worn for longer periods of time than most, if not all, of the competition.