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.
� The�Bowers & Wilkins�P5's sound overall is very smooth, refined with just a touch of warmth. Dynamically they are very solid, though I have heard better, however the P5's performance is all about balance where no one area is allowed to overpower or outshine another.
� While not noise canceling, the P5s are noise isolating, which I prefer for it allows you to become immersed in your music experience without the pitfalls of being completely isolated, sound wise, from the world around you.
� The P5's sound great with properly recorded music, as do most higher-end headphones, however the P5s aren't afraid of lower resolution downloads making them far more versatile for today's real world listener.
� The control device located on the P5's cable is extremely functional without being cumbersome the way other on-cable controllers can be.
� I would've liked to see the P5 come with a slightly longer cable. While long enough to wear with your portable device tucked away in your front pocket, those of you looking to hide your iPod in your back pocket or backpack may be out of luck. Thankfully you can change the cable on the P5s fairly easily, but I still would've liked to have seen a longer cable out of the box.
� The�Bowers & Wilkins�P5s, out of the box, do take a bit of time to break in and sound their best. Likewise can be said for their leather headband and ear pads. Plan on spending a few hours listening in short burst for everything to loosen up and sound just right.
While $299.95 is hardly cheap by today's standards the P5s are far from the most expensive headphones out there today. While you can definitely find headphones for cheap, they're not going to hold a candle in terms of sound quality and style to the P5 headphones from Bowers & Wilkins. Likewise, you can very easily spend more but I would question why, for the P5s sound utterly fantastic once broken in and while their maybe other headphones that do one or two things differently, on balance I'm not sure it gets better. At least I haven't heard it yet. The P5 headphones from Bowers & Wilkins are my new favorite headphones, upsetting two long time favorites from the likes of Bang & Olufsen and Sennheiser, both of which I have owned for many years. The P5's look better, sound better and simply feel better than any headphone I've had the privilege of owning for an extended period of time. I simply love these headphones.
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��Buy the B&W P5 headphones.