Bowers & Wilkins P5 review: Bowers & Wilkins P5

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Typical Price: $499.00
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

5 stars 5 user reviews

The Good Luxury build and styling. Even-handed yet exciting sound. Replaceable cables with iPhone mic.

The Bad Flimsy cable easily broken. Treble can become harsh.

The Bottom Line The Bowers & Wilkins P5 are an excellent set of headphones; however, the detachable cable is a problem.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.3 Overall

British company Bowers & Wilkins (or how it's more commonly known, B&W) has been making high-end speakers since Dr Phil started wearing long pants. Only in the past couple of years has the company dabbled in multimedia, but it has done so with great success: both of the Zeppelins and the MM-1 computer speakers are high quality products.

The P5 is B&W's biggest departure from its formula yet, in that it is the company's first set of headphones. Yet, true to the company's ethos, the set exudes a luxury look and feel. The headphones boast excellent build quality, with metal accents and a comfortable fit. The P5s are passive, noise-isolating models that are designed for use on the move and for at-home listening. The fit is tight, but very comfortable, meaning the minimum of outside noise leaks through. We didn't get any problems with ear sweats while using them.

The P5s come with a removable cable design, and this is where its problems begin. While the internal cable running between the ear pieces is covered in a protective cloth, the detachable cables are flimsy. So flimsy in fact that we broke the jack on the first day of use. As the cable connects inside the headpiece you won't be able to use an aftermarket cable as it will be too thick to fit.

But if you do manage to break one cable there are two in the box: a normal stereo cable, and a three-pole design with an attached mic for use with the iPhone.

For closed, noise-isolating phones there isn't an emphasis on bowel-gurgling bass as with the competitive Bose On-Ears. The sound is very even-handed, and gives you the requisite amount of detail you'd expect for the price.

These are what you could describe as very detailed headphones, but on occasion all this extra detail can mean there is some harshness in the treble. Something intentionally abrasive like The Flaming Lips' Embryonic disc can become quite tiring after a while. That said, the headphones are at home with most styles of music, but can be particularly exciting with the right rock or dance track.

The B&W P5's are very good headphones, with an exquisite build that doesn't look too ridiculous when worn out on the street. It's just a pity that the thin rubber cable and jack are so delicate and hard to replace.

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