Bowers & Wilkins C5 review: Bowers & Wilkins C5

Other CNET editors in our anecdotal fit testing complained about the lower part of the loop pressing uncomfortably against the ridge on the lower, inside portion of the ear (the anti-tragus, for all you "Gray's Anatomy" readers). However, this reviewer didn't experience this, and found that the earphones live up to their billing as being comfortable, with an appropriately secure fit.

As for additional features, the C5 headphones come with an iPhone-compatible cable that allows you to make and end phone calls. The remote also allows you to control volume as well as jump tracks forward and back by double- or triple-clicking on the call answer/end button, while the integrated in-line mic and remote are designed for use with iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), it also works with Android smartphones. The caveat is that you won't be able to control the volume unless you download a third-party music player. Note: if you have an older iPhone such as the 3G, you also lose the ability to skip tracks forward and back.

A few words about that carrying pouch: it works fine, we have our gripes--its quilted, half-moon design gives off a strange fashionista vibe, and we ended up using a simple pouch that came with another set of earphones instead. Not a deal breaker, and your mileage may vary.

Performance
We tend to prefer earphones that carry a neutral, balanced sound and work well with all kinds of music, and the C5s are right up our alley. What's nice about them is you get rich, detailed, natural sound that delivers deep bass without over accentuating the low-end like some competing earphones.

One of the attributes of good headphones is that the sound doesn't seem stuck inside your head and feels more "open." These guys flaunt that open sound, and as CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg said, "they sound more like full-size headphones." He, too, noted their clear, clean sound, and said the C5s "revealed the 'spatial ambiance' on DJ Krush's 'Jaku' and Eno's 'On Land' albums" and "easily resolved quiet details, like the bells and reverberation cues on those two recordings."

Etymotic is another headphone manufacturer known for offering "neutral" or natural-sounding earphones and we compared the C5s to Etymotic's HF5 ($149) in-ears. Overall, the C5s are a bit more aggressive in their tones, with more detail and sizzle, while the Etymotics are more laid back. While we preferred the sound on the C5s, we also found it easier to get a seal with HF5s. The C5s are just a little more finicky in that regard.

As far as making calls with these earphones go, it works quite well--no complaints there. With a tight seal, you block out a lot of sound; people didn't seem to have a problem hearing us through the integrated mic, even when we were talking on the streets of New York where there's a lot of traffic noise.

One warning: This product bears the Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad stamp and the inline remote is designed for use only with Apple's iOS devices. In testing it with an Android smartphone, for example, the volume control on the remote did not work.

Conclusion
As you can tell from our review, we really like the detailed, rich sound of the C5s and our only hesitation from unequivocally recommending these earphones is the potential fit issues some people may experience.

With three different sized eartips to choose from, you should be able to get a tight seal from one set, and most users shouldn't have a problem with the Secure Loop design. But ears come in all different shapes and sizes, which is why we have to temper our praise and say that the Bowers & Wilkins C5s are wonderfully designed earphones with excellent sound quality--but they may not be perfect for everybody.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Bowers & Wilkins C5

Part Number: CNETFP33251

MSRP: $179.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 0.7 oz
  • Sound Output Mode stereo
  • Additional Features volume control
  • Type headphones
  • Headphones Form Factor in-ear
  • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm