Bowers & Wilkins P3 review: Bowers & Wilkins P3

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars 3 user reviews

The Good Stylish looks; portable design; good sound.

The Bad Can be light on bass; a little pricey; cable feels flimsy.

The Bottom Line The Bowers & Wilkins P3s won't cave in your skull with heavy bass, but they deliver a very balanced sound with a delightfully stylish and portable design.

8.3 Overall

If you've bought yourself a shiny new iPhone and want to enjoy the best of Spotify then you're going to need to upgrade from those awful bundled earbuds.

If you fancy a pair of headphones with some class -- and you don't mind paying for them -- then Bowers & Wilkins is a good company to turn to.

The P3s are a new addition to its range, set below the existing P5s, giving you the chance to wrap high-quality B&W goodness around your head for a slightly more affordable price. They're available for £169.

Design and build quality

Bowers & Wilkins is well known for the stylish design of its products. You won't find bright red flashes of paint or angular rough steel on the P3s -- after all, such things would be considered vulgar and would never be permitted within the walls of London's better gentleman's clubs.

Instead, the P3s sport a much more mature design. They're not dissimilar to the P5s -- you can certainly spot the family resemblance anyway. Both models use earpads that sit on the ear, as opposed to around it, and both sport a brushed metal disc set into a black oblong shape. I'm very keen on the look and I felt particularly stylish walking into bars with them on. Before having to take them off to talk to my friends, of course.

The headband is somewhat slimmer on the P3s though. It's mostly made from a rubberised plastic, as opposed to the chunkier leather found on the P5s. On the underside is a soft, padded material that sits nicely against your hair. Unlike the P5s, the earpads fold inwards to make them easier to store away in your bag if you don't want them hanging around your neck like an expensive necklace.

Bowers & Wilkins P3 from above
You won't suffer sweaty-ear syndrome with these comfortable pads.

As they sit on the ear, they don't form quite as tight a seal, resulting in less passive sound isolation than you'd find on headphones like the Sony MDR-ZX600. I found that they were able to block out quiet traffic in London's leafy suburbs, but I had to ramp the volume up quite high in order to properly hear my music when riding the underground into CNET Towers.

The P3s are quite comfortable. The material on the pads don't make your ears all hot and sweaty like some leather models can and the headband is easily flexible so it doesn't feel like it's trying to squeeze your skull. I found I was able to wear them for several hours at a time before needing to give my ears a rest.

They're also as well built as you'd expect a Bowers & Wilkins product to be. I gave them a good beating with my aggressive tech-destroying hands and was left very satisfied that they could put up with some punishment.

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