Audio maestro Bowers & Wilkins has made its first foray into the portable-music market with the P5 'mobile hi-fi headphones'. These luxury cans sport a quirky design and noise-isolation technology, as well as an Apple-approved in-cable remote control for iPods and the iPhone 3GS. At £250, they represent a significant investment, though. Are they really good enough to earn pride of place atop your discerning noggin?
A la mode
The P5s boast a striking design. An aluminium and stainless-steel frame is covered in soft black leather, while twisted metal is entwined with a braided cable to connect the arch to the earcups. The earcups themselves are rectangular, relatively small and covered in soft leather, so that they resemble pads rather than traditional headphone cups. While many high-end headphones are comically bulky, and unfit for use in public spaces, the P5s are so small and stylish that you'll be happy to wear them out and about.
That solid metal frame means the P5s have a satisfyingly weighty feel to them, although they're compact enough so that they won't feel too heavy during use. We found they remained comfortable even during prolonged listening sessions.
The P5s sound fantastic. Bowers & Wilkins proudly states that it's implemented absolutely no sonic enhancements, which means you won't find any bass-boosting technology or suchlike here. The result is a natural and clear sound, and an incredibly faithful reproduction of the original recording.
While this level of quality will satisfy most audiophiles, some users might find the low end slightly overpowering. It's certainly not a major issue -- it's something that will come down to personal preference -- but we noticed the low-end frequencies had a slight tendency to dominate. The mid-range, however, is crystal-clear, and the treble positively sparkles. During our testing, we found the P5s produced very little distortion.
The P5's closed-back design does a good job of keeping out unwanted noise, and, while you won't be completely isolated from the outside world, it's enough to keep your attention on the music.