Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 review: A premium on-ear headphone that looks the same but sounds even better

The haze that softened details of the P5's midrange and treble has lifted. Don't worry, this new model doesn't have so much extra zip that it becomes fatiguing, but cymbals and percussion now have more "air" and shimmer. (Switching back to the P5 taps down the sparkle, which makes it feel a little dull).

The P5 still sounds sweet and full-bodied, while the P5 Series 2 is a bit leaner. As for the bass, the new model reveals more shadings and texture in the low-end (we came to this realization while listening to some Bob Marley tracks). The new headphone's sound also seems more natural and accurate.

The headphones comes with a carrying case and an extra cable. Sarah Tew/CNET

The P5 Series 2 was doing everything right, so we wondered how it would it stacked up against the P7 , Bowers and Wilkins current flagship headphone (which, curiously, did not get a "Series 2" upgrade for 2014). That model produces a larger, more open soundstage the sound seems a little less stuck inside your head.

Aside from that more open quality and the P7's slight edge in its resolution of fine detail, the two Bowers and Wilkins models sounded similar and share the same sound DNA.

The earpieces adhere magnetically. Sarah Tew/CNET

For our final comparison, we put the P5 Series 2 up against the Grado SR325e, which is an open-back headphone. That one generated a broader, more spacious soundstage than any of the Bowers and Wilkins headphones. The Grado SR325e has the sound edge, but it does leak sound and lets external noise in while the P5 Series 2 does provide some sound isolation.


Despite its somewhat high price, we gave high marks to the original P5. While it lacked a little zip and clarity, it was a comfortable, warm sounding on-ear headphone that you could listen to for long periods. The new P5 Series 2 is more transparent and accurate and for most people it will be seem like a clear upgrade. That was certainly our impression.

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