Bowers & Wilkins P3 review: Bowers & Wilkins P3

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The Good The Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones have an impressive design, strong performance, and an iPhone-friendly integrated microphone/remote. They also come with a hard-shell carrying case and an extra "straight-wire" cable that can be easily swapped in.

The Bad They're fairly pricey and the integrated, remote isn't compatible with all smartphones, and you'll get some sound leakage from open-back earcup design.

The Bottom Line The Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones' impressive combination of design, sound quality, and features put it near the top of the class for portable headphones in its price range.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

Bower & Wilkins' P3 is the third headphone model to hit the market from the venerable British speaker company and it shares some common traits with the earlier on-ear P5 and in-ear C5.

Like those products, the P3 features a striking design and strong performance. It doesn't come cheap at $199.99, but it is more affordable than the swankier P5.

The P3's design is both modern and retro, with sleek lines and rectangular earpieces that give it a distinct look (the headphones come in a black or white finish). At least for me, the first word that comes to mind describing them is "classy."

The P3 is more lightweight than the P5, has a fold-up design, and comes with a hard-shell carrying case that functions almost like an oversize jewelry or glasses case. I can't say I liked the case design as much as the headphones' design. The clamshell can snap shut on your finger and since the case is made of hard plastic, it's going to get scuffed up over time. On the other hand, it is very protective and the headphones will likely hold up well over time. I did find myself wanting to treat them with care, perhaps because I didn't want their slick exterior to become blemished.

The Bowers & Wilkins P3 comes in black or white. Bowers & Wilkins

Along with the carrying case, the headphones come equipped with a cable that has an integrated remote/microphone that's designed to work with the iPhone. The microphone will work with other phones, including Android models, but the remote features are hit and miss with non-Apple smartphones.

If you're an audiophile who wants to eliminate the switch for "straight wire with gain" performance, B&W provides a second cable that leaves off the microphone and inline remote and is easy to swap in (the earpads adhere magnetically to the earcups and can be removed to expose the detachable wire).

The P3 headphones are made out of aluminum and "durable" rubber, and Bowers & Wilkins is highlighting the custom-made, "ultralight" acoustic fabric on the earpads. These headphones are very comfortable for on-ear headphones, but they don't feel quite as comfortable as the P5s, which have bigger, plusher leather earcups.

The fabric earcups on these guys do breathe better than the P5's leather earcups, though they'll still get your ears a little steamy on warmer days. You get a decent amount of passive noise-cancellation, though over-the-ear models will do an even better job muffling sounds from the outside world.

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