It sounds as good as it looks!
PROS: beautiful design, premium materials, excellent sound quality, 17hr battery life, BT4.1 w/aptX support, wired and wireless operation.
CONS: cumbersome wired cable attachment, on-ear fit might not be for everyone, not the best sound isolation.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Today you can find a lot of headphones labeled as “premium”, but not all of them could be considered as truly “luxurious”. If you narrow it down to what one might consider as premium-luxurious, it still doesn’t guarantee a great sound. And if you prefer a wireless connection – you probably should brace yourself for more compromises and a very limited selection. Out of the blue (at least it caught me by surprise), B&W just released a new Bluetooth Wireless version of their latest P5 Series 2 model with a checkmark next to all of these requirements. Premium and luxurious is already synonymous with Bowers & Wilkins brand name. I reviewed a number of their headphones in the past, and was always impressed with a quality of leather material, sexy wavy curves of chrome frame attached to earcups, concealed cable attachment (clever, but a bit time consuming), and a sound quality which I found to mimic analog tuning of full size speakers. Their first entry into Bluetooth world with T7 speaker was quite impressive as well, thus Bluetooth wireless headphones made sense as the next logical step. Here is what I found after spending over a week testing B&W P5 Wireless (P5W).
Packaging a gear in a black sturdy box has been a common practice with a lot of companies who want to underline premium quality of what to expect inside. Often you are not going to see much on the cover of such “gift” box beside a company/product name, while in this case B&W put a bold picture of their P5W on both the front and the back sides. No marketing hype, no functionality description, no specification list – just an elegant image of their headphones with captivating curves that draw you right in. When you lift a cover, your unboxing experience is rewarded with a “jewelry” display presentation of P5W in its leather, metal, and chrome glory.
With headphones out of the way, I was looking at a set of familiar P5 accessories including a quilted soft case and two sets of cables, except this time it was an audio headphone cable and usb charging cable. Since smartphone controls are integrated as part of Bluetooth wireless functionality, you no longer need a cable with in-line remote/mic, thus only an audio cable was included (3.5mm side to your source and proprietary 2.5mm to a hidden jack inside of earcup). Typical of many other wireless headphones, P5W offers both wireless and wired connection if you run out of juice. Just keep in mind that you can get up to 17 hours of listening time from a single charge at moderate volume level.
The case is the same as the one included with P5 S2, except this one has a small inner pocket for cable storage. Personally, I’m still on a fence about it. Using it at home is convenient, though my wife keeps teasing me if she can borrow my “purse”. P5W has a nice fold flat design with earcups rotating 90 degrees, and a soft quilted case with a magnetic flip cover does a good job of cushioning and protecting it. But a soft case doesn’t offer the best protection when you are traveling and want to shelter your headphone investment. I just wish B&W would offer a hard shell storage case, even as an add-on accessory. If they can make their headphones look that good, I can only imagine what they can come up with for a case.
When it comes to a design, as I mentioned before, all B&W headphones stand out with a premium luxury details common across their different models, just scaled up or down depending on over-ear or on-ear design. You will find a genuine perforated leather material covering soft memory foam of earpads, as well as the back of earcups covered in leather around the sides with a black brushed aluminum plate in the middle with an etched “Bowers & Wilkins” name. Earcups are attached on one side to a solid curved chrome metal double wire that waves into the headband. Beside previously mentioned 90 deg rotation mechanism, earcups also have a degree of tilt to adjust to your ears/head shape. Earpads are attached magnetically to earcups, and I will cover more about it later when discussing cable attachment. But I do want to mention that after 20-30 minutes of continuous use, my ears did get warm – it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but still noticeable.
The headband is leather wrapped and has soft foam padding on the inner side. The whole construction felt very solid and lightweight with an evenly distributed 215 grams of weight. Also, headband height adjustment was buttery smooth while still requiring a little bit of force so it doesn’t slide out loose. Similar to P5 Series 2, clamping force was a bit tight out of the box and required a short break in period. After a few days it felt more comfortable while still offering an acceptable sound isolation. Regarding sound isolation, you do have to be realistic this is on-ear design which can’t be compared to over-ear, thus you should expect to hear outside noise but with a good attenuation while still being aware of surrounding. Also even at full height extension, I think P5W model is more appropriate for small and medium heads, while it could be a bit tight if you got a big one on your shoulders.
Wired connection & Earpads replacement.
Unlike other headphones with a removable cable, P5W (exactly like P5 Series 2) has a proprietary cable with a standard 3.5mm on the side going to your audio source and 2.5mm angled connector hidden inside of the left earcup. It’s really a clever design which makes a cable attachment to earcup look like it has a hardwired seamless connection. To get to the connector you need to remove magnetically attached left earpad to access internal 2.5mm plug. Right side earpad is magnetically attached as well for an easy replacement. I do want to comment about being careful if you have sharp nails so you don’t damage the leather since these magnets are quite strong. The cable itself feels sturdy yet thin, has a round shape, and feels soft. Also, due to a connection with a removable cable inside of the earcup, I didn’t sense any microphonics effect.
Without a doubt, that is one clever way to attach a cable, but it’s not as efficient as just being able to plug in a cable directly, and fiddling with earpads is a bit time consuming.