Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 – Chrome on your Dome
Bowers and Wilkins has been making world class speakers for just about 50 years now, and are still going strong at their Worthing site, just a stone’s throw from ourselves at hifiheadphones. Not that we find ourselves throwing stones at them very often of course, as apart from anything else we have a few windows of our own. Brought out in 2010, the original P5 model has now been updated to the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2.
Design and appearance:
Designed by Morton Warren, they exude a feeling of graceful simplicity while at the same time feeling very solid and light. The materials give it the same looks as the Oppo PM-1, with plush leather and chrome working together in that classic, opulent pairing.
Durability & build quality (e.g. cabling, connectors, materials:
The B&W P5 Series 2 is very well put together and its lightweight construction belies the fact that nothing rattles or squeaks when the headphones are flexed and placed on the head. Cables are about right for portable use. Both the Apple control cable and plain stereo cables are 1.2 m; they are no thicker than those found used with in-ear headphones. The Apple control/mic itself is very stylish and easy to use despite being just out of sight near the mouth. The earpads are held on by magnets but are unlikely to be removed accidentally; the magnetic force is strong! Changing the cable necessitates the removal of one of the earpads which is a simple process.
Clamping force on portable headphones is always a balance between comfort and the headphones falling off, or needing constant readjustment. On the P5 it’s just slightly on the heavy side, but with time and gentle stretching this should improve. The earpads are made from lambskin and are quite comfortable , offering both a decent amount of isolation and comfort. Glasses wearers may however find themselves adjusting their glasses once the P5 is on, as some discomfort may be encountered over the ears in some cases.
Isolation is good, but you are still going to be aware of your surroundings. With music playing however, most exterior noise will melt away. The P5 does leak a little bit of audio but no more than any equivalent headphone. Your fellow train passengers will be all sweetness and light.
The B&W P5 Series 2 really hits the mark for portable uses; they can be worn around the neck with minimal fuss, and the pads do block out a fair amount of exterior noise. They’re showy, but not in a way that might cause the wearer to feel self-concious and will fit in with any scenario. They fit the supplied carry case very well which can be stored or carried in a briefcase or bag easily.
The sound of the P5 Series 2 is most agreeable; some people may be expecting accuracy or a neutral tuning but the P5 is squarely aimed at the portable market, with the average music source (read:phones) taken into account.
The bass of the P5 Series 2 is fairly powerful considering the driver size. It is well controlled and in proportion, but goes down low and reproduces sub-bass very faithfully. It’s a good match for the typical unamped iDevice with which it will more than likely be paired, bringing up the low end for a more engaging sound.
The midrange is free and able to shine quite separate from the bass, and vocals are clear and enjoyable. Acoustic instruments are well rendered and harmonics give a good feel of a performance. Reverb/echo is very enjoyable and not lost during busier parts. It’s all taken in the P5’s stride.
The P5 is a little gentle where the higher frequencies are concerned, and this is no bad thing. A lot of people find it frustrating when, because of a headphone’s brightness, high frequencies dictate what volume level a piece of music can be enjoyed at. The P5 gives enough treble to give sparkle and resolution to the music, but it knows its audience and what they’re likely to be doing – they are not listening critically when on the move. Some may want more emphasis at the top end of the frequency spectrum but B&W have gone for the common ground.
Soundstage & Separation:
Soundstage is good for a closed back, with a presentation from far outside the physical confines of the headphones and separation is very good too. A listen to ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ had me convinced that one would collide with me at any moment.
Music genres good for and why:
As implied above, classical music is made very rich and full with the P5, along with jazz, opera and any genre where the space in which the recording is made is part of the enjoyment.
Heavy Metal is pressing and immediate, Disco and more modern Dance Music certainly benefits from the low bass … and something older such as Rock n’ Roll is fully rendered in all its midrange majesty. The P5 is a great all-rounder.
Stylish and light
Light, removeable mic cable
Spare stereo cable
Initial clamping force
Some may expect a brighter sound
The Bowers&Wilkins P5 Series 2 makes for perfect company during those long journeys when we’d prefer to be unencumbered by additional amps, DACs and other gadgets needed to get the best from our other equipment. The P5 is designed and tuned to sound amazing straight out of any phone, so that we may travel light!