Legendary speaker maker, Bowers and Wilkins, may have just changed my opinion on that matter. I received a pair of their P5 Series 2 wired headphones last week and I’ve been smitten ever since. I was certainly skeptical. “Alas,” I thought to myself. “If only they had sent me the P7.” Yet how often can preconceived notions get you into trouble.
Aesthetically, the headphone are just gorgeous. Fit and finish are top notch, as you’d expect from B&W. The design and feel of the headphones are likewise stellar. The leather is soft and supple and it’s fits like a glove around your ears. A slick feature is the ability to replace the ear pieces and the cable. The left ear piece is magnetically affixed to the main headphone body. Giving the left ear cup a good tug reveals a slick raceway for the cable that not only provides a good overall look to the headphone but also acts as a way to reduce any stresses on the cable itself.
When I put the headphones on the first time, they hurt. In fact, they bothered me tremendously. Save for the metal Bang and Olufsen Form 2i models, they were among the most snug-fitting on-ear headphones I’d tried. Over several days, I noticed that the headphones started to loosen up. Like a good pair of leather dress shoes, they need a few days to break in. If you’re patient with the break-in, your patience will pay off in spades.
Once they did, they never ceased to impress. The ability to suppress outside noise is uncanny for an on-ear design. And the sound? In a word, glorious. The midrange is smooth and full. High notes are delicate and immediate. The bass contains a balance of dynamism and presence that just elevates the musical experience. Seriously, how many times have you worn a pair of headphones and been satisfied the way they render the timbre and body of a grand piano?
Though I’ve had these headphones for less than a week, I found myself using them as my go-to-pair of headphones for travel and casual listening. In fact, I’ve found myself substituting the P5 Series two for many situations where I was previously using my in-ear B&W C5 headphones.
The supplied iPhone-phone compatible cord is smartly designed. You can do all the typical actions such as play, pause, forward, reverse, and launch Siri. However, the tactile design of the cord and included microphone makes any of those actions simple and unmistakable because of the say its implemented.
At $299/pair, B&W has put real audiophile sound within reach of mere mortals. Add to the fact that you have replaceable, magnetic ear cups; crazy sound isolation in an on-ear design; an in-line remote and microphone; and top-notch build quality, then what you get is simple: The B&W P5 Series 2 Headphones stand atop the mountain as the best sub $500 on-ear headphones you can buy and one of the best headphone values around. Highly, highly recommended.