Whoever said familiarity breeds contempt obviously never had their head in a pair of B&W P5s.
It’s been almost two years since we first clapped ears on these, and in that time their appeal hasn’t dimmed. Few of its rivals can better the B&Ws’ high-quality materials, design or allure. The P5s are also a classy proposition when on the head. Comfortable, discreet and lightweight, but grippy and secure too (up to a point – they’re not going to thank you for jogging in them), they fit well, and the thin, non-tangle, single-sided cable features a remote control and mic.
The snug fit allows a degree of noise isolation, and the closed-backs prevent leakage in the other direction – so the P5s are good altruistic commuters, too.
Dexterity and finesse aboundIt goes without saying that while the past two years have seen a lot of comings and goings in headphone-land, the B&Ws haven’t changed in the slightest.
Play to their strengths with a listen to Smog’s Dress Sexy at My Funeral and the P5s serve up a coherent, well-defined soundstage and give each element of it plenty of room for manoeuvre.
More after the break
There’s no denying the forthrightness at the top of the frequency range, nor the slight overconfidence at the bottom, but the dexterity, finesse and briskness of the B&Ws’ presentation make these flaws less obvious.
In fact, the P5s’ slightly muscle-bound bass reproduction is quite at odds with the degree of solidity and speed the low end enjoys.
Authentic midrange starsThey’re authentic stars where the midrange is concerned, too, granting vocalists the sort of prodigious detail levels that make every gasp for breath, every plosive and every palate-noise apparent.
This is a level of detail that can have you listening to familiar recordings with fresh ears.
It’s possible to get a rise out the B&Ws if you force them from their comfort zone, mind you. For all their powers of staging and integration, Sir Malcolm Sargent’s carouse through Holst’s Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity in the company of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gets their hackles up.
Brass blares brightlyBrass sounds can blare a bit too brightly, and the massed percussion can get somewhat spiky too.
A full-strength orchestra also reveals the P5s’ soundstage to be a touch more compact than that of some rivals – but what can’t be faulted is the rock-solid positioning of each instrument upon it.
Familiarity, in fact, hasn’t altered our opinion of the B&W P5s even slightly.
There are more complete-sounding headphones available at the price, but few you’d dare to wear in public – and none whatsoever with greater perceived value or pride of ownership.