With gorgeous looks and even better sound, the Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2 headphones (evolved from the excellent original P5s) have our full attention.
With the Series 2, B&W has finally hit the jackpot: a fantastic pair of cans that are hugely entertaining to listen to.
We’re struck by how precise and articulate they sound. While the old P5s had a slightly overly rich presentation, the 2s are crystal-clear and have superb timing.
Hans Zimmer’s epic compositions are marshalled with authority and subtle dynamics, while the aggressive guitar shredding of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets is fast, snappy and powerful.
Despite being closed-back headphones, the P5s sound wonderfully open and offer more than enough room for instruments to flourish. It’s a weighty sound that reveals a staggering amount of detail. The bass is deep and muscular while remaining taut and agile.
The top end gives bite and attack, while still leaving plenty of breathing space for a song to reach its soaring crescendo. Voices are delivered with exquisite detail. Harriet Wheeler’s breathy, heartfelt vocals on The Sundays’ Wild Horses soar, with each inflection and nuance laid bare.
The P5s don’t flinch from delivering Tom Waits’s gravel-tinged, whiskey-soaked voice in all its glory, either, further drawing you into the story of each song. These P5s may not be as forgiving as the smooth and rich Sennheiser Momentum over-ears, but neither do they make a fuss when playing low-resolution MP3s.
For all their precision and tight control, the B&Ws never forget to have fun, and you may just find yourself belting along to the rocking melody of Kansas’s Carry On Wayward Son.
Build and design
Even if the sound quality didn’t impress us, we’d still be drooling over the way the P5s look. They’re stunning. The black-and-metal finish is unchanged – B&W has rightly found no reason to mess with such a sleek and classy combination of materials.
The headphone market is saturated with plastic-based design, but the stylish P5s feel special in every way.
Build quality is exquisite: the aluminium structure is sturdy yet flexible, while the sheepskin leather ear pads (a little thicker than before – hooray) and headband are luxurious and comfortable.
The closed-back design offers a degree of noise isolation, too, but doesn’t make your ears too hot. Just don’t expect them to stay put if you start head-banging to AC/DC’s latest album.
Compact and light, the P5s are perfect for portable use – they do feel a little snug at first, but they will loosen up in time. The biggest design overhaul lies underneath the surface. Lift off the magnetic ear-pads and you’ll see a brand-new driver design.
Taking inspiration from its flagship P7 headphones, B&W has fitted 40mm full-range drivers with a suspended diaphragm – similar to the way a conventional speaker is designed.
B&W claims this results in a more open and precise sound. Considering how much better they sound than the older version, we’re inclined to agree.
As before with the original P5s, you get two cables in the box: one with in-line microphone and remote control, one without.
While Apple users get the full advantage of playback and volume controls, Android users can only pause and play. We also like that you can swap out the ear pads for new ones when they wear out, and replace the 3.5mm cable easily (and cheaply) if it gets damaged, instead of having to buy a new pair of P5s.
There’s some tough competition at this price. The Award-winning Beyerdynamic T51is are the P5s’ most pressing concern; we can’t wait for a group test involving both of them (and the much-loved Sennheiser Momentums, too).
If you’re looking for a premium pair of headphones that look and sound the part, the new P5s should be on top of your list.
MORE: B&W P5 Wireless