B&W C5 review

Premium feel, unrivalled power and weight, but overcooked bass Tested at £150

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

They certainly make an impression but the sonic character won’t be for everyone


  • +

    Power and weight unrivalled

  • +


  • +


  • +

    premium look and feel


  • -

    Overcooked bass

  • -

    an overall lack of cohesion

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

It’s rare that new Bowers & Wilkins kit doesn’t arrive with a sense of anticipation. And more often than not, the products live up, more or less, to the hype.

Everything from the packaging of these C5 in-ears to the literature gently whispers ‘premium’. Out of the box they look smart and feel weighty – they’re weighted with tungsten, in fact.

In-ears they may be, but thanks to B&W’s ‘micro porous filter’ system, which allows sound to diffuse, they are essentially an open rather than closed design. This should bring sonic benefits.

Secure fit for superb noise isolation

The C5 earphones also have a fresh take on fit. The ‘secure loop’ design adjusts to fit inside your ear to ensure they don’t move around. This works and as a result they also isolate outside noise superbly.

The filter makes for a spacious sound, too, with impressive scale and dynamics to classical tracks. There’s punch and power in spades.

And bass. Wheelbarrows of bass. At times it’s great, providing depth and detail you won’t find in any rival; but with some tracks it’s simply too much, drowning the rest of the track and making us feel like we’re sat in a boy-racer’s souped-up XR3i.

The level of detail higher up the sound spectrum is impressive, but voices can sound lightweight and lacking in expression. We’d like a better sense of cohesion through the frequency range.

Still, the premium design and fit make for an immersive experience and, with its first pair of in-ears, B&W has done a fine job.

See all our headphone Best Buys

Follow whathifi.com on Twitter

Join whathifi.com on Facebook

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test