B&W P5 Wireless review

Best wireless headphones £200-£300, Awards 2016. Bowers & Wilkins enters the Bluetooth headphone market. Do the B&W P5 Wireless cans have what it takes to compete? Tested at £330

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The cord is cut but the quality remains. These are excellent Bluetooth headphones


  • +

    Excellent sound

  • +

    Lovely design and build

  • +

    Easy Bluetooth operation


  • -

    Nothing of note

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When a hi-fi manufacturer of Bowers & Wilkins’ pedigree makes something a little different, we sit up and listen. This time, though, we find ourselves sitting up with additional comfort and freedom of movement, because the company has entered the Bluetooth headphone market. Behold, the B&W P5 Wireless.

B&W is well established when it comes to wired headphones: its P3, P5 and P7 have all garnered significant praise from us. Fans of those will be right at home here: the P5 Wireless headphones are based on the excellent P5 Series 2.


You’d struggle to tell them apart at a glance, because they share a design philosophy - rounded rectangular earcups, sheep’s leather and twisted aluminium. It’s an executive armchair for your ears, the epitome of portable elegance and a sure way to look and feel smart next to the masses of primary-coloured plastic on the bus.

MORE: B&W P5 Series 2 review


Standard three-button controls: volume up and down on the side, play/pause/call in the middle

Standard three-button controls: volume up and down on the side, play/pause/call in the middle

There are key differences, however. The right earcup has a standard three-button volume/play/pause/call configuration, along with a power/pair slider. There are also two microphones and a lithium battery. Crucially there’s Bluetooth of the higher-quality aptX variety.

The headphones are a joy to operate. The entire process is intuitive and responsive. Pairing is easy, with connections taking place in seconds. Once connected, the link is stable, and button commands are carried out without hesitation.

Unboxing video

Sound quality

As for sound quality, the P5 Wireless are very impressive, retaining much of the sonic character of the excellent, wired P5 S2s.

A blast of Muse's Psycho proves a rousing listen, the headphones maintaining the song's fist-pounding aggression. It's a bold sound with enough weight to give your ears a thorough slamming.

The wide dynamic reach helps to reinforce that impression of power. Subtle dynamics make the most of the song's distorted guitar torture, while a firm grip on rhythm ensures an eloquent delivery. It's not merely the impression of authority - you'll definitely find yourself paying attention.

The bassline is deep and taut, the drums kick hard and there's enough texture easily to make out Matt Bellamy's laboured breathing. It helps that the sound is clean, with barely a hint of the hiss we often get with Bluetooth headphones.

We loved the sound from the wired B&W P5 S2s, but if you want to cut loose, the P5 Wireless presents a worthy, more flexible alternative.

MORE: B&W T7 review

Comfort and fit

The wired connector is tucked away, which protects the socket from accidental yanks

The wired connector is tucked away, which protects the socket from accidental yanks

Despite packing extra kit, the P5 Wireless have not put on much weight – only an extra 28g compared with the wired P5 S2, with ear cups just 2mm thicker. They are of little burden for your cranium.

The extra weight is barely perceptible, and clamp force is well judged. They are a little snug out of the box, but they soon loosen up. There is enough grip for a brisk walk, but we would caution against anything beyond a moderate headbang.

As for the earpads, the foam is obliging and that leather is soft, but they do seem to get warm during long listens. The earpads are attached by magnets, and can be easily replaced if necessary.


We peel the pads off for a look underneath, where we find 40mm drivers. B&W’s approach here is informed by the technology in its flagship P7 headphones: the drivers have suspended diaphragms. This is similar to the way conventional speaker drivers are designed, with greater precision being the objective.

Under the pad you will also find a hidden socket for wired use. It’s hidden so the headphone cables need to be snaked through a tiny channel, thereby protecting the socket from death by yanking. A cable is included for passive listening, in case you run out of power.

On which subject, B&W claims a battery life of 17 hours. The power cell is charged by plugging in a microUSB cable (included), at which point a small LED glows approvingly.

MORE: B&W P7 review


What’s not to like about the B&W P5 Wireless? Not much, from what we can see and hear.

Bowers & Wilkins has taken the excellent B&W P5 Series 2s and added a wireless option, and it works beautifully. Great sound and gorgeous design, minus the inconvenience of cables - that's what we like to hear.

Buy the Bowers & Wilkins P5 from Amazon

MORE: Best wireless headphones 2015

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.

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