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
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.
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
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.