B&W P5 review

Beautiful to look at, and, in the main, listen to as well, these B&W P5s are a sound investment for your iPod or MP3 player Tested at £250

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The P5s are wildly covetable items, and they make plenty of aural sense too


  • +

    Pretty and desirable

  • +

    speedy, vibrant sound with vocalists treated especially well


  • -

    Top end can be provoked

  • -

    others sound more expansive

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.

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.

MORE: B&W P5 S2 review

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 abound
It 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.

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 stars
They’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 brightly
Brass 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.

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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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