Hard to believe this is a rookie effort
Bowers & Wilkins’ P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones have blown away several of our long-held beliefs: First, they’ve demonstrated that circumaural muffs aren’t the only means of isolating outside noise and preventing sound leakage in a traditional headphone design; second, they’ve proven that large drivers aren’t a requirement for fantastic bass response; and third, they've revealed that we’re not immune to the charms of fashion.
We find this last revelation the most curious. While we’ve always appreciated great design, we’ve always valued function over form. And on airline flights, we’ve always preferred in-ear monitors because they draw less attention than headphones. But the P5’s look so fabulously elegant that we wouldn’t mind if people did give them a second look. More importantly, they sound so superb that we wouldn’t mind if people asked us about them. That’s doubly impressive considering these are the company’s first-ever headphones.
B&W’s minimalist design approach renders the P5’s excellent travel partners. Where most sound-isolating phones come in oversized, hard-shell cases, the P5’s pads fold flat for storage and the phones fit inside a black, quilted clutch—yeah, it’s just a bit effeminate—but the whole package is just 1.5 inches thick and weighs less than eight ounces.
Pull off the magnetic ear pads and you’ll find 40mm mylar diaphragms driven by neodymium magnets. The phones come with two cables: a conventional cord with 1/8-inch jack and a ¼-inch adapter, and a second featuring an in-line remote control and microphone that’s compatible with newer iPods and iPhones. The cable connection is made at a right angle inside the left earpiece, which should reduce strain on the cord if it becomes caught on anything. We do hope B&W will introduce a longer cable as an accessory, because we want to plug them into our hi-fi system, kick back in our La-Z-Boy with a generous pour of Red Breast, and groove the night away.