Bowers & Wilkins is probably the most recognizable English speaker brand in the US, and its relatively new headphone line is quickly earning itself a fine reputation of its own. That being the case, we think the company's latest effort, the P5 Wireless on-ear headphones, is going to attract no small amount of attention. Announced today, the P5 will be available first on the Bowers & Wilkins website, then later at retail locations beginning July 15. But we scored a set early so we could check them out and tell you all about them.
The P5 Wireless look almost exactly like the P5 wired version, save the addition of four low-profile buttons and a micro-USB port for charging their battery. That battery, by the way, is rated to last about 17 hours, depending on volume levels -- a feature Bowers & Wilkins rightly touts as "class leading."
The P5 Wireless are said to use the same Bluetooth (with aptX) technology at work in the company's T7 Bluetooth speaker, which is encouraging since the T7 sounded outstanding.
If, however, you need (or want) to run the P5 Wireless with a wire, that option is available, no battery required. An included headphone cable plugs into a jack hidden underneath the earpad on the left earcup. It's an odd design, but it does a terrific job of taking the strain off the cable, helping to ensure a longer-lasting product.
The P5 Wireless sport soft leather and plush padding everywhere it's needed, and aluminum hardware make for a sturdy, yet light-weight feel. Clamping force is a little on the tight side at first, though it seems to relax after several long-term wearing sessions. Passive noise isolation is above average, if you seat the earpads on your ears in just precisely the right place.
As for sound quality: It's good, but not as great as we'd hoped given our prior experiences with the Bowers & Wilkins headphone lineup … and the $400 price tag. Bass runs deep, and there's a bit of a mid-bass boost adding some meat to the low-end. Midrange is clear, with no especially wily coloration, but for this reviewer, there's something going on in the high frequencies that just doesn't sound completely natural. It's almost as if there's been a synthetic sheen added which makes cymbals sound like imperfect clones of their shimmering selves. We tend to prefer the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless on-ear's sound signature, or the Sennheiser Urbanite (for big bass).
Still, sound quality is a very subjective topic, and we know there are a wide array of listeners out there that will be thrilled with the sound quality, luxury, and wireless freedom that the P5 Wireless bring to the table.