IRL Review Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 1 Premium Headphone Review- the P5 series 1 was a headphone I wanted dreadfully for a really long time. When I started getting more serious into headphones, I was enamored by their build quality when I tried them out at the Apple store. They were instantly luxurious in feel and design, and stood out among a sea of Beats competitors. I quite enjoyed the warm sound as well, and thought these just were a great package overall. However, I never could fork over the money for them at the time, so I let them off for some time. Years later, they popped up on the Bowers and Wilkins official website as refurbished models for about a third of their original MSRP. Not only that, but they were also white, a color I had wanted in a headphone for some time. Despite the Series 2 already being out and being widely touted as a serious upgrade in sound quality over the Series 1, I decided it was worth it to go ahead anyways. Were they worth it? Read on my in real life IRL review.
Design- seriously this is an amazing headphone- Tyll over at innerFidelity talks about pride of ownership, and this being one of those objects he was just proud to own- I would say the same about this – its absolutely amazing looking. The lambskin and staineless steel just reek of high end feel and the design simply looks SO SO SO good. It translates well here as an on ear headphone- the design doesn’t look as good on the larger P7 IMHO. I really really love this- while I do love the Series 2 P5 more, the white Series 1 looks just freaking great.
Build Quality- seriously this feels amazing. Everything just works so so smoothly. It feels like a well designed piece of kit. I do unfortunately hear of the glue holding some of the earpads deteriorating over time and leaking on the pads. I don’t have that in mine. What I do have in mine is the white leather staining EASILY from the oils on my skin like my ears. Its quite unfortunate, because it shows immediately after use- I simply cannot be bothered to wipe it down after every use. Its hard to clean too. And that white cloth carrying case? Stains just as easily. While its more of an ivory white that may show less stains than pure white, its still a sensitive little bugger.
Sound Quality- Wow here was where I knew to lower my expectations. I knew all the reviews of this headphone questioned its high fi hopefulness, and I tend to agree with them. It simply does not astound me in anyway. It sounds very smooth- so smooth that I really don’t hear too many details. Certainly there is a certain color to its sound that is pleasing- it sounds to me a more refined Beats tuning profile. Its not genre specific and its forgiving on bad recordings- it really can go across a wide range of sources and is easily powered- no need for an amp. The end result is that it is pleasing to the masses, and would be a great upgrade headphone for someone new to the audio game, but not necessarily to an audiophile. I really hate using that word, because it could mean any number of things- in my opinion an audiophile can can execute a certain need well- whether that is a flat clinical sound, a fun colored sound, or other whimsical terms. This headphone just doesn’t execute anything well for me. Its just a jack of all trades, master of none. I do find the bass overwhelms a lot of the sound, but not quite on the level of the Sony Extra Bass series X10. I know what kind of headphone I will use depending on the source/genre I am listening to usually- I just don’t with this one. The only thing I can think of is that I will use it when I don’t want to go through the trouble of setitng up an amp for it like my other cans. So out of laziness I will use it, which is a term I would use to describe its sound haha.
Isolation- its good- really good. Its just passive isolation, but its up there with my Beyerdynamic DT1350. Its a fantastic portable can because it isolates you from your environment and lets you get lost in your music. They really nailed it here well.
Conclusion- I generally find the P5 to be a pleasing sounding headphone. Its quite smooth overall with minimal harshness, and a really really laid back style. So laid back, I honestly wasn’t sure what I would pick it up for when listening to something. Having a fairly large arsenal of cans to choose from, it doesn’t stand out enough to really pique my interest. In fact, I found I mostly picked it up to admire its design and feel, and usually just listened to it when I wanted to watch something casual like a car or lens review, and rarely for music. This in itself made me uneasy with it- I simply didn’t find a use for it. It reflects the feelings I found in a lot of reviews like Tyll’s in InnerFidelity, where he mostly uses it to listen to dialogue like podcasts or phone calls late at night when you don’t care about anything. This just doesn’t sit right to me. So in the end I gave it away haha. (Part of me does question if it was just my Sony fanboyism coming out here, because even with crappy Sony products, I still keep them because of my emotional ties. So maybe there’s that. ) In all honestly, its a great upgrade from stock cans, so if you’re looking for better cans without going nuts in the headphone arena, they are a nice upgrade. They just simply don’t compete well with the sound quality of many higher end cans.
TLDR-Pros- AMAZING Design, AMAZING feel, MOSTLY AMAZING build quality; Cons- not particularly good at anything, too relaxed of a sound, white leather/cloth stains ridiculously easy