Bluetooth audio has come a long way in the past few years, with improved sound and often premium prices when compared to their wired counterparts. Bowers & Wilkins’ new P5 Wireless Headphones ($400) bring luxury to Bluetooth headphones, with a price tag fitting that aim. P5 Wireless shares the same design as its wired P5, which was last seen late last year in its P5 Series 2, and before that in 2010, in the original P5. P5 Wireless retains the soft leather headband, which is joined to each headphone by pairs of twisted chrome bands that connect and swivel via equally shiny metal joints. The P5’s construction is excellent, and the design is undeniably classy. A bit of weight is gained in the P5 Wireless, probably due to its 17-hour battery, but we never felt the extra grams in our testing.
Should the battery fail you, Bowers & Wilkins has included an optional backup audio cable, along with a USB charging cable and plush quilted carrying pouch. Initial pairing to the iPhone was a breeze, though we did have to manually reconnect in Settings in some subsequent listening sessions. Three buttons positioned on the back of the right ear cup give you full control: volume up/down, play/pause, next/previous, and Siri. It was easy enough to tell which button we were pressing without looking, though the volume down button was a bit squishy on our unit.
The P5’s ear pads are unique in that they stretch completely over the driver, with a grid of perforations in the center to let sound pass through. Padding is minimal but adequate for an on-ear headphone. We had our doubts about the rounded rectangle ear cups at first, but the P5 looks perfectly classy on the head. The P5’s firm-but-reasonable clamping force made for surprisingly excellent isolation — the elevated subway cars of Queens were all but silenced when we tested these out in the world. We experienced some discomfort when wearing metal-framed eyeglasses with the P5, but your mileage may vary.
The P5’s mix of modern Bluetooth technology and high-quality 40mm drivers made for a good listening experience. Their sound signature is well-suited to outdoor use, with a bass tone that is palpable, but clear. Most genres came through on the P5 with pleasing detail and imaging for a Bluetooth headphone, though metal fell a little flat. Also, using the microphone to interact with Siri worked just fine.
Overall, we were very happy with the P5’s sound, but purchasing these headphones all depends on how much you value going wireless. While the P5 sounds great for a Bluetooth headphone, we’ve heard better sound from less expensive wired headphones. And even if you adore the design of the P5 Wireless, it’s hard to ignore its cheaper wired sibling. That being said, Bluetooth technology has evolved very much for the better, and the P5 is an excellent expression of that improvement. It earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Company: Bowers & Wilkins
Model: P5 Wireless
Compatibility: Bluetooth-enabled iPads, iPhones, iPods