Published on August 8th, 2015 | by Greg0
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless: Fall In Love With Bluetooth
Until recently, most consumer wireless audio had a poor reputation amongst audiophiles, or even folks who had high expectations for their speakers and gear. Beyond a couple of systems that were, and remain, expensive, most folks knew wireless audio by the most popular system out there- Bluetooth. And while it worked well for keyboards and input devices, earlier versions of the protocol weren’t quite up to the demands of audio. Thankfully, that all has changed for the better, and it’s safe to say that Bluetooth is more popular than ever at least mostly thanks to the rise of wireless speakers and headphones.
Case in point- the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless headphones, allowing you to cut the cords while staying connected, all using aptX for high-resolution audio from your mobile device or laptop. Intuitive on-board controls allow you to play or pause your music, or take calls thanks to the dual microphones. As with most portable wireless sets, the only downside is that you’ll need to pay attention to battery life. Like most competitors, recharging is pretty easy- you can top up using the included USB cable. But unlike others, the P5Ws (as we began calling them) offer a whopping 17 hours of playtime on a single charge, without adding much weight compared to their siblings.
The most important aspect of the set is that they don’t sound wireless at all. We had a pair of the B&W P5 S2 headphones so that it was easy to compare and contrast- we reviewed them late last year and they helped make our holidays a little brighter. At first glance and even on pretty careful inspection, they appear basically identical- aside from the playback controls and the lack of a wire (though a cable is included for wired listening, with a cute hidden socket). Even inside they are pretty similar, with more than your typical headphone driver- diaphragm-like, akin to traditional loudspeakers. The results are fuller and richer sound that is surprisingly lifelike and spacious. We’ve already listened hard to them in the past so won’t belabor the point- you’ll love the way they sound. The P5Ws are reasonably portable and won’t weigh you down, but they aren’t foldable and don’t have active noise cancellation. They do have decent passive isolation, however, if you need over-ears you’ll like their sister P7s. Comfortable even in long listening sessions, your ears will be happy thanks to cushy authentic sheep’s leather padding and a soft headband.
After releasing a solid Bluetooth speaker in the T7, Bowers and Wilkins have clearly been putting their wireless expertise to work. They took their time, but got it right- from their trademark their sleek brushed metal and black design to the lovely packaging. Bowers and Wilkins gear is always premium- it’s closer to audiophile ideals rather than your average pair- but while few headphone sets that we have seen are worthy of a $400 price tag, these are. If you don’t need or prefer the wireless functionality, the wired version will save you a bit of dough. Both are available now, online and in stores.