Review: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2

I’ve been using a pair of Bowers and Wilkins’ original P5 headphones since they were released in 2010. Through thick and thin, through every set of other headphones I’d audition and test, I’d always return back to the British company’s stylish, comfortable, and great-sounding phones.

So I can tell you with some experience that the new version of the product, the so-called P5 Series 2, is an improvement in every way. From audio quality to aesthetics, I prefer the revised version to its predecessor.

Let’s start with the audio quality. Bowers & Wilkins says it has adapted the new driver in the P5 Series 2 from the drivers in its over-the-ear P7 model. The drivers have moved higher in the earpieces and much more of the speaker is exposed to the ear behind a metal protective grate.

The result is much better imaging of your music. The soundstage feels wider and more alive; detail is crisper. Beyond the soundstage, the sound quality is improved to my ears. The previous model had good bass response, but there were times where it felt as though it was overwhelming the treble end of the spectrum.

The Series 2 gets this much better. Bass is still powerful—cranking up a bass-heavy track results in a satisfyingly visceral experience, like a good subwoofer. But even with that low-end punch, the high-end is still clear and clean. And the tuning of the phones impresses with its versatility. These are headphones that shine listening to both Rage Against The Machine and Fleetwood Mac, two of the artists on my audio testing playlist.

There are several other subtle changes. The metal area on the outside of each earpiece is now black anodized rather than brushed silver. I prefer the new look. The cord attachment into the headphones is now much better designed with a better stress relief. The phones ship with an iDevice friendly cord with remote control and microphone, which worked flawlessly for me.

Overall, it’s hard to find much to quibble with. We gave the previous model a rating of 9. The successor gets the same, but only because the price tag is a steep $300. There’s cheaper competition out there, but for the combination of sound, comfort, and style, the P5 Series 2 is my new go-to headphone.

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