It’s hard to stand out in the crowded headphone market, but the upmarket Sussex-based Bowers & Wilkins has made a good job of it these past few years. B&W’s designs are distinctive – a bit too distinctive for my liking in some instances – and its dinky over-ear P Series is pure design art.
The P5 is the company’s first Bluetooth model (there’s also a cheaper P5 Series 2 that I haven’t tried) and, like the other P models, its perky oblong earpads look as if they will leak sound like billyo – but actually don’t – and perch on the head supported by arty yet structurally strong, chromed wires. Lovely.
The sound of the P5s is exceptionally sweet and mature, giving vocals and subtle instrumentals a delicate and nuanced quality. They aren’t massively loud, though, and they’re not at their best, for me, with deep bass or so-so recordings, such as on the African reggae I’ve been getting into recently. I’ve had to turn them down a few times to avoid some distortion. The controls are also fiddly, but not terminally so. Classy, then, and quirky without being gimmicky.