Headphone Review: Bowers & Wilkins P3

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Bowers & Wilkins has been a big name for higher-ended, personal audio. They hold a large line of speakers and audio systems for many of the iDevices we all know and love today. Recently, they have introduced a new model to their headphone line-up, the P3. Following the C5, the P3 plans to not follow the steps of the C5, but instead, is more of a little sibling for the P5 headphones. Although the C5 may not have been one of my favorites, the P3 proves opposite.  Read on for the full review:

Specifications

  • Driver Type: 30mm Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 111 dB
  • Impedance: 32 ohms

In the Box

  • Bowers & Wilkins P3
  • Hard Clamshell Carrying Case
  • Removable Cables (1 with 3-button remote and mic, 1 without)
  • Documentation
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There isn’t much included with the P3; a replaceable cable and a case are about it.

Design

When designing the new P3s, the designers really didn’t go back to the drawing board. Instead, they reused a successful design to fit a smaller form. The P3s resemble much of the P5s design, with a small overall package. The use of matte coloring really allows these cans to have a beautiful, soft, yet professional look to them. Hard-drawn silver accents allow the shape and design to stand out on its own. The brushed metal appearance in the ovals that house the drivers adds a discrete, but fun-flavored aspect to the designs as a whole. Uniqueness to the brand, the design flies well overall. The silver accents draw everything out while the material choices not only feel professional, they look it too.

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Beautiful designs make the P3 an aesthetic pleasure to look at.

Design: ★★★★★

Audio

I’m not going to sugar-coat it; I was never too fond of the C5’s sound, so I didn’t know what to expect from the P3. Well, I am not disappointed by their any means. Contrary actually, I’m quite impressed with them. The P3s offer a warm and enticing v-shaped signature that focuses on the lows. Powerful bass that smacks is coupled with a romantic, warm, and smooth midrange. The highs bring everything together by offering good sparkle and extension and a little energy to the party.

Bass

The P3s focus mainly on the low end of the spectrum. The bass offers more of a solid feel to them, but it isn’t enough to entirely destroy the delicate textures. The focus of the low end aims towards the low to mid bass. This offers a slight boom in the impact but doesn’t entirely destroy any punchyness that is around. At times, the impact can be a little too boomy, but most of the time it’s well controlled.

Bass: ★★★★½

Mids

Midrange clarity can be lost in the lower mids due to a slight veil while the higher midrange has good clarity overall. Detailing is really good throughout however. The vocals offer a warmer sound with a hint of sweetness to them.   A sense of energy is still present in the instrumentals, but overall, they still hold a warmer, more inviting feeling to them.  The soundstage is pretty large as well on the P3s; it’s not the largest though.

Mids: ★★★★½

Highs

Hard snare snaps can be heard, but can be missing a bit of energy. This loss of energy exists in the higher region of the treble as well. Clarity is pretty good though, considering that they are a warmer sound overall. The highs never smear and the separation is a really beautiful thing overall. There is a slight sparkle to the highs, nothing fatiguing though.

Highs: ★★★★½

Audio: ★★★★½

Build

Build quality is really a mixed bag; overall, I find it good. Included with the P3s is a plastic clamshell case. On the outside, the case doesn’t really scream luxury. On the interior the lining of the case is a nice touch to give a scent of the high life. They will, however, do what they were intended to do, protect the headphones.

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An included case helps keep the headphones protected while not in use.

The headphones themselves are actually well protected. The headband is strong and durable while the housings follow suite due to the quality rubbers that are used. All hinges and skeletal parts of the headphones are composed of metal which make the headphones strong themselves.

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Strong rubber and metal are used for the headphone’s construction.

The cable is a different story though; it’s the mixed bag. The main thing is that they are removable, which means they can be replaced if anything fails. The cables are not the strongest I’ve seen, slightly flimsy and tangle prone. Other than that, they actually are quite decent.

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The cable is removable, which does wonders for build quality.

The headphone jack still remains straight like the C5s. The strain relief is larger though, and it’s also more flexible. Overall the build of the headphones is counter-balanced by the build of the cable. The fact that it’s replaceable plays a large role in the final score though.

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A strong strain relief helps out the straight headphone jack.

Build: ★★★★

Comfort

The earpads are small on the P3s, but really comfortable. They gently lean on your ears and apply little, if any clamping pressure at all. The P3s are really comfortable once you get them on. Memory foam is used for the padding. So, in time, the padding will slowly conform to the shape of your ears. The headband is padded lightly, and can cause some slight discomfort at first, but you adjust to it. I can wear these comfortable for about an hour and half, which isn’t bad.

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Memory foam pads are as comfortable as they sound.

Comfort: ★★★★½

Value

I think Bowers & Wilkins did really well on these headphones. They MSRP at around 200 dollars, which isn’t a bad price for these at all. They are price very competitively, but are worth the dough you’d put down for them. The smooth B&W sound coupled with the great comfort and looks really works well to make these a great value. A remote and mic is included for smartphone users; a non-mic’d cable is also included if that’s not your thing. If a better built cable was included, it’s value be perfect.

Value: ★★★★½

Final Thoughts

I may not have liked the C5s, but the P3s are better tuned, and just sound a lot better. A smooth signature couples well with the comfort to allow a good solid hour and a half of listening. The hard-drawn silver lines instantly draw out the B&Ws for any lurking viewers. Sound, comfort, and design all come together to create something special; something called the P3.

I’d like to thank John for the product sample.

Overall Score

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Bowers & Wilkins P3

† All prices are in US currency.
This review was written by the iFans.com Review Team. Cumulative scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
This accessory, product, or app was received as a sample. Thanks John for the product sample.
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