Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Headphones Review


We're no strangers to high-end headphones, so when Bowers & Wilkins sent over its latest wireless headphones, we knew we were in for a special treat. The P5 Wireless are an icon brought back to the 21st century. These closed-back on-ear headphones are the wireless version of Bowers & Wilkins’ P5 Series 2, featuring a 17-hour battery life and the same level of high-end materials wrapped around an elegantly designed chassis. Expertly tuned 40mm drivers are said to reproduce the same unadulterated, natural and detailed sound that is afforded by the P5 Series 2 headphones. They are the classiest Bluetooth headphones you’ll ever meet, but are they really worth spending $400 on? As always, check out our in-depth review to find out!


As soon as you open that plain black box (absolutely no descriptive marketing jargon is printed on the packaging) you'll be exposed to a whiff of elegance. The P5 Wireless are set lying flat atop a fabric-covered tray, which when pulled out - unveils a posh, soft quilted protective carrying pouch with a magnetic closure flap.


But before you slide your newly purchased wireless headphones inside, you'll also find that inside this pouch is a micro-USB charging cable as well as a standard 3.5mm audio cable you can use when you're out of battery. There's a small interior pocket inside of the included carry case where you can safely store these cables in. This by no means is the highest quality protective carrying case we've come across nor is it as genuine luxurious in person as it may look. It also smells horrible and reminds me of cheap Chinese off-brand accessories you'd expect to find when buying cheap headphones no one has even heard of. 

Although the included pouch you'll probably be using to store your headphones in isn't anywhere near as premium as we'd expected it to be such as the leather-made carry case included with the similarly priced B&W P7, the actual P5 Wireless headphones are something else entirely. 


You choice is still quite limited in the world of luxury wireless headphones and you’ll find that prices can easily reach upwards of $500. The good news, however, is that you’ll be paying the least amount for the P5 Wireless compared to notable rivals such as the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H7 and H8, Master & Dynamic MW60, Parrot Zik 3, and the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 – our least favorite pair out of the bunch. Between some of the more notable wireless headphone competitors such as the Beoplay H7 and MW60, the P5 Wireless are on par when considering solid build quality, and that luxury fit and finish. What separates these three apart is price, audio performance and comfort.


First and foremost, the hardware of the P5 Wireless is a Bowers & Wilkins signature staple of great use of premium materials joined together in such elegance. These are some of the most classy-looking, mainstream headphones you can get. And the build quality is purely amazing. You've got genuine leather covering the metal headband with a generous amount of padding added, chrome polished steel ear cup arms and robust rotatable hinges leading into the sides of the ear cups featuring these beautifully chamfered, anodized aluminum faceplates with a distinct brushed finish – which are also fully covered using genuine sheep leather. It's a stunning and smart looking design to say the least.


The amply padded ear cup cushions are made using sheepskin leather so they're extraordinarily supple and forgiving when pressed against the ears. The cushions do sit right on top of your ears rather than surround them like Bowers & Wilkins' larger P7 wired headphones, which we prefer a lot more to be honest. That said, the P5 Wireless have some of the best foam padding and ergonomic construction of any on-ear wireless headphones we've tested so far. If you’ve worn the wired version of the P5, the P5 Wireless offer the same level of on-ear comfort as both models are essentially the same in every regard. Whether you're someone who wears glasses or not, the P5 Wireless have proven to be very comfortable to wear.


The problem that keeps the P5 Wireless from continuing on to wear comfortably for longer periods of time is the forceful clamping, which puts a lot of direct pressure on your ears and that simply isn’t sustainable after more than an hour. What Bowers & Wilkins should have done was make its amazingly comfortable P7 over-ear headphones wireless as we found them to offer superior prolonged comfort. 

Passive background noise isolation afforded by the P5's leathery padding I found to be acceptable, but not as good as the Master & Dynamic MW60 or the P7, nor nowhere near as amazing as active noise-cancelling wireless headphones like the JBL Everest Elite 300. The P5 Wireless have also successfully past our little trusty Shazam test and have very minimal sound leakage compared to other on-ear headphones, which immediately trigger Shazam’s brilliant song detection capability at normal-to-low listening levels.


Of course like the P5 Series 2 and P7 models, the P5 Wireless have removable magnetic ear cushions that are user replaceable while also allowing for access to the inconspicuously located audio input in case you want to connect your cable to these headphones. I would note that you can't just use any audio cable as this is a proprietary connection that can only be used with cables made by Bowers & Wilkins.

While the P5 Wireless lack active noise-cancellation, they make up for it with one of the better hands-free calling funtionality using built-in microphones that when activated during a call, will reduce background noise from interrupting the receiver’s end and will allow you to hear yourself talking through the headset.


I really love the small attention to detail on the P5 Wireless like these legible left and right indications engraved into the metal hinges so that you can easily make sure you’ve got the correct orientation before wearing the headphones.


Taking a look at the right side of the P5 Wireless we can see the on-board button controls located on the back and can easily be distinguished apart from one another by touch alone. The flat volume buttons have great tactile feedback when pressed and work as one would expect. The gradually raised middle multi-function button will let you pause/play your music while also doubling as a headset control for answering/ending calls, and also activating Siri.

While the P5 Wireless lack active noise-cancellation, they make up for it with one of the better hands-free calling funtionality using built-in microphones that when activated during a call, will reduce background noise from interrupting the receiver’s end and will allow you to hear yourself talking through the headset.


Underneath is where you'll find a micro-USB charging input, an LED status indicator as well as the power on/off slider switch. The same switch can also be pressed to put the headphones into pairing mode. The P5 Wireless will automatically shut off if no audio is played for around 15 minutes in order to conserve battery, which in and of itself is superbly long at 17 hours. The good thing is that they're incredibly quick to turn back on and instantly pair back up with your device as soon as you slide that power switch.


So how good are they really? You can start off by imagining yourself sitting in a studio with a hi-fi speaker setup surrounding you. That's how impressively good the P5 Wireless sound. There is no other way of putting it...the sound quality on the P5 Wireless is glorious. For Bluetooth headphones, the P5 Wireless are one of the best luxuriously made on-ear headphones with an accurate, evenly balanced, greatly detailed, pristine sound delivery. Sound is very controlled and just makes listening to your playlist a pleasurable experience. Bass has that energetically bold, rounded punch, the midrange is warm with great clarity and detail – and so are the highs.


Do the P5 Wireless sound any better than headphones that cost half as much such as the $230 u-Jays by Jays? Not at all. The famous and insane bang-for-your-buck ATH-M50x by Audio-Technica? Nope. They are by no means the best sounding headphones under $400, but you are getting the added benefit of luxury. And for that you’re paying a premium of course. If you want a premium design and materials along with great sound in a wireless package, you won’t find better sounding on-ear wireless headphones than the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless. That being said, if you’re strictly looking for great sound quality and don’t mind an all-plastic framework, consider the JBL Everest Elite 300 or the Beats Studio Wireless.

Although the P5 Wireless have a very balanced sound, their sound signature is on the darker side and that doesn’t sound as appealing when compared to brighter sounding headphones such as the u-Jays and ATH-M50x. But of course this is purely a matter of personal preference as all three headphones deliver a convincing sound performance.


Sure there are a handful of less expensive headphones that will give you a better overall sound for your buck such as the V-Moda Crossfade M-100, Beats Studio Wireless (a superior alternative to JBL's Everest Elite 700), Jays u-Jays, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M70x to name some of our favorites. But, most of them don't offer cord-freeing wireless audio and as of a luxurious experience as the B&W P5 Wireless.

If balanced, detailed sound along with an elegant showcase of high quality leather and stunningly finished metals is something you're looking for in small-sized wireless headphones, then you really can’t go wrong with the P5 Wireless. They’re one of the best sounding and most comfortable, exquisitely designed Bluetooth on-ear headphones that you can buy right now under $500. These headphones do what they were designed to do extraordinarily well, have a long-lasting battery life and also feel seriously well made. And at $400, you’d expect no less. So yes, you’re definitely getting what you’re paying for to a certain extent. The P5 Wireless aren't perfect in how they sound compared to less expensive offerings nor are they the most comfortable headphones we've tested, but that's one of the few tradeoffs that comes with premiumly designed Bluetooth headphones.