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Bowers & Wilkins P5 Review (portable headphone)

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Bowers & Wilkins P5 portable headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $385 on amazon.

The P5 has very unusual design showing innovation in how you build a lightweight headphone:

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Review Portable Headphone.jpg


New Zealand lamb leather is used on the pads and headband providing very soft touch and feel. It is extremely comfortable when you wear it. After a couple of hours, I could feel a bit of discomfort but no more than any other headphone.

Innovations continue inside the headphone where a clever mechanism is used to hide the removable cable inside one of the cups (which are magnetically mounted):

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Review dimensions Portable Headphone.jpg


Perhaps because of that, I found the cable to be more than usual microphonic.

This is a "sealed" headphone even though it sits on your ear. I found that this was enough to get rid of the high pitch whine of my computer fan but not the TV in the room next door. So good in this regrard.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are preformed using standardized GRAS 45CA headphone measurement fixture. Headphone measurements require more interpretation than speaker tests and have more of a requirement for subjective testing as a result. In addition, comparison of measurements between different people performing it using different configurations requires fair bit of skill. So don't look for matching results. Focus on high level picture. Listening tests are performed using RME ADI-2 DAC and its headphone output.

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurements
Let's start with frequency response of P5 and comparison to our preference target to figure out tonality of the headphone:

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurement Frequency Response Portable Headphone.png


As noted, optimally placing an on-ear headphone on the test fixture is an impossible task. I was pleasantly surprised though that I managed to get both channels to match each other almost perfectly despite this. Normally I set the reference level of 94 dB to 425 Hz but got unlucky in this case as the bass resonance is located at that very frequency. So I moved the reference to 600 Hz to get better matching.

We are clearly bass deficient although how much, we don't know due to fitment issues (and listener preference). We get decent tracking of our target past a few hundred hertz but then have another shortfall above 4 kHz. Without bass and treble, this is likely going to be a unexciting headphone to listen to:
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurement Relative Frequency Response Portable Headphone.png


I fell off my chair when I saw incredibly low distortion almost independent of level:
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurement Relative Distortion Portable Headphone.png


As noted the extremely low distortion means there are no nasty side-effects to using EQ to boost things. In absolute level, we see how incredibly low distortion is at higher frequencies relative to our target of 40 dB:

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurement THD harmonic Distortion Portable Headphone.png


Bass distortion is also good but the level is very slow. Once we boost that in EQ, the advantage there gets erased.

Impedance is flat and low:
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurement Impedance Portable Headphone.png


Sensitivity is excellent so you should be able to power the P5 with just about anything:
most sensitive portable headphone.png


Finally, group delay shows the sane response of the driver above bass:

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Measurement Group Delay Portable Headphone.png


Bowers & Wilkins P5 Listening Tests and Equalization
The P5 sounds exactly as the measurements predict: too little bass and highs. As such, it is not offensive at all. Just dull and unexciting. If you want to use it for long term background music listening, it would be fine as is. That is not me though so I pulled out EQ tool and in just a couple minutes had a completely different headphone:
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Equalization EQ Filter Portable Headphone.png



I quickly dialed in that bass boost to the tune of 8 dB and it was perfect. I then put in two filters to pull up the highs, adjusted them up and down a bit and I was done! Sure, you could mess with them more but there was no need in my book. Once there, the sound was very enjoyable. Combine that with the light weight of this headphone and feeling of luxury wearing it, it is hard to ask for a lot more.

Conclusions
The Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphone is a bit of sleeper as far as measurements and listening results. Dial in some EQ to taste though and it wakes up and becomes a contended for a very comfortable and lightweight headphone.

I can recommend the Bowers & Wilkins P5 with equalization. Without it, it is a pass.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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sweetchaos

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#2
To import this PEQ profile into 'Equalizer APO', use:
Preamp: -8.0 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 40 Hz Gain 8.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4510 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 2.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 7600 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 2.0
To import into your favorite PEQ app, enter it manually.
Otherwise, see my PEQ guide.
..................................................................................................................
For those who don't have PEQ-capable app, and want to use GEQs instead.
Preamp: -5.8db
32 5.1
64 2.8
125 -1.3
250 -0.9
500 -1.1
1000 -1.0
2000 -1.7
4000 2.2
8000 4.4
16000 -1.9
Preamp: -7.6db
20 1.3
25 2.2
32 4.4
40 5.7
50 4.0
63 1.8
80 0.5
100 -0.1
125 -0.5
160 -0.8
200 -0.8
250 -0.9
315 -1.0
400 -1.0
500 -0.9
630 -1.0
800 -1.0
1000 -0.9
1250 -1.0
1600 -0.9
2000 -0.8
2500 -0.7
3150 -0.3
4000 2.3
5000 2.9
6300 3.1
8000 5.3
10000 0.9
12500 -0.7
16000 -1.5
20000 -4.0
If you want to import into "Wavelet" (Android App):
GraphicEQ: 20 -5.1; 21 -4.8; 22 -4.5; 23 -4.2; 24 -3.9; 26 -3.2; 27 -2.8; 29 -2.1; 30 -1.8; 32 -1.1; 34 -0.5; 36 -0.2; 38 -0.2; 40 -0.2; 43 -0.2; 45 -0.2; 48 -0.7; 50 -1.1; 53 -1.7; 56 -2.3; 59 -2.8; 63 -3.4; 66 -3.8; 70 -4.2; 74 -4.6; 78 -4.9; 83 -5.3; 87 -5.5; 92 -5.7; 97 -5.9; 103 -6.1; 109 -6.3; 115 -6.5; 121 -6.6; 128 -6.7; 136 -6.8; 143 -6.9; 151 -7.0; 160 -7.0; 169 -7.1; 178 -7.2; 188 -7.2; 199 -7.3; 210 -7.3; 222 -7.3; 235 -7.4; 248 -7.4; 262 -7.4; 277 -7.4; 292 -7.5; 309 -7.5; 326 -7.5; 345 -7.5; 364 -7.5; 385 -7.5; 406 -7.5; 429 -7.5; 453 -7.6; 479 -7.6; 506 -7.6; 534 -7.6; 565 -7.6; 596 -7.6; 630 -7.6; 665 -7.6; 703 -7.6; 743 -7.6; 784 -7.6; 829 -7.5; 875 -7.6; 924 -7.6; 977 -7.5; 1032 -7.5; 1090 -7.5; 1151 -7.5; 1216 -7.5; 1284 -7.5; 1357 -7.5; 1433 -7.4; 1514 -7.4; 1599 -7.4; 1689 -7.4; 1784 -7.3; 1885 -7.3; 1991 -7.2; 2103 -7.2; 2221 -7.1; 2347 -7.0; 2479 -6.9; 2618 -6.8; 2766 -6.6; 2921 -6.4; 3086 -6.1; 3260 -5.8; 3443 -5.4; 3637 -4.9; 3842 -4.2; 4058 -3.5; 4287 -2.9; 4528 -2.6; 4783 -2.6; 5052 -2.8; 5337 -3.0; 5637 -3.1; 5955 -3.0; 6290 -2.6; 6644 -2.0; 7018 -1.4; 7414 -1.0; 7831 -1.1; 8272 -1.8; 8738 -2.8; 9230 -3.7; 9749 -4.5; 10298 -5.1; 10878 -5.6; 11490 -6.0; 12137 -6.3; 12821 -6.5; 13543 -6.7; 14305 -6.9; 15110 -7.0; 15961 -7.1; 16860 -7.2; 17809 -7.2; 18812 -7.7; 19871 -8.7
Otherwise, see my GEQ guide.
 
Last edited:

Billy Budapest

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#4
The P5 is an eleven year old headphone, but it went through a significant revision (the “P5 Series 2”) in 2015. Do you know which version you tested?

I have owned the original version since 2010 and find the sound inoffensive but the build quality first rate.
 
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#5
Quite interesting, measurement-wise. Ultra low distortion, maybe rivaling estats. Also bass extension (or the lack of) that make estats with bad seal seem quite good lol.

Personally, I don't mind colored signatures or ones that lack good extension (i.e. KSC75) but this... is a bit too sad. As good as it may be with EQ, I can't accept a headphone that starts a steep descent at ~400Hz and goes under target by 300Hz. :p

edit: seeing FR measurements from other reviews, bass seems pretty good, although a bit bloated. I wonder how others got the seal while you couldn't. If you read subjective reviews, nobody really mentions bass being anemic, suggesting most people are able to get a good fit on their ears.
 
Last edited:

sweetchaos

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#6
Amir vs Oratory1990:
amir oratory.gif


Amir vs Jaakkopasanen (measured by Oratory1990):
amir vs jaak.gif


Oratory1990 vs Jaakkopasanen (measured by Oratory1990):
oratory vs jaak.gif


PEQ profile by Amir (from my post #2 above):
Preamp: -8.0 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 40 Hz Gain 8.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4510 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 2.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 7600 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 2.0

PEQ profile by Oratory1990:
Preamp: -4.5 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 20 Hz Gain 4.5 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 190 Hz Gain -2.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 400 Hz Gain 1.6 dB Q 1.8
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1450 Hz Gain -6.7 dB Q 1.0
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 2200 Hz Gain -1.4 dB Q 1.9
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 4000 Hz Gain 1.5 dB Q 1.4
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 6400 Hz Gain -6.0 dB Q 2.5

PEQ profile by Jaakkopasanen (measured by Oratory1990):
Preamp: -6.7 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 19 Hz Gain 5.3 dB Q 0.95
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1671 Hz Gain -5.2 dB Q 1.35
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3428 Hz Gain 6.1 dB Q 4.05
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 12965 Hz Gain 4.4 dB Q 1.33
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 18792 Hz Gain 6.2 dB Q 0.52
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 115 Hz Gain -1.0 dB Q 3.47
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 420 Hz Gain 3.3 dB Q 1.38
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 1073 Hz Gain -1.4 dB Q 3.01
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 6427 Hz Gain -5.4 dB Q 4.05
Filter 10: ON PK Fc 8484 Hz Gain 2.3 dB Q 2.42
 
Last edited:

respice finem

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#7
Very interesting result regarding distortion. I would expect headphones with bigger drivers and higher impedance to be better, but the opposite is the case. Maybe the size (e.g. of BD's drivers) turns against them, because their big membranes aren't stiff enough any more? One is never too old to learn.
 

sweetchaos

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OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #10
The P5 is an eleven year old headphone, but it went through a significant revision (the “P5 Series 2”) in 2015. Do you know which version you tested?
The owner say she bought it in 2012 so must be the older one then. Hate it when these companies change things but keep the model number the same. What is different in version 2?
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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#13
Humm, the only ones that are sold officially on Amazon are wireless for $385. The 2010 wired model is sold by third parties for $100 and up.
 

respice finem

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#14
@ #11: The salvatory clause strikes again, probably: "Specifications are subject to change without notice"...
Another potential problem, the mic a few mm off center and the treble FR may be considerably different already, due to the "on-ear" construction and maybe the wide spacing of the holes in the leather.
 
Last edited:

3125b

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#16
Looks like it doesn‘t seal - all too common with on-ear headphones.
 

staticV3

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#19
Amir vs Oratory1990:
View attachment 112220

Amir vs Jaakkopasanen:
View attachment 112221

Oratory1990 vs Jaakkopasanen:
View attachment 112222

Amir (from my post #2 above):
Preamp: -8.0 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 40 Hz Gain 8.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4510 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 2.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 7600 Hz Gain 6.0 dB Q 2.0

Oratory1990:
Preamp: -4.5 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 20 Hz Gain 4.5 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 190 Hz Gain -2.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 400 Hz Gain 1.6 dB Q 1.8
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1450 Hz Gain -6.7 dB Q 1.0
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 2200 Hz Gain -1.4 dB Q 1.9
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 4000 Hz Gain 1.5 dB Q 1.4
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 6400 Hz Gain -6.0 dB Q 2.5

Jaakkopasanen:
Preamp: -6.7 dB
Filter 1: ON PK Fc 19 Hz Gain 5.3 dB Q 0.95
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 1671 Hz Gain -5.2 dB Q 1.35
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 3428 Hz Gain 6.1 dB Q 4.05
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 12965 Hz Gain 4.4 dB Q 1.33
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 18792 Hz Gain 6.2 dB Q 0.52
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 115 Hz Gain -1.0 dB Q 3.47
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 420 Hz Gain 3.3 dB Q 1.38
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 1073 Hz Gain -1.4 dB Q 3.01
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 6427 Hz Gain -5.4 dB Q 4.05
Filter 10: ON PK Fc 8484 Hz Gain 2.3 dB Q 2.42
I've been wondering: what measurement is it that you're calling Jaakkopasanen? He doesn't measure headphones, just collects measurements from other sites and uses that data to create EQ profiles.
It has to be either Innerfidelity, or oratory:
Screenshot_20210213-104303_Chrome.jpg
 
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#20
I've been wondering: what measurement is it that you're calling Jaakkopasanen? He doesn't measure headphones, just collects measurements from other sites and uses that data to create EQ profiles.
It has to be either Innerfidelity, or oratory: View attachment 112235
In that post he's comparing EQ profiles, not measurements.
 
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