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Published on June 26th, 2012 | by Greg


Portable And Balanced: Bowers & Wilkins P3s

Great au­dio usu­al­ly comes at a price. And it isn’t just the cost in dol­lars and cents- sound qual­i­ty al­ways re­quires a bal­ance of size and pow­er, com­fort and stur­di­ness. Big­ger bass might at­tract some peo­ple- the Beats se­ries- but for gen­er­al use, we pre­fer more nat­u­ral sound for all cir­cum­stances. And since New York­ers tend to do a lot of lis­ten­ing on the go, it’s pret­ty crit­i­cal that head­phones be both durable and eas­i­ly thrown in­to a bag or purse. Gra­do and bey­er­dy­nam­ic make amaz­ing head­phones, but they’re not great for use on the sub­way or while walk­ing around a busy neigh­bor­hood.

We of­ten turn to Bow­ers and Wilkins for au­dio- their Zep­pelin is still one of our fa­vorite au­dio de­vices in any prod­uct cat­e­go­ry or price range, and the Zep­pelin Air just makes it a bit bet­ter. Their MM-1 com­put­er speak­ers are love­ly and sound great, and the C5s are among the high­est-rat­ed in-ear head­phones in their class. So, we were pret­ty ex­cit­ed to hear about the lat­est from the 50-year old com­pa­ny, the new B&W P3 head­phones at a sur­pris­ing­ly in­ex­pen­sive price point of around $200. Sleek, mono­lith­ic pack­ag­ing gave way to a cute case, as these fold up nice­ly. And the im­me­di­ate im­pres­sion is cer­tain­ly one of lux­u­ry- well-de­signed ma­te­ri­als and a dis­tinc­tive de­sign.

We miss the leather from the P5s, but the P3s are def­i­nite­ly more durable, and bet­ter suit­ed to use out and about. They don’t of­fer much noise can­cel­la­tion or a good seal against out­side sound- they’re more on-ear than over-ear- but this can be de­sir­able in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments where you might want to hear the taxi honk­ing be­fore it rush­es your way. For those who are pri­mar­i­ly look­ing for use on flights, these prob­a­bly aren’t the right choice- ac­tive noise-can­celling might be bet­ter for that use case. And se­ri­ous au­dio­philes who plan on us­ing a head­phone amp and lis­ten­ing to most­ly vinyl- you should look else­where as well.

In­stead, the P3s are a great bal­ance- fair­ly rugged and durable, of­fer­ing ex­cel­lent mids and highs, on­ly a lit­tle weak on bass. The sound­stage is broad, com­ing to life best on acous­tic tracks and han­dling most gen­res of mu­sic with ease. Some testers weren’t im­pressed with rock or hip-hop, but clas­si­cal, jazz, and folk were all strong with this pair. Sep­a­ra­tion on tracks like Weight/light­ness from Am­bas­sadors was sol­id, and the Flam­ing Lips al­ways chal­lenge au­dio gear with their zany pro­duc­tion, but the P3s came through Yoshi­mi with high marks. Best of all, the built-in iPhone/iPod con­trols and re­mote made this set eas­i­er to use than some oth­er con­tenders. The mi­cro­phone won’t win many awards in our opin­ion, but was great to have- one of the bet­ter over­all ex­pe­ri­ences for mu­sic lis­ten­ers who still oc­ca­sion­al­ly like to use their de­vice as a phone.

Over­all, if you’re just look­ing for a great head­set and want a mic and porta­bil­i­ty, this is one of the best bets. It’s a great gen­er­al-pur­pose head­phone pair at a great price, mak­ing it a sol­id val­ue. Ours were black, but white mod­els are al­so avail­able, and look quite sharp. And their pret­ty lightweight for a pair of pre­mi­um cans, at 4.6 ounces. The ca­ble is al­so de­tach­able, so you can choose to swap out the con­trols but al­so is thus more eas­i­ly repara­ble- handy, per­haps, even if we nev­er need­ed to uti­lize the fea­ture. Avail­able now.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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