Published on June 26th, 2012 | by Greg0
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.