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Review: Bowers & Wilkins P3

Bowers & Wilkins P3

About a month ago we first heard about Bowers & Wilkins’ new P3 headphones. I for one, was excited at the prospect of what looked like a more affordable version of the spectacular  Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones. The only question was, what did Bowers & Wilkins sacrifice to shave $100 off the price tag. Read on to find out! 

External Changes

  1. Foldable Design:
    • P3: The earpieces of the P3 headphones fold inward so that the earphones can fit into the new hard semi-circle shell-case.  In testing the P3 headphones, the case was tough enough that I was able to throw the P3 headphones into a bag with keys and other tech and not  worry about damaging the headphones.
    • P5: In contrast, the P5 headphones fit into an included soft cloth pouch that protects it from scratches in a bag, but not necessarily drops or inadvertent collisions.
  2. Smaller Build: The P3 headphones are designed to be more portable than the P5 headphones. Thus, as-a-whole, the P3 headphones have a smaller frame (165mm in height) than the P5 headphones (180mm in height).
  3. Dual Wire Connections:
    • P3: The P3 headphones have an audio cable attached to each headphone.
    • P5: The P5 headphones have one audio cable that connects to the left earphone.
  4. Acoustic Fabric: Acoustic fabric replaces leather on the earpieces and the inner portion of the headband.  In testing the P3 headphones, I liked the acoustic fabric a lot when I was using the headphones outdoors.  While I really like the P5’s leather earpieces and headband, it can get a little sweaty around the ears and headband in the warm months.  In contrast, the acoustic fabric covering the P3’s earpieces  breathes, making for better on-the-go experience.

Internal Changes

  1. Airflow redirection to minimize distortion: In the P3 headphones the driver terminals have been moved to the rear of the magnets so that air can uniformly escape, minimizing distortion.
  2. Smaller Drivers: While the P5 headphones are powered by 40mm drivers, the P3 headphones are driven by slightly smaller 30mm drivers.  While the change is necessary to keep with a smaller design, the smaller drivers sacrifice some of the heavier base tones.

The Sound: The vocals and high notes are clear and crisp. As expected the mid-range tones are full and dynamic. However, because of the smaller drivers, the bass sometimes feels like it hits a floor, with very deep notes sounding stunted. (see the notes below the red line)

Wrap-up: For $199, the Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones are pretty great.  However, having tested the P5 headphones I would recommend splurging the extra $100.

Note: Bower & Wilkins provided a demo unit for this review.

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