Bowers and Wilkins P5 Headphones

So I recently realized that I've been neglecting the blog.  I'm gonna try to do better at updating on a semi-regular basis.  Here's a post I've been wanting to do for some time.... Awhile ago I was in the market for headphones.  I'm a student and therefore do a lot of work late at night, in coffee shops, libraries, etc. and wanted to spring for a decent pair of cans (headphone slang for those unfamiliar).  I was looking for an over-the-ear closed back set that did noise cancellation or isolation.  I did a lot of research and narrowed things down to a couple options: Bose QuietComfort 15, Monster Beats Studio, and Bowers and Wilkins P5.  I then ran around to the Apple store (they have all three on display) and the local Best Buy to try out every pair I could.  Here are my thoughts:

Bose QuietComfort 15 (~$300): A lot of people like these.  They sound pretty good and offer noise cancellation.  The noise cancellation works well and cuts out a lot of ambient chatter from around you.  This is great because you can listen to your music at lower volumes.  Unfortunately, I learned noise cancellation is not for me (this might not bother others).  Noise canceling headsets use Active Noise Control.  The headphones actually emit soundwaves to cancel ambient noise.  Not gonna go into the details, if you want more info check out the link.  For me, it feels like these headphones are constantly putting pressure on my eardrums and it gives me a headache.  So I liked the sound from these guys and the premise of noise cancellation but found out its not for me.  They're comfortable to wear and come with a nice carrying case though.  Next.

Monster Beats Studio (~$300): A lot of people love these and I see a lot on campus.  If you read reviews, a lot of people say that the build quality is not up to snuff for a $300 pair of headphones.  They do feel kinda flimsy, and if you go to an Apple store (which do get a lot of traffic in the defense of the headphones), take note of which headphones are broken.  Usually they are the Beats.  The sound is decent but I think it depends on what you listen to.  To me the frequency response sounds artificial. I feel like the mids are scooped and the highs and bass enhanced.  They have a ton of bass but sound artificial to me.  Again I say, artificial to me.  They are also big and clunky, not something I was a fan of.  Last, like the Bose, they are also noise-canceling, something I'm not a fan of.  Next.

Bowers and Wilkins P5 (~$300): These are the cans that I ended up purchasing.  First, the build quality is fantastic.  Very solid.  The next thing you'll notice when you put them on is how comfortable they are.  The headband and ear cups are made of "New Zealand Sheep Leather".  PETA won't approve but it feels like you have pillows on your ear.  The sound I think is amazing.  It's very organic.  The bass response is great without being enhanced.  These make listening to your old MP3s fun again.  You'll be surprised at the things you'll pick up in songs you've listened to a million times.  They are noise-isolating and not noise-canceling.  "Noise isolating" is a fancy way of saying they physically block incoming sound because they sit on your ears.  They do bring down the ambient noise (not as much as the above two sets) but won't block it out completely.  This ends up not being a huge problem as I rarely have to push the volume above 50% for the music to block out everything.  I can listen to these things for hours on end with minimal ear fatigue at those volumes.  They are slimmer than the above two sets and come with a soft carrying case.  I was worried about the soft carrying case but I've been carrying them around in my bag for a couple months now without issue.  The other thing about these I thought was cool: the earcups are removable and the cord can easily be replaced by you if it ever gets severed.  No sending them back to the manufacturer if you have cord problems.  The cord also comes with inline control for ipod/iphone/etc.  Giddyup.  Anyway, I can't speak highly enough about these.  I talked my brother into getting these as well for school and he loves them as well.  Definitely give them a listen.

Above: Bowers and Wilkins P5.  Shot with Nikon D7000, 24mm f1.4G @f1.4 (review to come soon), ISO250 1/60 sec.  Straight out of camera.

Keep in mind that there are more options out there than what are listed here.  There are some very high quality earbuds out there that sound great, block out external sound very well, and are VERY compact for traveling.  Not everyone enjoys sticking stuff in their ear canals though.  I've owned several pairs of this style by Shure.  They're great but cleaning out ear wax is a pain in the butt and all the pairs I've owned have broken after a year or two.  Two pairs were under warranty and Shure replaced them pretty hassle free no questions asked.  Great customer service and I'll buy another pair for working out when I've got another $100.  There are also other over-the-ear OPEN back headphones, such as Grado.  Grado's get RAVE reviews by audiophiles however the open back design is not great for quiet places, like the library, where sound leakage is a problem.  Keep them in mind though when making your decision.  Note: I am in no way endorsed by any manufacturer of any sorts so don't get any perks for writing about this stuff.  I just do so because I like to.