Bowers & Wilkins is an English brand that is known worldwide for manufacturing high fidelity audio products, especially for their home stereo loudspeakers. When B&W decided to get into the headphone market with the P5, about 10 years ago, it was a big deal. A really big deal. For the first time, it was possible to take the B&W signature sound everywhere and in addition to that, in a luxurious looking headphone. Since then, they’ve released a couple more headphones and we’ll be looking at the P5’s bigger brother: the over-ear P7.
Inside the box you’ll find:
- The headphones (surprise, surprise!) with the cable with the remote control buttons
- A leather pouch
- A cable without the control buttons
- 6.3 mm adapter
I’ll divide this review into 4 sections:
- Sound quality
(Wow, 2 lists in a row… I surely need to be more creative now!)
The lines of the P7 are quite similar to the other headphones in the P series family. As weird as this sounds, the P7 smell as luxurious as they look. The experience of opening the box for the first time is comparable to entering in a new car with leather sits.
When you open the box, the headphone is packed diagonally, quite an (un)usual way to do this (did you see what I did there? Let’s all pretend it was awesome, ok?).
B&W did not use a single piece of plastic in this headphone. The headband and the ear pads are made of New Zealand’s sheepskin leather. Everything else is made of aluminum, making this one of the sturdiest headphones I’ve ever used.
Also, not only the stitching on the headband is absolutely beautiful, but the leather is shiny. Everything about it shouts the word “classy”.
The quality of the materials used is unquestionable. However, the design itself divides the population. It has a very classical and retro style into it, with black being the only color available. It looks quite mature and sophisticated. This is exactly the opposite of some other popular headphones nowadays that have countless funky colors. Personally, I feel that the P7 looks super classy and absolutely stunning.
The leather pouch that they provide has a diamond stitching and the headphone fits snuggly inside. It’s not a hard-shell case, so if you’re planning to drop the P7 from the 20th floor, it won’t provide much protection. But for normal daily commute or travelling, it will be more than enough.
Starting with the small things: printed on the hinge of each side, there is a “R” and “L” that helps distinguishing between the right and left cup.
The earpads are magnetically attached to the headphones and can be removed by simply pulling them out. At the beginning, I was concerned whether this would mean that they’d fall quite easily, but honestly, I haven’t had a single problem (for the 1+ year that I’ve had this).
Once you remove the earpads, the drive units are revealed. On the left side, there is also the attachment for the cable (which, by the way, is also one of the ways to tell which cup is which: the one that has the cable is the left one).
The 40 mm drive units
The cable plugs in the left cup. This is a 2.5 mm cable that you can detach by simply pulling it outwards from where it sits and take it out. Even though a removable cable is quite usual in most headphones nowadays, this is still a very useful feature in case something happens to the cable, you don’t need to throw the whole headphone away, but just exchange the lead. Also, if the microphone and the remote control aren’t really useful for you, you can always change to the included standard cable.
The way they managed to hide the attachment inside the magnetic cups is really cool.
The headphone folds up like a pair of sunglasses but unfortunately, doesn’t fold flat. The hinge is sturdy and feels solid. When folded up, it does reduce a little bit the size to put in a bag for example. However, because it doesn’t fold flat, the P7 is quite bulky if you put it around the neck. Whenever I rotated my head to the sides, I always ended up hitting my chin on the headphone, which, truth be told, is not a big deal, just a bit annoying.
(And I’ve never been told I have a gigantic chin or anything… Maybe I do.)
Furthermore, it’s not the most practical thing in the world to put the headphones inside the pouch. As you can see above, I have to wrap the cable carefully and place it between the headband and the cups to be able to pack the headphone neatly inside the pouch. I don’t mean it’s hard, but I can’t just throw it in however and as quickly as I want, the whole process is more complicated than it could’ve been. At least for me…
Just like most headphones, the comfort increases with time.
At the beginning, the clamping force was quite high and even though my ears weren’t sore, there was some kind of discomfort in my head after 2-3 hours of continuous listening. With time, the P7 gets less stiff and now it is without a doubt the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever had. I could sleep for an entire 2-hour flight, study for endless hours (just go with it, ok?) without a single complaint. The longest I’ve had it on was about 5 or 6 hours and it was a joy to listen to! (I haven’t tested for longer periods of time because eventually I had to go to the toilet, or cook and eat, or socialize, or sleep, you know, normal people stuff. Sorry about that!)
In my opinion, the only thing that B&W could have done better was using memory foam in the cushions. That would have added an extra “pillow-sensation” to the whole experience.
4. Sound quality
The most important part: how do they sound? Without getting into too many technical terms first and if I had to describe the sound quality in a couple of words, they’d be “absolutely fantastic”. I feel like it’d be quite pointless to even try to describe how good it sounds because any word used would not do it justice and I’d advise you to just try them if you have the chance. There should be demo units in all Apple stores around the world. Anyway, I’m going to try my best to share some thoughts.
Bear in mind that this is the first high-end over-ear headphone I’ve had. I don’t consider myself a true audiophile, but I like to listen to music in good quality and the P7 really made me audiophil-er. Is that a word?
When I first listened to it, it blew my mind. Suddenly, all the songs I’ve heard before sounded completely different. The P7 was able to change entirely the listening experience – the sound was full, in some of the songs, I started hearing some instruments on the background that I have never realised they were there before… it simply sounded so much better in all ways possible.
I would say that this headphone has a rather dark sound, meaning that the bass is strong and punchy but definitely not overwhelming. It adds a lot of fun to the tunes and personally, I quite like this darker character (when compared to the Beoplay H6, for example, which is overall more balanced and neutral).
The treble is crisp and clear. It doesn’t get muddy, not even when listening to opera singers hitting those high notes. It will just give you goosebumps instead.
The mid-range is detailed and accurate. Listening to John Mayer’s guitar in “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” is a pure joy. It’s possible to hear every single note and the guitar still blends in with the vocals perfectly.
Being this an over-ear model, the soundstage is incredible. Even in the more complex tunes with 100 different instruments, each one playing their own melody, with vocals and back vocals, I could hear everything super detailed and spaced from each other. Every time I listened to the same song, I could discover a new melody that I’ve never heard before. Furthermore, if you close your eyes, you can pretty much imagine the whole band, with the drums on the center back, bass on the left, guitar on the right and Freddy Mercury hitting all the notes in 4 octaves right in front of you. It’s a whole another experience.
From my tests, the P7 does a good job on keeping your music to myself, it doesn’t leak the sound – considering that I listen in about 50% of the volume most of the times. Also, it is quite good in isolating the noise from the outside. I compared the P7 to the Bose QC25 in a busy airport: when music was playing, the two were equally good, I could not hear a single thing from the outside environment – not even a speaker that was playing music right next to me. However, if music wasn’t playing, the Bose QC25 obviously performed better, because of the Active Noise Canceling feature.
This is quite a win for B&W considering that I compared the P7 – passive noise canceling – with the QC25 – active noise canceling – and they both had the same result with music on.
The Bowers & Wilkins P7 is an excellent over-ear headphone. It’s true that it can be considered to be a big and bulky set, but it’s still on the portable side.
Since its release in 2013, the price hasn’t changed and more importantly, it hasn’t dropped. This tells a lot about the quality of the P7 and how it is standing strong the test of time.
It definitely isn’t a cheap headphone – quite the opposite, its price tag places the P7 in the premium range of listening devices. Luckily, the sound quality and the materials used do justice to that “luxurious” title.
I highly recommend trying the P7 and I am 99% sure you’ll get hooked.