Bowers & Wilkins P3 Portable Headphone/Headset

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Standard Setting Design
I'm simply in love with the design of the new B&W P3 ($199), it's what a Koss Porta Pro wished it could look like. Simple stainless wire becomes a brilliant sweeping pair of stays acting as sliders at the headband and the single gimbal point at the earpiece. Rubberized earpieces and headband exteriors feel soft and sturdy simultaneously, and a handsomely patterned medium gray with hint of brown fabric covers the headband and earpads. The oval metal outer earpiece serves as a focal point for the Bowers & Wilkins logo, and it's gleaming beveled edge sets off a marvelous design resonance with the stainless sliders and chrome trim on the earpiece. Soft rectangles, ovals, and an arch become a breathtakingly elegant headphone design. Yes, I think they're that good looking.

The build quality is also stupendously good. The synthetic parts are soft and well placed as bumpers for protection when setting the P3 down on a surface. The only thing close to a rattle is the free movement of the earpiece on the gimbal, which is needed for comfort, otherwise the P3 feel both extremely solid and remarkably light weight. This is no easy task, and comes with the added benefit of great wearability.

The extremely light weight and precise ability to hold its shape, coupled with just the right amount of friction from the pad material, makes these cans a joy to wear for me. Because they're so light and small they take a little effort to carefully place on your ears, but once positioned they stay put quite well even during moderate activity like sweeping and picking-up. The earpieces don't swivel at all and I was initially concerned they might not align well with my ears, but this didn't seem to be a problem for me, I found the fit to be properly aligned and comfortable. The nicely breathable fabric pads also remain fairly cool relative to most other on-ear headphones.

BowersWilkins_P3_Photo_earpiecesThe earpads are magnetically attached to the earpieces, and when removed reveal a very trick connector and cable guide that permits easy cable swapping and dandy cable strain relief. Two cables are included, one plain and one with Apple remote and mike. Both cables are four feet long and terminated with a straight bodied 1/8 inch mini-plug.

I hear quite a few complaints among headphone enthusiasts about thin cables on headphones these days and feel this sentiment is misguided. Thin cable generally has less mechanical noise to interfere with the microphone during calls. Many of the thin cables on headphones these days are designed to prevent tangling, and slender cables pack away in less space. Simply because a cable is thin does not mean it's of poor quality or durability.

Unlike the B&W P5, the P3 doesn't isolate very well from outside noise and would make for pretty poor listening in a busy urban landscape. They will slightly quiet home and office environments, and the modest isolation may work to your advantage in suburbia where remaining aware of your surroundings may keep you safer as you walk around.

The B&W P3 earpieces fold inward for storage, and a hard plastic clam-shell case is included with purchase.

So far, so far.

Bowers & Wilkins
54 Concord Street
North Reading, MA
(978) 664 2870