Today we are going to look at Bowers & Wilkins’ (B&W for short) over-ear hi-fi headphone – the B&W P7, and I’m pretty sure bass lovers will find this headphone very interesting. The B&W P7 features a stylish, classic and luxurious design while maintaining comfort when listening to your favorite tracks. It’s built with high quality materials, and the craftsmanship on this is just superb with attention to every detail. It’s also designed to perfectly go along with your mobile device like the iPhone and iPods; much better if you have a lossless music player, like from FiiO, iBasso or from Astell&Kern. But how about its sound quality? Who is the B&W P7 for? And is the P7’s price worth your hard earned money? Find out in my Bowers & Wilkins P7 review below.
B&W P7 Headphone Review
The B&W P7 is the company’s only over-ear headphone and the most expensive as well. If you have seen the P3 and P5 before, you will notice that the P7 somehow shares that same B&W signature design and look. It only has 22 ohms impedance making it easy for a mobile device to drive, even without the help of any amplifiers. The headband and ear pads are covered with genuine sheepskin leather making it very attractive and the comfort it provides is just great. Of course, since this is a closed over ear headphone, you will notice that your ears will get warm after several minutes or after an hour of wearing it.
The design is simple yet elegant and I’m sure many of you will find it pleasing to your eyes. But how about its sound quality? Will it also be pleasing to your ears as well? Very fortunately the B&W P7 will not disappoint you when it comes to sound quality and performance. The P7 features a rich and robust mid-range bass that will make you feel like you are inside the club, but at the same time doesn’t get too boomy. The bass is also clear and clean, unlike some headphones that promise bass performance but unfortunately the bass sounds like it’s muffled or unclear.
The treble in this headphone is also carefully managed as well. Not too low, preventing the bass from overpowering it, but at the same time noticeable enough to keep things fun and enjoyable. Bowers & Wilkins is very experienced when it comes to speakers. The 40mm drivers in the P7 are uncommon and they also placed acoustic dampening material behind the driver that prevents sound distortion and coloration. I’ll discuss more of its features as we take a closer look on the P7 below. After that, I’ll talk about my experience with it and my recommendation.
B&W P7 Specifications
|Technical Features||Dynamic driver
Nylon damped diaphragm
Dual cavity cushion
Changeable ear cushions
Folding (hinged) design
|Description||Circum aural headphone|
|Drive units||2x Ø40mm|
|Frequency range||10Hz to 20kHz|
|Distortion (THD)||<0.3% (1KHz/10mW)|
|Max. input power||50mW|
|Sensitivity||111dB/V at 1kHz|
|Inputs||3.5mm stereo mini jack (on cable)
2.5mm mini jack (on Headphone)
|Height||192mm folded out, 130mm folded in|
|Finish||Real leather and metal|
Apple compatibility: The remote and mic are supported only by iPhone 3GS or later, iPad, iPod touch (2nd generation or later), iPod classic (120GB, 60GB), and iPod nano (4th generation or later). The remote is supported by iPod shuffle (3rd generation or later). Audio is supported by all iPad and iPod models.
Closer Look on the P7
The B&W P7 comes in a nice black box with a description of the product on the back portion. Nothing special so far but after I sliced the security seal and removed the covering, that’s when things started to get exciting.
Inside the box you will be immediately greeted by the P7. You will also start to feel the premium-ness of this product. The P7 sits securely on a nice and somewhat silky “bed”. Underneath this section will reveal the accessories that came with the P7. Aside from the headphone itself, the package also includes a product manual, a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter, a universal cable that doesn’t have controls or mic, and a carrying pouch.
I’m not sure if the carrying pouch is also made of sheepskin, but I think it’s not. It’s also not a hard pouch; it’s simply a collapsible pouch with magnetic lock. While I am not a fan of the pouch included, at least it protects the cable and the headphone itself from getting damaged while inside my bad.
As you can see from above, the B&W P7 has a nice and elegant looking design. The black leather matches the metal joints, top with the aluminum brushed plates on both sides, with the logo embossed on the aluminum plates making it even more attractive. The P7’s design is actually very much similar with the P5 and P3.
The P7 that I got was new and the clamping force of the headband was still strong. So like what I did with the GMP 8.35 D, I put a box in between the speakers, that will stretch and loosen the headband a little bit, for almost 24 hours. After that it became much comfortable to wear.
Both joints are labeled with letters L and R, indicating which side is Left and Right. The metal portion that connects the headband and the speakers are retractable. Simply side it in or out until you reached your desired length. You should feel that the ear cups are aligned to your ears and the headband rests properly on your head.
Aside from being retractable, the circular middle section is actually a hinged and you can feel a gentle snap twice until you reached its maximum fold. Again that leather-covered headband looks just so sexy and shiny! However, I’m not sure how strong or how far can you stretch the headband. I don’t think that you can stretch it flat or invertedly like the GermanMaestro GMP 8.35 D, otherwise it may or will break.
Another thing that I liked about the B&W P7 is its easy-to-remove magnetic ear pads. As you can see from the left photo above, you can see four small magnets that firmly attaches to the speaker portion. The advantage of this is that it’s very easy to remove unlike other ear pads on most of the headphones out there. The problem is, it’s not universal, and you will have to buy a pair of this ear pads from B&W’s online shop for $49 if ever you need a replacement.
Also there are no velour pads for the P7. Even the replacement pads are leather. This gives the P7 some good noise isolation properties and maintains its sound signature. Another advantage of leather pads is that they are easier to clean. However I can’t wear them for more than an hour since it gets very warm around my ears. I have to remove the P7 and rest my ears for a few minutes.
The cable on the Bowers & Wilkins P7 is also removable and replaceable. By default, the attached cable is the one with the remote and mic, which is fully compatible with apple devices. There is also a standard P7 cable included in the accessories in case you don’t want to use this one. However both the cables included in the package are for mobile use and it’s somewhat short for home use. If you need a longer cable, the company is selling a 5m cable from their online shop.
Testing and Sound Quality
I have two source of my audio while testing the B&W P7 headphone. First is my iPhone 5, and second is my desktop PC with a Gigabyte Z97X Gaming G1 WIFI-BK, featuring Sound Core 3D and OP-AMP: TI Burr Brown OPA2134. I also tried using JDS Labs’ O2+ODAC Combo, however I don’t feel that an additional AMPing is really necessary. The P7 is very easy to drive, thanks to its low impedance, and even with the iPhone 5 alone the volume is very much adequate already.
Like how I test other headphones / earphones, I first started listening to Chesky Records – The Ultimate Demonstration Disk. The sound that it produced was clean and clear, and somewhat similar to the sound quality of the GMP 8.35 D monitor headphone. But, the bass is noticeably deep, strong with enough boom to make things lively and fun.
The sound that the B&W P7 produced was also transparent, so I tried not to listen to some poorly encoded MP3 files so that it wouldn’t ruin the fun. The soundstage was good, but not as good as an open back headphone. The midrange and treble are also present despite having a powerful bass.
After listening to Chesky Records, I then put its bass to the test. Listening to music like Poker Face by Lady Gaga and My Humps by Black Eyed Peas was very immersive. It feels like I’m in the club while listening to those tracks. I could feel the “boom” on my ears, but it doesn’t get too boomy. I then listened to Jason Derulo’s Wiggle, Bone Thugs N Harmony’s Crossroads, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop, and even Psy’s Gentleman. Again, the bass was strong with enough punch to get your body moving.
Even with tracks were bass was very prominent, it doesn’t over power the mids and highs. You can still clearly hear the artist’s voice together with the other instruments playing in the background. I also tried listening to other genres like rock, heavy metal and classical music but I think the P7 isn’t the right headphone for those genres. Of course you can use this for you daily use since it is primarily designed for mobility, specially for people who are using iPhones and iPods. But I think the P7 would best fit for people who loves R&B, Hip Hop, Pop music, Dance, and the likes.
Price and Availability
The Bowers & Wilkins P7 are very much available and can be purchased from B&W’s online shop for $399.99 at the time I posted this review. This includes a 2 year warranty from the company and you also get three months free membership of the Society of Sound when you register your purchase. The company also accepts returns, within 14 days, if you feel the product just isn’t right for you.
B&W P7 Review: Conclusion
After using the Bowers & Wilkins P7 for a couple of weeks already, I can say that this is one fantastic pair of cans. It’s very easy to drive and can be used directly with most (if not any) mobile devices without the need of amplification. The B&W P7 both looks great and sounds great, not to mention the premium price you have to pay for it.
Not many headphones use real leather, so you can surely brag that your P7 (if ever you plan on getting one) uses 100% real leather. It’s very clean looking, somewhat shiny, nice to touch and portable enough for a full over-ear headphone. But I do think that you should observe some amount of care when using the P7. You don’t want to ruin the nice leather, and you definitely do not want to over bend the metal that is connecting the headband and the speakers.
The comfort that the P7 provide is good, but not that great. I don’t have a problem with the headband, but I have to remove them after an hour or so to rest my ears and prevent it from getting too warm. I don’t see myself using this when I am running or active as well. Although it hugs firmly on my head, I prefer to use them while walking or stationary. I don’t know if memory foams would somehow affect its sound quality, but I think memory foams would be more comfortable to wear instead.
If you are looking for a new pair of cans with both style and sound performance, and the money to match its price, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the P7, but not to everyone. Do note that the P7 has a somewhat strong and punchy bass (but not too boomy) and would best fit for people who likes upbeat, fun music and for people who loves a good amount of bass on their cans. If you have that kind of taste, then the P7 would not disappoint you.
The Bowers & Wilkins P7 is a fine product, where both superb craftsmanship and sound quality and performance are present. For me, the P7 surely deserves The PC Enthusiast’s Editor’s Choice award.