by Paul Mah

B&W P3 Headphones a Sight and Sound for the Senses

Aug 01, 20123 mins
Computers and PeripheralsSmartphones

The newly-released $200 Bowers & Wilkins P3 is a portable headphone that sounds as good as it looks.

The Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) P3 Headphones is the latest release by the British audio company better known as the maker of the highly-praised Zeppelin Air. Unlike its B&W P5 headphones released last year, the P3 uses a slightly smaller driver (30mm versus 40mm), and is foldable to facilitate easier storage when on-the-go.


The P3 headphones come with a beautiful molded plastic hard case with metal hinges that get points for durability. A soft material lines the insides of the headphones to protect the P3 from scratches as well as to hold the headphones in place. Mind your fingers though, as it snaps shut with enough force to give you a bad case of sore digits.

On the plus side, the case is very strong and will probably survive being thrown around while traveling.

The stereo cable is attached to both sides of the headphones and is not detachable. This also means that it was not user-replaceable and is somewhat harder to manage than a cable that connects only to one side. The hinge of the headphones will only fold when fully retracted, which together with the matte anodized aluminum hinges, are robust and built-to-last. An inline remote and microphone attachment works with the iPhone for adjusting the volume and for the occasional call.

I am impressed by the sound produced by the B&W P3 headphones. The bass produced by the P3 is deep, though bass-heads should be forewarned that it is not as loud as some of the other headphones out there. In return for not overemphasizing bass and treble, the P3 sports a dynamic playback range that I found to be quite extraordinary; music sounded natural and detailed.

Indeed, I will probably use the P3 to replace my travel-friendly Bose on-ear headphone as my day-to-day headphones.


A close-up of the B&W P3 headphones with its hinge folded open.


The hinge of the P3 Headphone when it is folded close.


All folded up and ready to go. The P3 Headphones inside its hard case.

Conclusion: B&W P3 Headphones

The B&W P3 is available in black or white, and will set you back $200. The review unit that I tested was in white, though I didn’t have enough time with the P3 to tell if it will get stained over time. You may want to opt for the black model if you have greasy hair or sweat a lot.

Aside from the sound, the engineering and build quality of the B&W P3 headphones is exceptional. Moreover, the inclusion of a hard case means that you can throw it into your rucksack with your other devices. While the P3 doesn’t fold flat, and is therefore slightly thicker when folded than headphones that do fold flat, it compensates somewhat by looking gorgeous.

So if you’re looking to upgrade from cheap cans to something that people will ask about, the B&W P3 headphones may be what you’re looking for.


Side by side comparison: The B&W P3 Headphones in its hard case (right) next to a Bose on-ear headphone in its travel case (left). Though the P3 is thicker, it actually has a more compact footprint.