Bowers & Wilkins announced the new P3 headphones this week and they will go on sale in June; they are lighter, more portable and cheaper than last year's flagship P5 headphones, but which should you buy?


IBTimes UK has spent more than a year with the Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones and we have found them to offer excellent sound quality and good comfort, while impressing us with the aluminium and leather design.

But at £250 the P5s are out of a lot of people's budgets and B&W knows this, and has just launched the £169 P3 headphones, which promise unrivalled sound quality and great design, but in a more portable form and a full £80 cheaper than the range-topping P5s.

Both sets of headphones offer very good sound quality, aluminium construction and easily removable, magnetic earpieces - but the P3s are able to fold in on themselves, making them far more portable than their bulky stablemates, which are only able to fold flat.

The P3s come with a hard plastic travel case, whereas the P5s have a quilted pouch that, while arguably more luxurious, doesn't offer the same protection when thrown into a bag - in fact the P3's case is around half the size of the P5's, giving extra credence to their claims of portability.


Both pairs of headphones can be adjusted by approximately 1.5in and both are flexible enough to fit snugly over any sized head.

For the style-conscious the P3s are available in both black and white, while the P5s can only be had in black, with aluminium details on the earpiece.

Both headphones feel sturdy and incredibly well made - as our P5s have proved, looking brand new after a year of use. The build quality does, however, mean that the larger P5s can feel heavy after several hours of use and we found they begin to get uncomfortable after a while, but the same could be said about other headphones of their size.

The P3s, on the other hand, are smaller and lighter, which should help to keep them comfortable for longer, but we haven't had our pair long enough to give an accurate review yet.


What we can say is that, while the P3s are definitely lighter, this is in part down to them having less padding on the headband, which is made from flexible rubber on the outside and B&W's 'acoustic fabric' on the inside, which is quite firm.

The P3s also miss out on some memory foam on the earpieces, which don't rest on our ears as snugly as the ones on the P5 do. Also, with the P5's earpieces swivelling to fold flat, they can be adjusted slightly when wearing to increase comfort - the earpieces on the P3 remain in a fixed position relevant to their mountings.

The lack of leatherbound snugness on the P3 headphones means that slightly more sound leaks out than on the P5 - this doesn't affect the user, but worth remembering on a busy train that your fellow commuters can hear your music escaping more clearly from the cheaper P3 headphones.


Similarly, the P5 offers better noise isolation with the extra padding, compared to the P3 which lets more sounds in from the environment, although we wouldn't say that it's a dealbreaker.

Choosing between the P3 and P5 is a close call that ultimately boils down to price and portability against quality and comfort.

Being £80 cheaper and foldable, the P3 wins on the former, but the P5's use of leather and extra memory foam makes them more comfortable, while the larger speakers offer better sound quality.

Comparing both models one have another it becomes apparent that the P5's offer a fuller sound with more bass and clarity. The larger, leather earpads cover your ears and make the sound seem more intimate, whereas the smaller, firmer pads on the P3s make it feel as if their are sitting on your ear, rather than covering them.

Bowers and Wilkins P3

After listening to a range of different tracks with both headphones, we'd say that the P5's extra cost is justified if you are looking for the best sound, but the portability and small size of the P3s is a compromise that we, as daily London commuters, are willing to settle with. Ideally, we'd use the P5s at home and opt for the P3s when traveling.

Finally, the leather pads of the P5s make talking through the microphone a strange experience, as your own voice sounds muffled - this isn't the case with the P3s, which we found comfortable to make calls with.

What Bowers & Wilkins now has, is a range of headphones that are far enough apart in terms of price and function to appear to two separate markets, both offering stiff competition for rivals Bose and Beats.