I was so impressed with a design and a sound of previously reviewed B&W P7 that very quickly these catapulted to the top of my favorite on-/over-ear headphones. But I also realized that for some a price tag of P7 might be out of reach. As a more budget friendly alternative, Bower & Wilkins offers P3 and P5 models of their headphones. Perhaps I will get a chance to test and to review P5 in the near future, but for now let's take a look at P7 little brother - P3. Right off the back I would like to mention that "good looks" definitely run in this family, and just because P3 is half of the P7 price, B&W didn't cut too many corners to impress me with their P3 headphones. So, let's take a closer look.
Just like P7, this pair of headphones arrived in a very "formal" dressed package that right away sets a tone of high class. All tuxedo-black box is dressed up with a full picture of P3 headphones on the front, and two smaller descriptive pictures on the back demonstrating folding design and removable earcup. Opening the box reveals a small size hard plastic clamshell case matching the color of the red headphones I received for my review. Being quite familiar with P7 over-ear headphones I did expect on-ear P3 to be smaller, but wasn't prepared how portable and lightweight they turned out to be. Weighting only 130g including cable, P3 is very lightweight. The metal hinges allowed them to be fully folded in to take very little space. Once you unfold these, you realize this is going to be another example of B&W artwork creation that make them stand out from a crowd.
As I mentioned before, these cost half of P7 price, but in now way do they feel like a half of the build quality. As a matter of fact, there is not even a hint of plastic in the design. All metal headband is wrapped around a soft touch rubbery material with inner shallow foam lining covered with the same speaker cloth as earcups. You do notice the padding is very minimal, but it works great considering light weight design where you don't have to worry about headphones sitting on top of your head with their heavy weight. Also right out of the box, I found headband fitment and clamping force to be perfect, without any need for a long term stretching. The headband adjusts with a smooth movement of two metal wire extensions, blending into a foldable hinge mechanism, and going into a weaved design attached to a brushed metal outer cup of earcups. These inter-weaved lines are very similar to P7 design, and a single point attachment allows tilting of the earcup for a better on-ear fitment. In addition to brushed metal with Bower & Wilkins logo, you will also find the same rubbery material as featured on the headband. The earpads are covered in the specially design acoustic cloth over soft memory foam, and can be removed by a mean of magnetic attachment, the same way as with P7. Beside being able to easily replace your earpads, they also cover a port for removable cables attached to each earcup. Due to minimalistic headband design, there is no cable running through it, therefore each cable attaches to its designated earcup.
Detachable cables are very common with premium headphones, and an absolute must if you want to extend lifetime of your headphone investment since those are usually the first to go. The only thing you have to be aware, just like with P7 the inner cup attachment is 2.5mm while the headphone attachment is a standard 3.5mm, which makes it a bit difficult for aftermarket cable replacement. But the good news, you get 2 sets of cables: 0ne with iDevice control and the other one without. I tested in-line remote to work fine with my Galaxy Note 2, with an exception of volume +/- which is expected because iDevice volume control is not compatible with Android phones. The multifunction button in the middle of in-line remote worked great to play/pause/call, double click to skip, and long-press to start Google Now. I also tested it making calls, and the call quality was acceptable. It's not stellar, just very convenient when you are on-the go and can seamlessly switch between a call and a music. The cable itself felt very durable, covered in rubbery material and somewhat tangle free except for the y-joint part of the cable where on a few occasions I had to unwrap it. But all this is minor, and overall design is fantastic!
There is no doubt, these are stylish headphones, but how does it stack up in a sound department? Let me reassure you - they don't disappoint either!!! The sound signature is very warm, definitely with more emphasis toward bass, and with a typical v-shaped sound. This is where P3 goes its separate way from P7 sibling which has a bigger driver and more details across the whole frequency spectrum. I know it's not fair to compare P3 to a more audiophile oriented and 2x the price P7, but I just wanted to bring this up as a reference. If you are very particular about sound details when listening to the music and you listen mostly to classical and jazz music, these are probably not for you. For those who appreciate EDM, hip-hop, rap/r'n'b, and pop/rock - you will not be disappointed as long as you are not expecting more details in upper mids and treble. I did have a chance to run pink noise burn-in loop for about 6 hours, and that made some improvement in bass, but mids and treble stayed unchanged. The soundstage was average as well, which is typical for these types of headphones. Again, don't get me wrong, in this price range P3 sounds fantastic and has a great bass response, and overall warm and smooth sound signature which is very pleasant for extended listening period. There is also a surprisingly good passive noise isolation and very little sound leakage, which is a big plus for those using P3 headphones on the go.
Overall, I found these headphones to be really great with a fantastic eye candy design and modern sound signature. Typically, I leave comparison with other headphones for the after-review follow up replies, but I have to get something off my chest. In my opinion these headphones are in direct competition with Beats Solo HD. If you even thinking about getting Solo HD, please give P3 a very serious consideration because they destroy Solo HD in every aspect, like Solo's fragile plastic headband or bloated muddy bass, or even pricing where you can get red P3 for $170 on amazon vs $200 Beats. The look of it's sexy design, the fantastic built quality, the storage and portability factor, the removable cables and earpads, and modern sound signature with enhanced bass make it standout from competition.
Here are the pictures.