Bowers & Wilkins P3 Headphone (Playback 59)

Bowers & Wilkins P3

The ear-cushion foam has an open-cell structure that easily compresses under pressure. How well these foam pads will hold up under long-term use is up for conjecture. If you plan to use your P3s day-in and day-out, I suggest buying a spare pair of ear pads. Also during warm weather workouts, the pads’ soft absorbent qualities could lead to some eventual funkiness as the fabric retains your perspiration byproducts. I wonder if the pads are washable…

If isolation from outside noise is high on your list of must-have attributes you can cross the P3s off your audition list. The P3s do little to distance you from your environment. Sure, there’s some attenuation from the foam ear pads that muffles upper frequencies, but the P3s do little to reduce outside noise levels in the lower midrange and bass frequencies. Runners and outdoor exercisers will appreciate the connection with the outside world. Subway and airplane passengers will find the P3s less satisfactory. When I wore the P3s at a recent visit to the dentist, they made it difficult to hear the dental hygienist’s voice, but the other sounds in the office were quite obvious.

The P3s’ removable cable is thin, rubbery, and quite flexible. It exhibits some microphonics in the first 17” prior to the union of the left and right side cables, but at moderate listening levels this wasn’t a distraction. The iPod-compatible cable has a built-in microphone and special iPod–compatible tip, while the “regular” cable has a standard stereo mini-plug and no control functions. For most of my time with the P3s I used the regular cable.

Since the P3s came with the iPod cable installed I had an opportunity to switch cables. The job was simple once I figured out the P3 ear pads were removable and the attachments for the cable were nestled under the ear pads. While you must use some care during the re-attachment so as not to bend the connections, the system seems robust and should survive multiple cable swaps. The cable sits in a curved channel that also serves as protective strain-relief.

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