B&W P5 Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins is well known for its superb high-end speakers, so it's really no surprise that this British company would enter the headphone market. However, I'm a bit surprised that its first offering in this arena—dubbed the P5—is a set of portable headphones intended for the iPod and other MP3 players.

As with all of its products, B&W employed the best possible materials and technologies in the P5. The drivers consist of optimized Mylar diaphragms with ultra-linear neodymium magnets, and the cable is cleverly routed around the driver in a channel under the removable earpads, which are made from New Zealand sheep leather. B&W claims that the earpads are noise-isolating while allowing just enough ambient sound to provide a sense of place, but being on-ear instead of around-the-ear, I can't see how they provide much isolation.

The P5 comes with two interchangeable cables—one with a standard jack for any MP3 player and the other specifically for the iPod and iPhone that includes a microphone and control for volume and track selection.

At $300, the P5 is relatively expensive for portable headphones, but a mere pittance compared with most products I profile here. Still, the design is so cool, I decided that the P5 definitely qualifies as ultimate gear.