The Sumptuous and Sonorous Bowers & Wilkins P7 Measurements

Measurements

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

I experienced quite a bit of difficulty getting these headphones to seal on my Head Acoustics measurement head, as a result I got quite a bit of low frequency variation in the raw measurements. I measured these headphones a few times (due to some unrelated problems in my system during distortion measurements) and on other occasions I found the drivers to be better matched. I suspect the difference in bass response between channes is more a function of headphone seal than actual driver missmatch. My sense in listening testes was that they readily achieved a good seal on my head.

Compensated frequency response shows a wide bass hump centered at around 60Hz, followed by a mid-range dip centered at about 500Hz, followed by a presence hump from about 900Hz to 2.2kHz. The mid-bass hump and mid-range suckout were both moderately audible in listening.

Usually, headphones will head downward from 2kHz to roughly 7kHz quite rapidly followed by a peak at 10kHz. What I see in the P7 response in this region is a leveling of the usual features in this area, filling in the valley from 3-7kHz and mellowing of the peak at 10kHz. My takeaway from dialog with with Stuart Nevill at B&W is that it is the second cavity in the ear-pad plate that is controlling the 3-7kHz region. Subsequent treble fall-off in the highest octave above 10kHz is very mild. Many headphones will drop-off 10dB to 20dB more than that shown by the P7. I'd like to see the P7 5dB down from where it is, but the treble resolution is so good it doesn't bother me much with its current voicing. Bottom line: the line from 2kHz to 20kHz is surprisingly clean and straight.

The initial spike of the 30Hz square wave is markedly higher than the following waveform indicating too much treble to me, and the latter half of the waveform is a bit swayback from the mild bass roll-off.

300Hz shows a very fast and elevated initial transient spike, which rapidly returns to the baseline waveform. There is some following noise, but very little ringing. Similarly the Impulse response is quick, nicely shaped, and without much ringing. Though it does show some noise which lasts for about 1 mSec (about average) the noise level is fairly low.

Above 100Hz the distortion measurements are fairly good with the 100dBspl markedly below the 90dBspl lines indicating good power handling abilities. Under 100Hz the 90dB plot shows a modest rise, but the 100dBspl curve rises more rapidly. This is actually a fairly good result—the Sennheiser Momentum, for example, shows a similar shape but at higher distortion levels. I would say this plot shows a small amount of bass distortion in loud passages, which would resonate with my listening experience that while the bass might have some issues, it's fairly minor in terms of distorted sound.

Impedance plot shows a nominally 25 Ohm impedance headphone, with a primary driver resonance at 50Hz.

Isolation is about average for a circumaural, sealed headphone, and clocks in at -15dB broadband attenuation. 44mVrms to achieve 90dBspl is about average for a good portable headset; P7 will play fairly loud from portable sources.

COMPANY INFO
Bowers&Wilkins
54 Concord Street
North Reading, MA
marketing@bwgroupusa.com
(978) 664 2870
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COMMENTS
MacedonianHero's picture

Great write up Tyll about these fantastic headphones. I actually would put them on the Wall of Fame as I prefer them to pretty much everything on there now.  :)

That said, I agree with many of your issues with them. I suppose my biggest issue is that I wished that the ear cups rotated to make them more portable for carrying on to a plane.

The measurements are pretty close to what I imagined they'd be based after a few months with these headphones. So cool. Thanks for this and Merry Christmas!

RPGWiZaRD's picture

Just curious, did you ever try EQing up the lower-midrange, seems like the P7 would love getting a tiny lower-mid increase. On a more accessible 10-band EQ it would bean a slight ^-shape setting at 250, 500 and 1kHz peaking a bit higher at 500Hz. If any headphone would benefit it, P7 probably does if you're more into a neutral timbre.

Maybe roughly

250Hz: +1.5 dB
500Hz: +2.5~3.0 dB
1kHz: +1.0 dB

Something along those lines. (in practice I've always found not needing to do exactly as much of an adjustment as the FR graph shows to get it sound on the same amplitude, hence the more reserved figures).

Tyll Hertsens's picture

As a product reviewer I kind of have to review the product in stock form--which means no mods or EQ. I have to describe the normal user experience for the broader audience, I think.

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

You can always have a seperate paragraph about Eqing, like if eqing out some midbass makes it nice and tight or if it still sound lose.

RPGWiZaRD's picture

I didn't mean that you had to even include any comments for review, could be useful for other people also to comment if like me are asking about it. Also aren't you curious on a personal level to know how much headroom for further improvement there are with EQing? Obviously it's great if you find a headphone you don't need to EQ at all but there are lot of cases where the frequency response balance may be the biggest issue but it does well for you in other aspects, then EQing is a great option.

 

markus's picture

Can you say something about ringing in upper midrange and treble, Tyll? Or do we have to look for waterfall plots on changstar?

A very resolving and smooth treble response is what I'm looking for in a headphone. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

We'll have to wait for Purrin to do his thing to see the CSD plots, but generally speaking if there's ringing you'll see periodic fluctuations (diminishing sine waves) after the initial spike in the impulse response. With the P7, I don't see that but rather randomish noise subsequent to the impulse. So I'm guessing they'll look pretty good on Marv's plots. But we'll see....

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

I was just looking for this review yesturday as I heard these at the apple store and liked them, but it wasn't here, now it is lol good timming

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

Is the midrange really that resessed? I ask because the reason I didn't like the P5's was the extreme treble roll off, these are much better, I did notice the bass boomyness but otherwise the sounded good in the 5min I have to listen to them I really liked them.

shammer's picture

Hey Tyll, I'm glad to see you got around to reviewing these, I've been waiting to see what you thought of them! My foray in $200+ headphones started with a pair of P5s, which I quickly sold after seeing your glowing review of the Momentums—the P5s were uncomfortable for me for long listeing (as I have medium to large ears), and I was actually pretty dissapointed with how thin the sound seemed. I have really enjoyed the Momentums, but I have never really liked how they fit either (not a fan of the half over, half circumaural design). I'm wondering if you think a person with bigger ears would find the P7 slightly more comfortable. I've been contemplating the move for a while now, and I must say I absolutely love the B&W aesthetic (which prompted me to get the P5 in the first place, despite the many poor reviews I read on sound... what can I say, the beautiful construction drew me in like a siren). I think I might actually enjoy the handle the "fun" sound signature, as apposed to the reletively flat EQ of the Momentums, so would you recommend the switch? How would you compare the quality/quantity of the lower bass response to the Momentum (an area I've sometimes felt could be a bit more pronounced for my taste with the Momentums)? Thanks for the help if you get a chance to reply.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

If you think you'd like the "fun" sound, sure, go ahead.  I'd take the HP50 over both, but I've got no problem recommending the P5.

SoulSyde's picture

Nice review Tyll.  I love the asthetics of the B&W line of headphones and thought of the P7 as a replacement for my M-80s for travel purposes, but I'm inclined to keep my M-80s due to your description of their sound characteristics.  They certainly look gorgeous but I'm not 100% sold on them.

PierPaoloG's picture

Hi Tyll, 

do you really think that NAD VISO HP50 is better than Denon AH-D2000?

If so I quit my search of a used Denon and I buy the NAD. Would you please help me?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I find the D2000 too tizzy and loose in the bass. Love the HP50!

Jazz1's picture

Having owned the P7 for several weeks I can certainly agree with everything you've said about these headphones. I particulary find your comments about comfort right in line with what I've experienced. I find myself readjusting them once in awhile, I do with most headphones I own. They certainly aren't as comfortable as my HD-650's. But so far the P7's comfort level hasn't made me regret the purchase.

I didn't really think I would like headphones that are not generally neutral.  If headphones were wine I've been thinking myself an Oenophile, only to find I like sweet wines ;) The point is that giving headphones a listen yourself is the only way to know for sure. I'm glad I didn't just judge mine out of the box as either I adjusted to them or the mythical burn-in happened.

Reviews, no matter well done are a guide not gospel as many of us already know. Of course I find reviews indespensible as I can't try them all. I need reviews to filter out the headphones that I'd clearly not enjoy.

Of course I'm disappointed that these didn't make the "wall of fame", couldn't you just lean them up against the wall as opposed to hanging them on the wall?  ;)

Thanks again. My next headphone pursuit will be the HP50 based on your reviews.

 

Cami's picture

Been looking for a closed pair of headphones for those moments when listening needs to be silent, and these sure damn look the part. They appear overall more convincing than the Momentums and the VISOs to me.

I am still eagerly awaiting your upcoming review of the new AKG flagship, the K812s. I guess there are many of us that own - or have owned - a K/Q701/2s, and that have waited a lonf time to see something new and significantly better from AKG, and now the moment has finally arrived.

The price I can see at Headroom, pretty much insinuates a direct competition with the flagships of the two German giants: the HD800s and the T1. My hunch is the AKGs will best the T1 but not so easily challenge the merits of the HD800s. Nevertheless, a significant improvement over the rest of the K series is sufficient merit in itself, IMHO.

The K/Q series have been a benchmark for a long time and at their price range (today you can get a new pair of Q701s for $220 at B&H, nearly 7 times less than a K812, and half the price of a pair of HD650s), and it was sure time AKG got back in the game.

Looking very much forward to your thorough coverage of the K812s, since I have been saving some cash, waiting for something to come along and challenge my good old K702s and HD800s, and cover a spot under the X-mas tree.

Cheers!

Arve's picture

From http://www.head-fi.org/t/685339/new-akg-flagship-k812-first-impression/2... :

 don't think I'll be reviewing them...just not good enough, don't want to bash AKG though.

The_Anderman's picture

I'm having a really hard time deciding between the P7 and the NAD HP50.

I've listened to the P7 quite a bit and compared it to the Sennheiser Momentum and I like the P7 a lot more. I can't get a hold of a set of HP50s locally, and I would really like someone's opinion who's heard both.

I'm guessing that the HP50 kills the P7 in treble and mids, but how does the bass compare?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I'd say the HP50 bests the P7 in the mids and lows, but the P7 has the superior treble...in broad strokes.

waves1968's picture

I've had the P7s for about three weeks and they have really grown on me. They originally seemed very harsh, but have mellowed. There are still occasional moments of harshness, but for the most part they outshine my DT1350s. The comfort is OK with me, as long as it's not a super extended listening session. I'm also tempted by the HP50s, although I'm given a bit of pause at Tyll's comments about the treble on those. Sometimes I actually enjoy the exaggerated sizzle from the AE2s, but it can be tiring on most tracks. I'm taking advantage of the extended holiday return policy via the Magnolia Room on the P7s, so I'm on the verge of ordering a pair of the NADs to compare. ("Damn you, Khan...I mean Tyll!). ;)

audioops's picture

Tyll, the P7 is the best portable headphone I've heard to date, but I'm not in a position where I can test top-tier customs like the JH13 Pro, and so if I were to buy such a CIEM over the P7s it would have to be on the strength of their reviews and not actual listening. Do you think there is an enormous jump in quality between the P7s and the JH13s, or does the inherent advantages of the over-ear form factor mean that the P7s get you most of the way there at a much lesser cost?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I think the JH13 or Westone ES5 are awesomely good, significantly better than the P7. But as you say the form factors are very different. It's really about your needs and desires with regard to the different styles of headphone, and I can't speak to that.

rbagni's picture

Hello Tyll , im kinda new in the headphone thing , had a pair of radio shack HP FOR MANY YEARS FOR 30 DOLLARS . then purchased a pair of Sennheiser hd 558 , which wasnt bad , then my wife said , i can hear those things from hear , so im researhing headphones , very interesting , i love my music , now im trying to decide between , the BW P7 or the V Moda M 100 , i mean they all sound pretty well as by reading , my first choice was the PSB M4u2 , which i did not see on your review"s , i basiclly listen to rock ,  , and movies , its all mabout sound and comfort , anyway i really like your website and reviews , help me decide thanks

bren12's picture

So I recently purchased a pair of P7 (3 days ago) as I couldn't resist due to their very attractive design. Unfortunately, the center dome of the left driver's diaphragm has been partially pushed in. I believe this was due to what was pressure being exerted onto the diaphragm from the pushing on the earcups while the chamber created by the earpads is sealed. I was having issues with the seal on the right side which resulted in a lot of adjusting to get the seal right and I believe all the pushing and moving caused the damage.

I was wondering if this was a known issue or something because I know there was a similar issue with the Focal headphones. I will be attempting to exchange them at the Apple Store. Ok, I not really sure if there is a difference in sound but there is something very slightly odd about the sound of the right driver even when I swap the channels around.The left side sounds a tiny bit less full, like its missing a hint of low mid/bass frequencies or something.

FLTOWER79's picture

Both B&W P7 and NAD VISO HP50 reviews are amazing.

I am looking to buy my first HIFI cans or I must say my first cans ever (to escape from my Apple earbugs or my Sennheiser CX300). I enjoy every type of music and usually listen everything on my Audiolab system with my Wharfedale Diamond 9.5 or on my B&W A7.

After receiving a pair of Dr. Dre Studio for Xmas (which I didn't ask for and returned within a week!) I narrowed down my selection to these B&W P7 or NAD VISO HP50.

I am using this forum to get some advised on which cans I should buy since both of them seem pretty similar.

Please help me to decide!

Regards.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Personally, I'd take the NAD. It's a bit truer tonally, and a bit more comfortable for me. But the P7 is pretty good as well, though a tad brighter up top.

FLTOWER79's picture

Thanks for your quick answer. I was thinking to go with NAD as well.

shayweiss's picture

Hello Tyll
I own the P7 and wish to know if a tube dac amp usb can get the best performance (if so) out of the p7 and if so, what type (Brand and model up to 500$) you can suggest?
Thank U
Shay

donunus's picture

I actually dig the feel, the smell, and the sound of the p7s. They are much better to me than the momentums IMO. The NAD 50 may be slightly more balanced though but there was a slight hollowness to them that made me feel that they were just okay and couldn't beat these overall especially as a portable headphone.

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