The recently released Bowers & Wilkins P3 Series 2 on-ear headphones are a surprisingly affordable way to experience the famed B&W sound and high-end manufacturing quality. For $150, they don't offer a wireless Bluetooth connection or a noise-cancellation feature, but they do offer better sound, better materials and better build quality than anything else in their price range.
The P3 series is a smaller version of the $250 P5 on-ear headphones and anyone with an especially large head is going to want to consider the P5 model or the even larger $350 P7 over-ear headphones. (B&W has just introduced its $900 P9 Signature Series headphones, a premium pair that aims to be a budget-friendly version of the kind of incredibly expensive headphones we never write about here).
B&W is a British company with a signature speaker sound that adds just enough brightness to the upper-midrange to make guitars shimmer and jangle in a way that no other company can match. I own a pair of the original model P5 floor standing speakers and they might be the first thing I'd rescue in a house fire. I also own the original version of the P5 on-ear headphones and the new P3 Series 2 offer come close to offering the same sound quality.
B&W headphones pump up the bass a bit, something that's absolutely necessary for any headphones designed to be used on the go. The P3 Series 2 don't jack it up to the levels favored by most of the other headphones on the market, but they're not designed for neutral listening. Of course, the trademark B&W guitar sound isn't neutral, either.
Both the P3 and P5 models are designed to sit tightly on your ears. Some may find it uncomfortable and you might not want to wear them for 8 hours at a stretch, but, if you're finding them to be tight, most of the pressure can be relieved my extending the earpieces and not having the headband touch the top of your head.
The P3 Series 2 headphones come with an audio-only cable and a second cable with a controller designed to work with iOS devices. You can swap out the cables by removing the magnetically connected earpiece. It's a design touch that makes the headphones seem a lot more expensive than they actually are.
The earpieces are leather and the support struts are aluminum, so you don't get that plastic feel that comes with almost all under $200 headphones.
The P3 Series 2 headphones also come with a hard case that's much better than the quilted sleeve that comes with the P5 Series 2 headphones.
We review a lot of products that offer good value for money but not many that offer value are manufactured in a way that makes for an impressive gift. These headphones look and sound like a pair that's far more expensive, so they're a perfect choice for a gift.