I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Fatal (for me) flaw in the B&W P5 headphones

I hadn’t yet tried my Bowers & Wilkins P5 while walking until today. And there’s a fatal flaw if you intend to walk with them, if your ears are shaped anything like mine.1

I had noticed that their earpads are a bit uncomfortably sealed. They’re nearly airtight when worn, since the entire pad surface is leather (with holes in front of the drivers) instead of the more common cloth or foam:

This results in a seal on the ear that’s too airtight for comfort when putting on or taking off the headphones — I feel the air pressure on my eardrums. But I can deal with that minor annoyance when putting them on and taking them off.

But when walking, the seal causes a much bigger problem: I hear my footsteps. Loudly. Every footstep is like a bass-drum hit next to my ear. It’s similar to the pounding that many canalphone owners hear if they tap the wires. I tried adjusting the pad positions and walking more softly, but neither had a significant effect.

So I can’t recommend the P5 for walking. And I’m going to try to return mine.

I guess I’m getting out the soldering iron and removing the volume-adjustment blob from the Sennheiser PX 200-II cable.

  1. As far as I know, I have normally shaped ears. But if I hadn’t included this equivocation, someone would surely email me to complain that I’m misleading the world and I’m a moron because the P5 doesn’t have this problem on their differently shaped ears. ↩︎