The Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Headphones

I may not be as handsome as the dude in the opening photo, but I really love these headphones. You can get all purist about bluetooth, but I say shut up – being released from a headphone cable is awesome.

I have a busy schedule and a messy desk; fiddling around to try and plug headphones into my Mac is a royal pain in the….  I never realized the reason I always bristled at headphone listening sessions was the cable. This isn’t going to make all the aftermarket cable manufacturers happy, but not having to deal with that thing swinging around is wonderful.

There were plenty of reasons to be a big fan of the P7 when it hit the market a while back; great sound, excellent build quality and great support. I’ve visited the Bowers & Wilkins factory a few times and know the level of dedication their workforce has to quality control. When you buy a B&W product, you know it’s good.

The proof’s in the listening

The opening bass line in Little Villiage’s “Inside Job” is weighty and spacious, and as John Hiatt’s signature lead vocal eases into the presentation, it’s amazing to see just how far bluetooth delivery has come in a short time. You’d never guess these weren’t cabled phones.

Regardless of the source you choose, the P7s are top performers, but It’s worth mentioning that the P7s sound clearer, cleaner and more crisp via PC than Mac. Yep, that’s a little hard for this Mac fanboy to admit, but streaming TIDAL through the new Dell XPS 27 is a wonderful combination. Opposite of years past, pairing the P7s was easier on the Dell too.

For not being a noise cancelling design, the P7s do an excellent job at sealing out the environment once installed on your head. They do feel a bit bulky in your hand, but the balance is so good, that even after hours of listening, there is no listener fatigue due to fit. Taking the P7s on a recent flight, thanks to their fold up design made them an easy travel partner. With 17 hours of battery life, you should be able to fly anywhere without running out of sound. However, should you forget to charge your P7s before a long expedition, just keep the cable packed in that cool carrying case handy for moments like these. In case you’re wondering, the P7s will go about 30-50 feet away from the device you have them paired with, and of course, the less cluttered the path, the better your results will be.

The P7s have a smooth, linear tonal balance, lending themselves to anything you might have in your music collection. Where the recent 802Ds we reviewed are highly resolving and even slightly forward in their presentation (more like sitting in the first five rows of the venue) the P7s push it back about five more rows. Not laid back, any stretch, but very natural. No part of the tonal spectrum is over emphasized, and for this listener that’s a great thing. The P7s are one of the easiest sets of phones to listen to I’ve heard in a long time. According to B&Ws engineers, the driver in the new P7 Wireless is completely redesigned from the previous model.

Beautiful and Practical

Fashionistas will appreciate the clean, uncluttered look of the P7s and who doesn’t like black? Right? The storage case is gorgeous and looks like something you’d find on the shelf at the Coach store. While packaging isn’t everything, this attention to detail is what makes you feel good about purchasing a B&W product. The P7s are tastefully designed, sturdily built and beautifully packaged. Everyone in my orbit that googled the P7s guessed $1,000 when I pulled out that cool, quilted case. Nope. $399. The B&W P7s are the killer audio bargain of the year.

Nerds will appreciate how easy these phones are to use. The human engineering of the P7s is fantastic – they are very intuitive. Once paired to your device, and adjusted to your head, the only thing left to address is volume level, set from the right ear cup. Volume can not be adjusted this way when the phones are used in wired operation. To power up or down, merely slide the power button and hold for a couple seconds. The power LED lights up (green means you have more than 20% charge) and should you forget to turn them off, the P7s will shutdown automatically after 10 min. Once powered back up, they automatically find the primary device you have paired them with. For those with an electronically dense household, up to 8 additional, “secondary” devices can be paired with the P7s.

Music lovers will just dig the sound and call it a day.

Love em!

Considering the modest up-charge (from $349 for standard cabled P7s) for having your P7s un-tethered, is the easiest $49 you’ll ever spend in the pursuit of musical enjoyment. And you can still use them with the supplied cables if you want to. The mix of superior sound quality provided by the P7 Wireless phones, combined with fanatic detail in implementation, right down to the carrying case, more than qualifies them for one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2017.

Jay Leno once said that there are two types of car people, “wrench turners and check writers.” I’ve often felt that there are two types of headphone listeners, “headphone collectors and music lovers.” If you’re one of the former, you’ll have to have a pair of P7s just because, but if you just love your music, and want to take it everywhere without being bothered by a pair of headphone cables (and for my money, we have way too many damn cables as it is) you can live happily ever after with a pair of P7s.

You only face one problem with owning a pair of P7s; unless you live in solitude, whoever you co-habitate with will either want yours or steal yours. Just plan on buying two pairs.

If you would like to purchase a pair of P7 wireless headphones directly from the B&W online store, please click here.

The Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless Phones,  $399  (factory site)

B&W Zeppelin

The quandary we’ve had was to put the Zeppelin in the iPod section of our website or review it as a regular hifi component.  After spending quite a bit of time with it, we’ve all come away with the same conclusion:  this is so much more than a fancy set of iPod speakers with a dock, it’s really a high performance portable audio system.  You can add another digital component via the combined digital/optical input jack, just like the ones on an Apple Power Book.  For iPod Video users, there is an S-Video out, so you can place your Zeppelin right below a plasma screen and watch your favorite episode of Desperate Housewives with amazing sound quality!

I don’t know how B&W is making a penny on these.  With the retail price at $599, the Zeppelin is more than an exceptional value; it might be the hi-fi deal of all time.  Where else can you get a pair of 2-way powered B&W speakers with a powered sub in a package like this for such a low price?  The demand for these is so high, I couldn’t even buy the review sample!  They are selling every one they can get their hands on and I know everyone who got one of these under the Christmas tree freaked out.

I had to do this review in stealth mode the minute I found out I couldn’t get one for my daughter in time for Christmas…

Tech stuff

As I said, the Zeppelin uses a pair of 3 ½” glass fiber midrange drivers along with a pair of dome tweeters that are claimed to be very similar to the ones in B&W’s legendary 800 series. Each individual midrange/tweeter combination has it’s own 25 watt amplifier  Bringing up the bottom is a 5- inch bass driver with a 50-watt amplifier, so this system has a total power of 100 watts!  You can find more information here.

This will give you the complete story of the engineering behind the Zeppelin as well as some great photos.

The Zeppelin is definitely a case of where a picture isn’t worth a thousand words. The photos don’t tell you is what a substantial piece of hardware this is.  When I first unboxed the Zeppelin I was not prepared for how well this is built and how heavy it was!  Again, this is not an entry-level piece of gear that’s been jobbed out to meet a price point.  The Zeppelin is built to the same high level of fit and finish that B&W’s flagship products possess.

The Zeppelin plugs into a standard AC outlet and uses a two-prong AC cord, so it does not have an IEC jack. Just to go over the top, I used an ICE Cube adapter and plugged in a new Shunyata Helix Alpha/VX power cord. This $1600 accessory takes the Zeppelin a bit out of the “budget hifi” column but it did allow it to be all it can be.  Spectacular. For the rest of you with a more level head, rest assured, the Zeppelin sounds fantastic with the stock power cord as well.

The Sound

The comparison to the 800 series is a great one.  I just happen to have a pair of B&W 805S speakers in my living room, powered by a stack of Classe components and there is more than a slight family resemblance going on, especially in the tonality department.  For those of you that have B&W speakers somewhere else in your home you can now take it with you.  I’d seriously consider having a lined road case built, so I could take one of these with me wherever I go!  (That is if there is ever one in the store to purchase!)

With the big connection between B&W and Abbey Road Studios, it just seemed right to make the first thing I played on the Zeppelin a Beatles song; Eleanor Rigby to be precise and the violins sounded fantastic, the timbre was spot on.  This is serious hifi.

B&W claims that the Zeppelin is down 6 db at 47hz and 22khz.  I imported my Stereophile test disc into my iPod and ran a low frequency sweep.  Without actually measuring it, I can’t completely verify this, but the output on the 50hz track was very strong, with some output at 40hz still, so I’d bet they are right on the money.  Listening to some of my favorite discs by Tosca, Kruder & Dorfmeister and Mickey Hart, the Zeppelin has plenty of bass that not only has good extension, but good texture and definition.

The biggest compliment I can give the Zeppelin is that when using uncompressed tracks, this system sounds like you are listening to at least a couple thousand dollars worth of gear.  Thanks to that long, Zeppelin shape, the tweeters are far enough apart to give you a very good stereo image.

Highs are extended, possessing plenty of detail, but not crunchy.  Listening to acoustic instruments was very pleasant and never fatiguing.  I felt that there was a lot of air and texture that again was way beyond what I’d expect for this price.  The only bad news is that the Zeppelin has more than enough resolution to reveal the difference between compressed and non-compressed tracks with ease.  I suspect many iPod users will have a new music experience should they re-rip some tracks in Apple Lossless format or uncompressed.


Usually when someone asks me to suggest a hifi system under a thousand dollars I want to take a shower, because I always feel terrible about what I’ve suggested.  No more, the B&W Zeppelin is a wonderful piece of gear that I have already happily suggested to more than one friend.  I am also very happy to give the Zeppelin one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2008.

The Zeppelin does it all. It’s well built from a company you know and trust.  Its design is stunning, fits anywhere and only requires one power cord to make it work.  Best of all, the sound quality is phenomenal and should put a smile on the face of even the fussiest audiophile. There is no better accessory for the iPod than the Zeppelin if you want an all inclusive system.

B&W Zeppelin

MSRP: $599

B & W  Group North America

B&W 802 Diamond Loudspeaker

Having owned a pair of B&W 805 Diamond loudspeakers for the past year, I’m tuned into B&W’s current sound: Powerful, detailed and accurate. The latest diamond tweeter and crossover design combine to produce a very musical speaker that handles nuance with aplomb, yet also rocks at realistic levels when the demand arises.

And yes, the speakers are drop-dead gorgeous. Available in two wood finishes and piano black, they are visual as well as aural works of art. Gino Vanelli once said, “Black cars look better in the shade.” This statement easily applies to speakers dipped in high-gloss black. Much like my neighbor’s triple-black Porsche GT3, it looks breathtaking for about five minutes after it exits the car wash.

Much as I love the black finish on my 805 Diamonds, I let out a sigh of relief when I noticed that the 802 Diamonds that arrived for review were marked “Rosenut.” Being slightly obsessive compulsive, I knew there would be no way to roll the 802D’s around without getting them full of fingerprints. Call me traditional, or perhaps lazy, but just don’t call me Shirley—I’m digging the wood finish of the 802 Diamonds. Derived from the original Nautilus speaker system (still hand-built in small quantities), the wood woofer enclosure nicely contrasts the gloss-black tweeter and midrange modules sitting on top of the cabinets.

A Quick Tour

When I visited B&W’s UK factory earlier this year, I watched the assembly of the speakers in the company’s impressive facility. It employs close to 400 people and takes up almost 60,000 square feet in the seaside town of Worthing. Every aspect of 800 series construction takes place there. The administrative offices are on top of the factory and provide a breathtaking view of the plant, which looks more like an aerospace center than a loudspeaker firm.

Akin to an Eames Lounge Chair, which uses damp wood pressed around a die under pressure to achieve its signature shape, Diamond series cabinets are built from layers of sheets of thin wood, which is visible from the cabinet’s edge. Glued together with high-strength adhesive, this sandwich is placed in a curved die and allowed to dry under pressure. Once removed from the die, the rough cabinet back is trimmed to shape and mated to the front face. But, only after the patented Matrix inner enclosure is fitted, giving the 800 series its famed rigidity and eliminating any seam on the curved back of the enclosure.

Meanwhile, mid/tweeter pods are crafted in a clean-room facility on another side of the plant. Craftsmen wear white suits and matching booties, keeping dust to a minimum. This is also where the bare, molded enclosures (made from Marlan resin, claimed to be as rigid as granite) go from primer coat to final finish, and then off to have the drivers installed. Notably, B&W’s skilled workers utilize the same tools my good friends at Scottsdale’s European Detail Specialists use while buffing multi-million-dollar automobiles for the world-renowned Barrett Jackson Auto Auction.

Speaking of fussy, cabinets are wet-sanded multiple times with abrasives so fine that they almost feel like nothing at all. Then, the cabinets are polished to a mirror-like finish that would make a Dusenberg owner drool. Once everything is completed and inspected, any remaining blemishes—no matter how tiny—are sent back for one last pass. The end result is perfection. Driver production takes place in yet another part of the factory. B&W is one of the few speaker companies that designs and builds all of its own drivers in-house; the engineering offices are down the street in a separate location.

Once the woofer cabinets are joined with the midrange/tweeter pod, drivers and crossover networks are installed, with workers still wearing gloves for most of the process. Each finished speaker is run through a mini anechoic chamber at the end of the assembly line; an operator uses a computerized measurement system to compare each speaker to its master reference. All finished Diamond series speakers must be within .5db of the reference standard or they are sent back for another inspection and rework. During my visit to this part of the factory, the six pairs of 802 Diamonds I observed passed their tests on the first go. A technician with whom I chatted said that because of the exhaustive testing on the individual components leading up to final assembly, “precious few don’t make the cut.”

Finally, the 800 series speakers are carefully packaged for staging in B&W’s immense warehouse, ready for shipment to dealers in 90 countries. The cutting-edge packaging involves substantial engineering. My tour guide smiled and said, “We don’t want them harmed after all this work, do we?” B&W includes packaging assembly instructions on the side of the box, but I suggest shooting video while you unpack the speakers. Should you ever decide to move and repack them, you’ll be glad you did.

Luxurious Feel

Unpacking the 802 Diamonds gives you ample opportunity to get up-close and personal with the speakers, and appreciate the care that goes into their construction. Woofer grilles are wrapped in foam and attach via magnets, as do the midrange grilles, enclosed in one of the two accessory boxes accompanying the speakers. Along with a thorough instruction manual, you’ll also find a microfiber cleaning cloth and pair of jumpers, should you not have speaker cables equipped with bi-wired termination.

I highly recommend always keeping the grille on the diamond tweeter. The diaphragm is vapor-deposited a layer of molecules at a time, and is very unforgiving of fingers and noses. Unlike some speakers’ soft-dome tweeters, these will not survive a dent, pulled out with scotch tape or other methods.

They Really Do Roll…

More manufacturers should follow B&W’s lead and put casters (or, as they like to say in the UK, a trolley) on the bottom of speakers weighing more than 100 pounds (45kg). It saves wear and tear on those squishy disks in your spinal column and simplifies the set-up process. The wheels made it easy to fine-tune placement for the best balance of imaging and bass response. For final placement, B&W offers a set of traditional spikes and set of hard-rubber feet to insert in place of the casters.

Your floor’s surface may determine what method you choose, but the soft feet can also be used to slightly fine-tune the bass response, supplying a bit looser sound than that of the spikes. Your room and ears will be the ultimate judge. While the spikes allow a modest amount of tilt, it shouldn’t be necessary, as the primary purpose of Nautilus enclosure provides for proper time alignment of the drivers. Thanks to wide vertical and horizontal dispersion, I gained nothing from tilting the speakers back. However, in typical nervous audiophile fashion, I ensured both speakers were perfectly level.

The smaller speakers in the 800 series have their “flowport”—B&W’s patented and trademarked name for its bass port, dimpled like a golf ball to provide more controlled air flow and less “port noise” than a standard port—mounted on the front face. But the 800 and 802 Diamond have their downward-facing ports, making them even easier to place. Indeed, precious little jockeying was required to optimize the 802 Diamonds in my listening room.

…And They Really Rock

A prerequisite for a great studio monitor is the ability to play loud without fatigue. The Diamonds excel in this area. If you love to crank up the volume, the Diamonds do not disappoint. Peter Gabriel’s “Lay Your Hands On Me” paints a wide and deep soundstage, combining densely layered vocals with delicate percussion and explosive drums, a challenge for any system. The 802 Diamonds remain firmly anchored, breezing through while maintaining detail in all three dimensions. Mixing it up with a 12” 45RPM single of Van Halen’s “I Don’t Want To Hear About It Later” has the same effect, keeping the explosiveness of both Van Halen brothers in check, yet appealingly separating the backup vocals of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony.

I easily noticed the differences between the original LP pressing, 45RPM single, and recent remaster of the first Van Halen album via the track “Little Dreamer.” With the Burmester 911 mk. 3 fairly warm to the touch, and my walls thumping, the 802 Diamonds segued into “Ice Cream Man” without missing a beat, capturing the delicacy in David Lee Roth’s vocal stylings. My collegiate swim coach used to say, “Finish hard.” So the volume control took a healthy clockwise spin as “On Fire” closed out the LP at maximum volume. I see why these speakers are the tools of choice in so many recording studios.

But Above All, They Balance

An early pressing of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven” from Fear of Music illustrates the 802 Diamonds’ panel-like ability to keep everything in perspective. Tina Weymouth’s bass line lingers in the back of the soundstage yet maintains the plucky, bright bass tone for which she is famous. Moving directly to The Yes Album, the difference between Chris Squire’s growling Rickenbacker and Weymouth’s Hofner presents a study in tonal contrast, while the beats in LL Cool J’s “Big Ole Butt” have the necessary weight and power. Few speakers in this price range possess this level of discerning bass response.

As much fun as those 1989 beats are, the 802 Diamonds also do an exceptional job of anchoring in place the percussion on LL Cool J’s Walking With a Panther. When blasting hip-hop tracks at club volume, it’s easy for the rest of the information on the record to get lost in the powerful bass grooves. However, the 802s retain their composure and wring out detail, even with meters on my prodigious McIntosh MC 1.2kws almost pegged—sending nearly 1200-watt peaks to the 802 Diamonds, which take it in stride without a trace of distortion.

Your favorite vocalist will reveal a marvelous coherence from top to bottom, the transition between woofers, midrange, and diamond tweeter as flawless as one can expect from a three-way cone speaker. For example, the strings on Roberta Flack’s “Jesse” are perfectly placed, occupying their own space without overpowering the singer.

Quite Cooperative

With a somewhat high sensitivity of 90db, but more importantly, a decidedly tube-friendly crossover, the 802 Diamonds should present a formidable experience regardless of amplification. Tube amplifiers in the 20-50wpc range have no problems driving these speakers to more than reasonable levels. The highly resolving nature of the B&Ws will uncloak whatever tonal character your amplifier might possess. I tried more than a dozen amp/preamp combinations, each with disparate characteristics.

My two top pairs comprised the all-tube combination of the ARC REF 5 preamplifier paired with the Decware Zen Torii, and the all solid-state Burmester 011/911mk 3. A pair of Classe M300 solid-state monoblocks also provided an excellent match, yielding a simultaneously fast, nimble and weighty presentation. The only amplifier in my stable that didn’t achieve symmetry? The Channel Islands D-500II. If you have class D amplification, insist on a test drive, as such amplifiers tend to be more speaker-dependent.

While the 802 Diamonds sound their best with world-class electronics, to their credit, they admirably sync with modest gear, making them easy candidates to stand as anchors of a system that will grow with as your budget allows. The 802 Diamonds proved exciting to hear even when paired with the humble PrimaLuna ProLogue One.


I’m pleased to offer the 802 Diamonds one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2011.  These are truly a destination speaker at a price well under what one would expect for this kind of performance. I’ve heard my share of speakers in the $40-60k range that can’t compare to the meticulous level of finish this model exhibits, and thanks to a massive worldwide retail network, you’re guaranteed great support.

B&W 802 Diamond

MSRP:  $15,000/pair


Analog Source AVID Acutus Reference SP    SME V    Koetsu Urushi Blue
Digital Source dCS Paganini stack    Sooloos Control 15
Preamplifier Audio Research REF 5    McIntosh C500    Burmester 011
Power Amplifier Audio Research REF 150    Burmester 911 mk. 3    Decware Zen Torii    Conrad Johnson MV-50C1    Classe M300 Monoblocks    McIntosh MC 1.2kw monoblocks
Phono Preamplifier Audio Research REF Phono 2
Cable Cardas Clear
Power Running Springs Dmitri and Maxim power conditioners
Vibration Control SRA Scuttle rack    SRA Ohio Class XL amplifier platforms