Bowers and Wilkins C5 review
The market for accessory headphones has never been more competitive. Thanks to the fact that phone manufacturers usually put the cheapest headphones they can find in the box, upgrading your device's headphones is top of the list when it comes to improving audio performance.
The iPhone is served by just about every manufacturer out there and the B&W C5 headphones sit towards the top-end of that list in terms of pricing. But with that, you get headphones from one of the biggest names in hi-fi speakers, a brand that certainly brings some weight with it.
And weight isn't just limited to the name. The C5 headphones are chunky in their design, larger than most typical in-ear headphones. The physical weight isn't actually a problem thanks to the good fit and a design quirk that's intended to keep them firmly in your ears.
We've seen over ear cable arrangements, we've seen ear fins, but B&W has gone for something it is simply calling the "secure loop". This is adjustable to a degree so you can enlarge to add extra security in your ear. In reality, we don't really like the feeling this brings - we didn't with ear fins on other models either - and we found that it slowly crept back to the original size, so for us did little more than add an interesting design point.
B&W tells us that the monitor cylinders are weighted with tungsten so that they stay in your ear. The cylinders themselves are approx 9mm in diameter and on the outside are cut at an angle and finished with mesh, which is designed to act as a sonic diffuser.
The build itself is good and the tinkering with the cable means the attachment point is secure on the buds. It isn't the most substantial cable we've ever seen, but it looks and feels like it will stand some abuse.
In the box you get a range of silicone tips so you can fit them to your ear aperture. A good fit is essential to ensure that you isolate outside noise and give the C5's the best chance to let the music flow. We found the fit to be secure and comfortable for extended listening, even if the "secure loop" was little more than cosmetic novelty to us.
The performance of the B&W C5 is very good too, which you'd expect from a set of headphones that set you back £150. The level of noise isolation they achieve was also very good, so walking through busy streets we didn't find that we had to turn the music up to enjoy the clarity that the headphones offer.
They cope admirably with all types of music, cleanly delivering the bass from up-beat dance tracks, whilst being perfectly happy to bring plenty of clarity and realism to older studio recordings. From Chase and Status to Jimi Hendrix, the C5 headphones had no problem in delivering wonderful audio.
At what cost
There's no denying that the B&W C5 are expensive. It's a competitive space and there are plenty of headphones to consider before you need to part with your cash. They do carry the Made for iPhone badge however and come with the in-line controls so you can fire-up Siri, or Voice Control, as well as make and take calls, adjust the volume and move through your music.
Callers reported that things were loud and clear and we've found ourselves using these headphones not only with mobile devices, but also in Skype calling on the Mac.
To keep your investment safe, you'll also find a case, with cable winder, in the box.
If you are looking for premium headphones for your iPhone, the Bowers & Wilkins C5 are certainly worthy of consideration. The combination of comfortable fit and excellent sound quality make them a pleasure to use.
The design is a little quirky and the "secure loop" didn't really offer us any great advantages, but at the same time we didn't suffer any drawbacks from it either - having failed to use it any great purpose, we largely ignored it.
The price is the obvious downside to the C5s so some may be more attracted to the many alternative, and some hugely capable, headphones sitting in a slightly lower price bracket.