Tom's Hardware's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2, Last-Minute Luxury

Welcome to Part 2 of Tom's Hardware's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide. This second installment is geared toward the folks who want to buy components that stand alone as respectable gifts--call them the add-ons to go with the complete machines we built last week.

www.bowers-wilkins.com
$299
By: William Van Winkle

From across the pond, we bring you a welcome alternative for your ears to replace those winter ear muffs: B&W’s P5 headphones. B&W is gunning to unseat the Bose QuietComfort from your wish list. Whereas Bose claims its crown in the active noise cancellation department, B&W foregoes active NC for passive NC derived from superior materials construction, eliminating that occasionally detectable NC background hiss in the process. The P5s are crafted from leather, aluminum, and stainless steel. You won’t find any plastic here. The set exudes quality and sounds divine--if you enjoy unmodified, natural audio. Some headphones will artificially inflate bass and treble; B&W does not. The set only aims to faithfully output whatever was put in.

Now, about that noise canceling. If you’ve ever listened to a set of active NC cans, you know that they generally excel in cutting out low-frequency noise, such as engine rumble, while letting through voices, traffic sounds, and so forth. This is heavenly on long plane rides, and it’s good to still be able to hear some of the world around you in case somebody has something important to say, like "the wing is on fire!" However, most people really don’t say anything important (Ed.: cynical much?), especially directly to you, and all you really want is to drown out most of the world, leaving just enough to let you hear something worth hearing. This is the problem with in-canal headphones, which simply block out everything because they plug your ears.

Circumaural (surrounding the ears) headphone designs, including many Bose QuietComfort models, headphones also have a tendency to block a lot of ambient sound and be bulky in the process. On-ear headphones, which rest on top of the ear rather than surrounding them, tend to let in too much of the outside world. Finding the right compromise is tricky at best and depends a lot on your personal preferences. The P5 is circumaural, but just barely. When you look at the pads, they seem flat, as if they would merely sit on your ears. However, the cushioning is made to form around the ear (it helps if your ears lean toward the small side), and the metal construction of the cans serves to block out most noise. The overall effect is that the P5s feel light like an on-ear design but do as much passive noise blocking as a circumaural set.

Additionally, the cans are made such that the pads are held in place with magnets. They snap off fairly easily and reveal where the removable audio cabling plugs into the drivers. If you ever damage your cable, you simply replace it, not your whole headphone set. This is without question our favorite product feature.

The P5s are made with iPhone users in mind. The audio cable sports an inline playback controller and microphone, allowing you to receive and conduct calls without having to deal with your phone’s screen. Inline mics tend to sound hollow and distant. The P5 mic is no Plantronics boom mic, but it’s better than most and does a fair job at cutting ambient noise.

For $300, you definitely want to hear the P5s before committing your new year to using them. But with great fidelity, build construction, comfort, and headset capability to boot, our guess is you’ll find a lot to love here.

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49 comments
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    Top Comments
  • marraco
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.

    Agree. Those clothes weight too much.
    19
  • ben850
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    are you kidding me?
    17
  • alchemy69
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    Spoken like someone whose knowledge of female anatomy comes entirely from internet porn. That your chances of ever encountering the real thing are close to zero comes as a relief to women everywhere.
    14
  • Other Comments
  • bunga28
    All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.
    -47
  • ben850
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    are you kidding me?
    17
  • carlhenry
    2nd pic is best hahaha
    2
  • Anonymous
    I take it evaluating women isn't your strong suit, Bunga
    11
  • joytech22
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    What? I'm not even sure you know what you're talking about..
    11
  • alchemy69
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    Spoken like someone whose knowledge of female anatomy comes entirely from internet porn. That your chances of ever encountering the real thing are close to zero comes as a relief to women everywhere.
    14
  • MidianSpawned
    Picture 2 is an optical illusion, if you look at it long enough you will see a Kingston Hyper-X drive.
    9
  • sandypants
    What happened to the $500 SBM build?
    9
  • doron
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    In a world where models have to live the most unnatural, unhealthy life just to be what the companies decide is pretty for the rest of us, this comment to these otherwise very thin women is the most out of place I've ever seen. Do you have any idea what words like these can do to some women? I'm shocked and really afraid to see an actual woman which answers your definition of "thin".
    4
  • ethaniel
    @bunga28:

    What? You don't want those girls? Perfect, I'll take them. :)
    10
  • cangelini
    sandypantsWhat happened to the $500 SBM build?


    It's coming tomorrow!
    Chris
    8
  • marraco
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.

    Agree. Those clothes weight too much.
    19
  • brisingamen
    i always get a laugh out of hearing virgins talk about something they have never experienced.

    i have modeled on television. and these girls are solid.

    ironically the digital storm pc is almost identical to the one i just built for myself.

    if they ship girls that look like that with thier pc's ill never build my own again.
    4
  • feeddagoat
    Not sure about the streak, if it finally gets an update to 2.2 and they sort out the data transfer (I tested it in shop with my laptop and to transfer a 1gb video was estimated at 3hours). It is a good device tho. I would of put the Archos Table (or tablet since they sorted their spelling with the latest batch) 101 or 70. The 50 and smaller are all resistive so that puts me off them and if you want a phone too then nothing beats the Desire HD. It works...well, and is big enough for everything I would use it for.

    Overall great Article and loved all the selections even tho I didn't agree with the streak!
    2
  • i_am_aronman
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.

    if anything they need to gain weight, i prefer my women healthy, not hefty mind you, but if i see bone it sets off red flags for me.
    3
  • accolite
    The brunette in red is still the hottest of the 3.

    I think Toms realized that the blond in green isn't that good a looker so instead of putting a bag over her head they cropped the pic to not include it, lol. Funny stuff Toms.

    Hope the models don't check the comments area cuz some of the comments on here are pretty blunt, 2 of them might get their feelings hurt.
    5
  • pinkfloydminnesota
    Grado headphones, SR-60 MADE IN BROOKLYN not in across the pond. Best sounding headphone, ever.
    1
  • cadder
    Hey, I like the one in green!

    Back to the article- why does the Assassin have 2 CPU coolers? Did they ship you a different model for photography?
    0
  • satyr451
    bunga28All right. Your models need to lose weight. Sorry to be direct.


    Been a long time since I've actually commented on an article. I had to struggle to remember by username/password for this site...I'm glad I did. Now I can call you an idiot.... Idiot.
    3
  • SevWarfare
    No problem with the models weight. They are all thin and cute. The jerk needs thicker glasses so he can see a hot chick. Or maybe he has a CRT with 800*640, then I can see that comment being scarcely valid. My only gripe and it's minor, is the hottie in green needs to lay off the tanning bed. That bird is slightly overcooked. Oh yeah, nice gear too....hahaha
    2