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Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-ear, Noise-isolating Headphones Preview

B&W C5 Earphones

B&W C5 Earphones


  • Product Name: C5 Noise-isolating Earphones
  • Manufacturer: Bowers & Wilkins
  • Review Date: July 20, 2011 03:15
  • MSRP: $179.95
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
Technical features Secure Loop design
Micro Porous Filter
Neodymium magnets
CCAW coil
Ultra light 9um thick diaphragm
Transparent twisted cable (OFC)
iPhone compatible remote control
Description Intra aural (ear canal) headphone with noise isolation
Drive units 2x Ø9mm
Impedance 32 ohms
Frequency range 10Hz to 20kHz
Distortion (THD) <1%
Sensitivity 118dB/V at 1kHz
Inputs 3.5mm stereo mini jack (on cable)
Cable length 1.2m
Weight 20g
Finish Black Gloss

There are a lot of different noise-isolating headphones on the market. It is definitely a hard market to make a splash in. After all, nearly all in-ear headphones are noise-isolating to some extent, provided they make a good seal. But when B&W releases a pair, people listen. They've been long known for their loudspeaker offerings. A new noise-isolating headphone might be just the sort of product that their large and loyal following have been looking for.

Of course, there is a difference between noise-canceling and noise-isolating. With canceling, there is some sort of mechanism to eliminate outside noise. With isolating, the headphones are designed to block out outside noise. The B&W C5 headphones are of the in-ear variety. These type of headphones are, almost universally, noise isolating since they fit in and block exterior sound traveling through the ear canal. The sealed fit of the C5 is designed to isolate noise and keep your listening experience as pure as possible.

Rather than have the snug fit alone secure the headphone to your ear, B&W have included two other systems for additional comfort. First, they use a "Secure Loop" design where a cushioned loop fixes to the inner ridge of the user's ear. This Secured Loop is adjustable so they should work with everyone's ears. Secondly, B&W included a Tungsten tube inside of the headphone. This high-mass (ie. heavy) material is located near the user's ear, angling the headphone toward the ear for an improved fit and seal.


Overall, the C5 headphones are crafted from high-grade aluminum and have a .9mm driver. The headphones are rated from 10Hz to 20kHz and have a 1.2 meter long cable. 10Hz is super-low, even for an in-ear solution and we're not sure how exactly users will experience those frequencies, which are technically below the threshold of typical human hearing. The cable is 'Made for iPhone' certified, which means it includes an in-line remote for controlling your iPhone, and a microphone for making and taking calls.

c5-backLastly, B&W has included a Micro Porous Filter as a performance enhancer. Pictured at right, the Micro Porous Filter consists of hundreds of microscopic steel balls. While we're not exactly sure how this works B&W has this to say about them:

"This acts as a diffuser, enabling C5 to deliver pristine, natural audio, while also providing a more spacious performance than previously possible from in-ear headphones. It also has the advantage of limiting noise bleed, and together with the noise-isolating properties of the sealed fit, this allows users to lose themselves in flawless audio."

OK, then. There you have it.


The real story here is the price. With a B&W product, we often expect to see premium pricing based on their name and reputation. At $180, the C5 in-ear headphones are actually quite reasonable. While we're sure some consumers would expect noise-canceling and not just isolation at this price point, the fact is that a well-designed isolation system will work very well in all but the most noisy of situation. With a quilted bag for storage, Micro Porous Filter, rating down to 10Hz, Made for iPhone certification, and a focus on comfort for long listening sessions, the C5 headphones are sure to appeal to many.

For more information, please visit www.bowers-wilkins.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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