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They're made by Bowers & Wilkins, of Zeppelin and Zeppelin Mini fame, so even before seeing them you expect the B&W P5 headphones to be something special. They're also the company's first foray into headphone manufacture, and though they're a 'Made for iPod' and 'Works with iPhone' product, it doesn't put a damper on our expectations ever since going ears-on with a pair at CES in January.
The clues are all there even before looking at the headphones themselves. For a start, Bowers & Wilkins are asking £250 for a pair of P5s, which is hardly pocket change. It's a price point full of competition, too, be it from IEMs such as the Grado GR8 and SE530, or 'real' headphones of the Denon AH-D2000 or Grado SR325 variety.
And with all that in mind it's still hard to look at the P5s and not think: "why yes, that is what £250-worth of audio equipment should look like. Everything that isn't metal is leather. And not faux leather, but actual leather made from a sheep previously resident in New Zealand - vegans and the devoutly vegetarian will have to avoid these.
The choice of materials isn't purely aesthetic. While the design is undeniably pleasing to look at, the use of metal for the headband and rear of the ear-cups provides durability that's essential in a set of headphones that will be carried with your iPhone or iPod (or indeed any device with a headphone output). Moreover, while the sheep may have a thing or two to say about its use, it's undeniable that leather is a beautifully comfortable material. It's tactile in a way that synthetic materials simply cannot replicate - try though they might.
This beauty isn't skin deep. The P5 headphones' impeccable design extends inwards with details such as memory foam padding under the ear-cups' leather skin. As a result, wearing the P5s is more akin to giving your ears a warm, leather-bound hug than anything else.