Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones Lightning Review: Massive Sound, Tiny Buds

Do you like to do things and listen to music while you're doing them? Me too! We have so much in common! Maybe you should try these C5 in-ear headphones from Bowers & Wilkins. They're great for listening while doing.

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I totally want to make out with the industrial designer responsible for these buds. These suckers about as secure as Barack Obama's underwear drawer. An ingenious loop that sends the cable back through a passage in the speakers lets you use the wire to hold the buds in place. Pop them in your ear canal, push the cable, and the loop expands to secure itself against your antihelix. (That's the cartilage around your ear hole, smart guy. Hey, I had to look it up too.) Meanwhile, the tungsten sound tube is weighted towards your ear's interior, which also helps keeps them in place because they want to fall in, not out. The in-ear anchor works better than any over-ear cable contraption that I've ever tried. It makes them fantastic for running, mountain biking, or other highly active things that maybe you shouldn't wear earbuds for but probably will anyway. And while they aren't noise-canceling, they fit so snugly in the ear that they do a great job of blocking out ambient sound.

Better yet, they sound better than a come on from Lauren Bacall. (Ladies: you can swap in, let's say, Clive Owen.) Bowers & Wilkins says that the micro-porous filter, which has hundreds of itty-bitty steel balls, acts as a diffuser and opens up the sound in an otherwise tiny speaker. The dog ate my audio engineering degree, so I don't know about that. But my ears do tell me that the sound is rich and expansive. When I listened to lossless tracks back-to-back with the C5 followed by a pair of commonly-available $100 in-ears, there was no comparison. It was like being in a symphony hall versus standing outside of one.

They're also made for iPhone, so you can skip tracks and make calls. How pleasant.

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Oh, tunneling terror! That stethoscoping sound! Make it stop! While the lower portion of the cable (below where the right and left speaker cables join) was well insulated and largely noise free, the upper portion had quite a bit of cable noise. And since that's the part that hangs down from your ears, it's also the part that gets jostled quite a bit. While it's no worse than most other in-ears, more insulation on the upper part of the speaker cable would probably have made for a quieter connection.

Should I Buy These?

These are some delightful speakers. The bottom line is that they pack a massive sound into tiny buds. But even better, they stay in well and are exceptionally comfortable, even when you wear them for long periods of time. While they're expensive, if you've got the beans to dop on quality buds, you won't be disappointed.

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Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones
Price: $180
Bowers & Wilkins

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