Bowers & Wilkins recently had their 50th anniversary in audio engineering and tasked their team with creating special products to celebrate. The heart of B&W, the Steyning Research Establishment, conceived their latest headphones, the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature.
The P9 Signature is the culmination of those 50 years of expertise and combines exquisite materials with precision engineering. These are B&W’s top-end headphones that command the top-end price of £699.99/$899.99.
The materials used are more commonly found in Italian sports cars, from the Alcantara case to the aluminium frame, they are all chosen for their premium feel. The most striking choice is the Italian Saffiano leather that clads the headband and earcups – the brown cross-hatch finish may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s distinctively premium.
On the engineering front, B&W have refined the design and introduced a new angled driver position. This aims to give a more natural sound – having the music aligned in front, similar to listening to live music. The engineers didn’t stop there. They’ve minimised distortion with a de-coupled headband, developed an advanced new drive unit and optimised the acoustic cabinet within each earcup.
What’s in the Box?
The packaging is a premium design that holds the P9 Signature headphones securely in place. The box has a nice heft to it and there is a little resistance as the cover slides from the base, with air being suctioned in between the components.
The first thing you notice is the folded P9 positioned at an angle, with the bulbous brown earcups keeping the cans from folding flat. The next thing that hits you is the smell of leather, not overwhelming, but distinct.
Opening up the case you find a selection of accessories under the P9’s. There are the Alcantara case, the manual and three cables. Cable-wise you get two lengths of cable and an iPhone compatible cable with volume buttons. Missing is a Lightning-compatible cable, but that’s coming this summer as a free upgrade.
The Alcantara case is functional and looks very smart, designed with the same Saffiano leather on the magnetic flap. It doesn’t provide sturdy protection but is great for avoiding scuffs and scratches. When it’s not in use it folds flat for easy storage.
Using the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature
Once you have unboxed the P9’s you’ll want to get to the main event – listening to them. First you have to connect the cable. Similar to B&W’s other wired headphones, the P9 Signature has a concealed audio connector located under the left earcup. Once you have selected your desired length of cable you just pull off the magnetically-attached earcup, plug it in, and finally position the earcup so it snaps back into place. This is still a great solution that gives the flexibility of interchangeable cables but retains the refined look of an integrated cable.
The P9 Signature has a folding design with hinges on each adjustable arm. Easing them open gives a reassuring resistance and the parts all align perfectly. Adjusting the headband size is less refined, with a movement that isn’t as smooth and lacks any notches for tactile feedback. Usually, I know that I need to extend my headphones by four notches each side, something I can’t do with the P9.
Placing the P9 Signature over your ears feels great. The earcups surround your ears and you immediately notice the supple leather before the memory foam starts to adapt to form a perfect fit. Even without music playing, the sound isolation is formidable, reducing background noise to a minimum. The headphones are noticeably solid, weighing in at over 400g, but I’ve never experienced any discomfort even with extended use.