Review: Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature Headphones

I was particularly impressed with the earcup decoupling. If you look closely at the pattern surrounding the central earcup you’ll notice that it moves. This flexible material physically separates each earcup from the headband and stops transmission of unwanted vibrations. In B&W’s typical form, this isn’t just stylish, it’s also a cleverly engineered solution.

Every time I’ve used the P9 Signature I’ve been struck by the craftsmanship that’s gone into them. From the feel of the leather to the reflections on the glass-covered earcup, it all enhances the experience of listening to your music.

Performance

Bowers & Wilkins has a great heritage when it comes to audio. Key to their popularity has been their house sound signature. When listening to your music the P9’s deliver this B&W sound with aplomb.

For this review I paired the P9 Signature with a Chord Mojo DAC and compared them with the Oppo PM-2, Bowers & Wilkins P7, and the Grado 325e.

The P9’s have a full sound that delivers crystal treble, a detailed midrange and an impressive bass. Listening to a wide range of music is very easy, always providing a solid and pleasing reproduction. The bass definitely plays to B&W’s tradition of being pronounced but in the P9’s it remains agile, tight and nuanced. These certainly aren’t a pair of Beats but if you are a fan of bass you’ll love the refined lows the P9’s offer. The midrange offers an impressive level of detail and seamlessly blends with the bass and treble.

Compared to the similarly priced Oppo PM-2 the P9’s sound is less open and has a less flat response which may disappoint those interested in critical listening. The advantage of the P9 Signature is that most music feels more engaging and fun. If you want an enjoyable listen the P9 wins hands down.

The B&W P7 has a very similar sonic signature to the P9. It’s easy to tell they were conceived by the same company. Overall the P9 has an even more prominent bass and greater clarity across all frequencies.

 

The P9 Signature renders a vast range of music beautifully. From the breathy vocals of Sara Watkins in “Without a Word” to the individuality of strings on Björk’s Stonemilker, the P9 shows outstanding clarity. That’s not to say the P9 struggles with other styles of music, they excelled at everything from rock to electronica to classical.

There are definite differences across the headphones I tested but the P9’s ended up being my personal favourite. Having a favourite is one thing, affording the P9 Signature is another – these are an expensive set of cans. Similar to most audio kit you definitely get more bang for bucks at lower prices – the P9’s aren’t twice as good as the P7. Bear in mind that the P7 costs less than half the price.

Summary

The Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature are an amazing pair of headphones. I can honestly say that I’ve never had more fun listening to some of my favourite tracks than when using the P9’s. The whole experience oozes quality from the moment you see the luxurious case, to the feel on your head to the B&W sound signature.

This premium experience comes with a cost – for me it’s purely a financial one. The sound isn’t a flat critical listening sound, but that doesn’t bother me. The £699/$899 bothers me – mainly that I just can’t afford to buy a pair.

The looks won’t be for everyone, especially the choice of brown leather, but the P9 Signature is certainly a distinctive headphone. No one can help but be impressed by the level of detail, finish and craftsmanship the P9 attains.

If money is not your primary concern and you admire the looks, the P9 Signature will give you years of sonic pleasure. Happy 50th Birthday Bowers & Wilkins!

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