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Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature Headphones review: Exquisite design, gorgeous sound

Theo Nicolakis | Nov. 8, 2016
B&W knows how to celebrate. The British audio company is marking its 50th anniversary with a set of to-die-for cans.

Stylish accessories

B&W pampers P9 Signature buyers with accessories, too, including a gray-colored, Italian-made carrying case made from an incredibly soft, suede-like synthetic material called Alcantara. The case folds flat and closes with a leather-accented magnetic flap.

The P9’s soft, leather-accented, grey Alcantara carrying case compared to the P7’s. 
The P9’s soft, leather-accented carrying case compared to the P7’s.

The P9 Signature are wired headphones, and they come with three 3.5mm analog cables (two are 1.2 meters long and the third is 5 meters). One of the 1.2-meter cables has a standard three-button inline remote. The 1.2 meter cables are perfect with portable players, while the longer one is ideal for sitting on the couch plugged into your favorite headphone amp. Following the announcement of Apple’s iPhone 7, which jettisoned the 3.5mm analog headphone jack, B&W announced that it will provide a Lightning cable free to registered P9 Signature owners sometime in early 2017.

Silky smooth, natural sound

Over the three-plus weeks that I tested the B&W P9 Signature, I used several high-end digital audio players, including the Onkyo DP-X1 and the Astell&Kern AK70. I also paired the P9 Signature with an iPhone 7 and Optoma’s NuForce uDAC5.

When I first donned the P9 Signature, what came out was incredibly smooth, natural, non-fatiguing, detailed sound. Comparing the P9 Signatures directly to some other headphones betrayed some of their coloration tendencies. The P9 Signature themselves sometimes leaned toward a slightly dark sound, depending on the source material. I occasionally felt as though they needed just a hair of additional EQ adjustment.

bw p9 signature feature the same magnetic earcups and recessed cable
The B&W P9 Signature feature magnetic ear cups and a hidden cord connector in the ear cup.

Make no mistake, however, the P9 Signature can take in command of just about any musical genre. You can take these headphones to the club. They won’t shed their formal attire and not a hair will get out of place. Bass is simply natural. There wasn’t a single track on the DSD version of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory that left me wanting more. There’s no undue bass emphasis, nor will you feel that any is lacking. Playing the Allison Kraus and Robert Plant duets “Please Read the Letter” and “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” from Raising Sand (24-bit/96kHz FLAC) revealed every drum beat and bass line with dynamics and detail.

There were times where I specifically noted the advantage of the angled drivers. For example, with Daft Punk’s “Contact,” the astronaut-style voice overlay did indeed seem to come from right in front of me. The image was solid and vivid. The advantage of the angled drivers also tends to be more noticeable with individual instruments. For example, the guitar work on City of the Sun’s To the Sun and All the Cities in Between (24-bit/192kHz AIFF) is situated solidly front left and front right, with the drums suspended solidly in the middle. That’s not a sensation I normally experience with headphones, where the image is shifted further out to the periphery.

 

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