Reviews

Review: B&W P9 Signature

Test B&W P9 Signature

This week we reviewed the B&W P9 Signature hi-fi headphones, an elegant model designed to be paired up with DACs, smartphones and tablets. The question is, are these headphones as pleasant to listen to as they are to look at?

Over the past few years, Bowers & Wilkins has been manufacturing beautiful headphones, such as the B&W P5. The British brand, an eminent specialist in acoustic speakers, uses its expertise to please on-the-go listeners looking for a great sound.

B&W P9 Signature: presentation

The B&W P9 Signature is a high-end model which guarantees extremely high-fidelity sound restitution. Featuring 1.5” transducers with CCAW coils, massive magnets, dual chamber earpieces, and a leatherette and brushed aluminum finish, the P9 presents some serious specs. The frequency response is rated from 2 Hz (!) to 30 kHz at 22 ohms, with a sensitivity rating of 111 dB. On paper, even a smartphone with limited power should be able to work wonders with the B&W P9.

Test B&W P9 Signature

The upper part of the B&W P9 Signature’s headband is covered with anti-slip plastic.

B&W P9 Signature: design and finish

Hats off to B&W for the design and conception: the B&W P9 Signature headphones are sturdy and pleasant to wear. Three detachable cables are provided to connect the headphones to a DAP (cable without remote control), a smartphone (wired remote control), or a remote source (5-meter-long cable for use with a TV, for example). Each cable is unilateral and connects to the left earpiece. Note that the female connector is hidden behind the earpiece, which needs to be removed to connect the cable. Two small hooks and a magnet are used to secure the connector. A circular cable path ensures a firm grip and prevents the connector from being pulled out inadvertently.

The B&W P9 Signature, while fairly pleasant to wear, is rather heavy (> 400g), which also means that it is well balanced and doesn’t move. The pressure applied to the ears is not excessive, and the headband is very comfortable.

Test B&W P9 Signature

The B&W 9 Signature’s leatherette earpads.

B&W P9 Signature: test conditions

We listened to the B&W P9 Signature with different sources. We used the Onkyo DP-X1 and Hidizs AP60 DAPs, the Encore mDSD USB DAC, and a Xiaomi Redmi Pro smartphone. Our test headphones were already broken in.

B&W P9 Signature: listening impressions

We were in for a surprise with the B&W P9 Signature. While the technical specs announced a particularly extended frequency response and extremely dynamic sound restitution, these headphones offer a very peaceful, almost constrained, listening experience. The energy is greatest in the midrange, with an uneven frequency response and distinct sound coloration. This means that the layering of the soundstage is disorganized, making it difficult to clearly discern the placement of the instruments and artists. This type of balance will probably be an asset for listeners looking for an intelligible listening experience when on the move, while deterring those who expect a balanced and realistic sound restitution. The sound coloration was the same with all the sources we used.

Test B&W P9 Signature

The B&W P9 Signature’s ingenious cable connection system.

B&W P9 Signature: conclusion

What we liked: the manufacturing quality, the ingenious cable connection system.
What we would have liked: a more even frequency response and a more energetic delivery.

The B&W P9 Signature hi-fi headphones are particularly elegant, which is their main quality. Some playing around with the EQ will be necessary in order to obtain an engaging sound to match their design.

Test B&W P9 Signature

The B&W P9 Signature headphones’ carrying case features a magnetic flap.

Test B&W P9 Signature

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

2 Comments

  • I can’t believe how poor the quality of this “review” is. I find myself hoping that it was intended as a joke, albeit in poor taste.

    First, there is no “leatherette” anywhere on this headphone. Bowers & Wilkins uses only the highest quality genuine leather. Oh, and the so called “anti slip plastic” on the top part of the head band is in reality luxurious and durable Italian Saffiano leather. You’ll find the same cross hatch stamped Saffiano leather on the outside of the ear cups.

    Last, but not least out of the blunders in this review, are the impressions regarding sound quality and signature. The P9 is renowned for having one of the most powerful and dynamic sound signatures out of any headphone in the world, at any price. Your descriptions of “a very peaceful, almost constrained, listening experience” where “the energy is greatest in the midrange, with an uneven frequency response” is literally one of a kind. No one else in all of the Internet shares your opinion regarding the P9’s sound.

    And your comments regarding the layering and the soundstage being disorganized, “making it difficult to clearly discern the placement of the instruments and artists” are flat out false. The other tenet of the P9 sound are its incredible imaging and layering prowess, which make “placing the instruments and artists” almost as easy and natural as if you were sitting in front of the performers.

    I know the tone if this comment is harsh, but your review borders on slander. I mean, where you sick when you reviewed the P9? Being sick can really mess with one’s hearing. Either that, or you reviewed a defective unit or used faulty equipment to drive the headphones. The only other explanation is that you purposely wrote and published a misleading review of the P9. I know hearing is subjective, but only within reason, unless your hearing is damaged. I hope, for your sake, that the gear was defective.

    • Thanks for your comment. You may share other reviewers opinion, but the best thing would be to listen the P9 yourself. That’s what we carefully and honestly did. As far as I recall, the gear was provided by B&W and it was a demo unit, previously used. Search for response curve of the P9 and you’ll probably reconsider.

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