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.
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.
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.
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.