BOWERS & WILKINS P9 SIGNATURE REVIEW
- TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 62%
- PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 69%
- SOUND FIDELITY 73%
- MUSICALITY 86%
- BUILD QUALITY 96%
- ERGONOMICS/COMFORT 71%
- Decently resolving of information
- Non-Fatiguing tonality
- Unigue / Modern Build
- Good design concept
- Bass is bloated and overdone
- FAR From Neutral
The P9 Signatures are the latest full-sized lifestyle over-ear headphones that Bowers & Wilkins has released that boast of modern engineering, acoustic design innovation, and high class style. It looks and feels like it’s what the B&W brand released into the market to make a ‘wow’ statement as a brand and solidify a spot amongst higher fidelity offerings in this price bracket.
Compared to it’s predecessors it retains some of the very useful innovations and adds a little more as well in an attempt to produce something better than the company ever has before. Let’s see how they hold up under scrutiny.
- FREQUENCY RANGE: 2HZ to 30 KHZ
- IMPEDANCE: 22 OHMS
- DISTORTION (THD): <0.2%
- SENSITIVITY: 111dB/V @ 1kHz
- MAX. input Power: 50mW
- NET WEIGHT: 413g
- DUAL CAVITY EAR CUSHIONS w/ MAGNETIZED ATTACHMENT DESIGN
- DETACHABLE CABLES (1x long cable for home use, 1x short cable with iPhone MIC and Remote)
- 1/8th INCH to 1/4 INCH ADAPTER
- CARRYING POUCH
The P9 ships complete with two cables, a carrying pouch, a adapter, and the headphones.
B&W used Nylon damped cone drivers with a large diaphram that are angled for better soundstage this time around. These headphones are semi open which is a little different than one would expect given their portable accessories and design. This restricts them for home usage, strolls in parks, or out and about on the town. However, It is apparent that the company was really after getting good sound quality from these headphones while at the same time providing modern luxury. The cable connects to the headphones under the pads which seems like a cool design but doesn’t serve any purpose…kinda neat though. I can dig it.
With all of the design aesthetics, beautiful piano black plates, and sumptuous materials used on the P9, I would wish that they would all work together for the good of comfort. To put this category plainly I will directly admit that beyond genuine hopes it is an absolute failure. I saw pictures of this headphone and expected my ears to not have to tuck inside of the pad cavity but had to wiggle them in. The Arch of the headband is wonderfully padded but the leather needs breaking in and it only makes contact at the top peak of my head without hugging any other part of it making that spot a point of continual focus. This creates uneven pressure in one spot on my head…very annoying. Please do not expect to forget you are wearing a listening device while using the P9; it wants you to know you are wearing it. I rarely ever…ever complain about headphone comfort. Even the Kennerton Vali with it’s stiff design was more comfortable. The weight at 413g is not too bad and the pad cushion seems like it will break in over time but the rigidity and limited movement of the gimbals means that ‘over time’ will be unpleasant and can’t pass soon enough.
Again as mentioned previously, this is a semi-open design and actually sounds like it (a good thing). I find that it isolates better than its ability to keep sound in so not a total loss for a semi-open design.
- BASS EXTENSION 94%
- BASS BALANCE (ACCURACY) 52%
- LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 65%
- MIDRANGE PROPER BALANCE 70%
- UPPER MIDRANGE BALANCE 89%
- TREBLE BALANCE 78%
- TREBLE EXTENSION 87%
- BASS CONTROL 75%
- TONE DENSITY (TIMBRE, BODY ASIDE FROM FREQUENCY BALANCE) 71%
- MACRO DYNAMICS (SOFTS TO LOUDS) 82%
- MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 69%
- SOUND STAGE WIDTH 89%
- SOUND STAGE DEPTH 85%
- BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND 52%
*please note that in the above bar counters I use the word balance instead of presence which is a percentage of how unbiased, accurate, and neutral that aspect is. Also those aspects are totally subjective and from my point of view. Yours may differ
The sound signature of the P9 Signature is engaging with big bass, decent air and openness from the semi-open design but dark and smooth.
Let me acquaint you with my tastes before you disqualify my explanation of this segment. On the forums I have been known as a ‘basshead’. That means I love bass and analyse its attributes a little more than your average enthusiast and definitely appreciate when it is above neutral. The Dharma had some problems in the treble but the deal breaker for me was that it’s bass was too diffuse and lacked solidity. Now take that Dharma bass and boost the crap out of it and that is what you basically have with the p9 except for with a little more density. It would be absolutely unfair to the p9 were you to compare it to the likes of the TH900 or ZMF Eikon for quality. It extends pretty deep but it is extremely ominous. It’s reaches of creep can make female vocalist with no bass playing behind her sound effected by bass distortion. The slam is only okay but the focus is not completely surface as it has some depth of image to it along with fair texture. The punch of the bass is only fair as well with middle ground responsiveness to contrasts of volume. Mid bass is full and upper bass encroaches like an amazon anaconda swallowing a little field mouse…okay I am exaggerating a lot and yes I repeated myself but I am perplexed at this tuning. What is cool is that there is an airiness in the bass that gives the music an easy sense of envelopment that if one could enjoy this tuning, would enable them to sink into the music.
Bowers & Wilkins have taken what midrange could have been there and tucked it back which is part of the reason why the upper bass seems so ominous. The midrange sounds scooped right before a rise into a slight bow in the upper midrange before the treble starts to taper off again. This kind of reminds me of the Nighthawk with vocals ‘underwater’ but I would take the Nighthawk over these as there is a bit more microdynamics and nuance with the Nighthawk compared to the P9. My eq setting has the upper mids right where they are (untouched), the midrange proper brought up, and the upper bass with a strong narrow band cut of about -7db to un-suffocate the vocals. Once eq’d the music comes to life and there is a refinement with the P9 that shows the driver design is pretty good but something went wrong elsewhere(bass and treble). They took eq fairly well If I may say so and they can be decently transparent. The timbre is a little thin irregardless of frequency balance.
Continuing with my equalizing session I began to unshelve the upper treble. The treble quality seems pretty good though. The resolution of the treble presents cymbals with good detail and accuracy, it’s just that the overall sound of the P9 sounds stuffy from the lack of presence. Sibilance is absent which makes for a non-fatiguing listen. There are no crude spikes to worry about here. Sometimes I am in want of a little more definition but most of all for the timbre of instruments with their fundamentals in the treble to sound more hard and tangible. Once boosted from 17kHz with a broad band rise, the P9s sound much more clear and realistic.
The P9 has decent soundstage that is much improved from the P7 I recall with better depth and decent width, yet the size overall can not be called large. It is smaller than the Z1R, Atticus, and TH900 but for a portable lifestyle headphone it doesn’t do too bad at all. Pretty decent!
OTHER PERFORMANCE ASPECTS
The Signature headphones have good refinement and when eq’d I can hear good detail resolution. Dynamics on the micro and macro level are kind of average. Tone Density verges on thin but still sounds somewhat organic. The semi-open design does let the music breathe and you can hear this design in effect. It doesn’t sound fully closed in which is a good thing but overall I think the headset only does fair in other aspects besides resolution.
These headphones are not fussy at all about what you plug them into. They sound the same out of solid state, tube, and whatever else you plug them into, and can handle a lot of volume without collapsing. They are not that scalable but are very sensitive. Be wary of using them with some tube amps as you will hear noise and hum from these very easily.
To say this headphone looks awesome but doesn’t sound it pretty much sums up my sentiments. It is not even comfortable. I was initially going to just post some impressions but such a market entrance and thought out design deserves a full review, even if it is not a good one. My modified Pioneer HRM-7 sounds better in almost every way with a few exceptions of it sounding dirtier, less refined, and less transparent(inner clarity). It is a gorgeously opulent set of cans but doesn’t deliver enough sound quality for the price and I hope B&W learns from this one and I wish them well for future releases.