Audio

Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature is a headphone set with a strange niche of its own

The Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature is hefty, but folds up into a rather compact package that doesn't take up much space in a small bag.
The Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature is hefty, but folds up into a rather compact package that doesn't take up much space in a small bag.PHOTO: BOWERS & WILKINS

Pricey, but the P9 Signature delivers great sound in a sturdy frame

Bowers & Wilkins is known for its luxurious, high-end speakers, and the British audio company has carried that premium over to its P9 Signature headphones.

At $1,280, the headphones are certainly priced in the premium category. They are specially put out for the company's 50th anniversary and are, therefore, designed with a vintage charm that makes them look as good as they sound.

The P9 Signature has one of the clearest, brightest soundscapes among headphones I've tried.

Tracks from indie electronic band The Naked and Famous' latest album, Simple Forms, sound bright and full-bodied, with great balance throughout the spectrum. The P9 Signature manages to balance out the higher synth tones with a robust bass on the lower end so that the treble-heavy tacks are never uncomfortably harsh.

It is the brand's largest model of over-ear headphones - which means it's hefty, but it folds up into a rather compact package that doesn't take up much space in a small bag.

The earpads and headband are furnished with smooth, soft and luxurious leather stuffed with memory foam. The top of the headband features Italian Saffiano leather - leather which has been treated and pressed into a distinctive cross-hatch design which also makes it waterproof and scratch- resistant.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,280

    DRIVER DIAMETER: 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 2Hz - 30kHz

    WEIGHT: 415g


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The solid aluminium headband doesn't give much stretch, which means the P9 Signature clamps very firmly against the ears. It is offset by the soft padding of its large earpads, which, at about 10cm in length, covers a generous area around the ears and provides a tight seal to block outside noise.

All these high-end construction materials lead to a very solid, weighty pair of headphones. And therein lies the conundrum - the P9 Signature weighs almost half a kilogram, which I immediately noticed the first time I slipped them over my head.

But despite the weight, the set is very comfortable - I just can't wear it for too long a stretch without feeling neck fatigue.

Thus, the P9 Signature occupies a strange niche for headphones. They are light enough to bring out and walk around in for short periods of time, yet their weight and heft make them feel more suited for the home or office.

Furthermore, while the leather earpads are fine indoors, they become a very unnecessarily warm coat for the ears once out in Singapore's heat and humidity.

The P9 Signature is luxurious in its simplicity. There are no fancy bells and whistles like wireless capabilities or active noise-cancellation.

Instead, it's a retro-looking throwback to the days when headphones simply and unapologetically delivered great sound in a sturdy frame.

With the P9 Signature, you're not paying $1,280 purely for sound - there are headphones below $1,000 which deliver audio quality just as well.

You are, however, paying for a pair of signature headphones that transform music-listening from a mundane experience to a luxurious one.

• Verdict: The P9 Signature oozes luxury from its construction to sound quality, but that comes at a price.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Headphone set with a strange niche of its own'. Print Edition | Subscribe