Bowers & Wilkins understand how we listen to music in the real world, and they do their best to make it sound better. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes not so much.
Since the introduction of the sweet sounding P5, B&W has been creating portable products that sound and look great and work with our iPhones. But with the introduction this week of P9 Signature over-ear headphones, B&W has reset the bar for every company making hi-fidelity luxury headsets for Apple devices.
As is the custom with Bowers & Wilkins products, the unboxing has all the drama that is associated with Apple’s high end products. Opening the substantial box reveals a product made of the very highest quality materials. Thick machined aluminium. Gorgeous Italian Saffiano leather. A lovely leather and Alacantara case. All tasteful and oozing luxury from every pore.
But honestly, once you put these on your head, those details are the last thing on your mind. What really makes these the headphone you will want this year is their sound and their functionality. You’ll hear things you’ve never heard in your recording before. Even from the compressed sub- optimal iTunes Match 256k AAC recordings that most of us carry around on our iPhones. And even using the 25-cent DAC in our handsets.
This headset was designed by the team that engineered the exquisite B&W 800 Series loudspeakers which were used as a reference, and they really have delivered a very comparable sonic signature with these headphones.
The bass is deep and physical. The midrange is pure. The high-end lovely but not wearying. And the separation! Even with compressed recordings, these bad boys manage to give every instrument and voice their own safe space where each can sing loud and clear. What this team who are responsible for some of the finest loudspeakers in the world have achieved is nothing short of amazing.
And if you like them now, just wait until you hear how sweet they’ll sound in January, Yes, in January, the best headset you’ve ever owned will get even better.
In January, Bowers & Wilkins will send be sending every buyer a new cable with a bespoke DAC designed just for the P9s, and that DAC will connect directly to you phone via the Lightning connector. And this will open the door to making the iPhone the HiRes audio player that it really should be if it has any hope of keeps its claim as the best iPod in the world.
So are they really that good?
Well let me put it this way. I run a company called Domus Digital in London that installs bespoke networked audio and video systems because I love the difference I can make in people’s lives by filling their homes with song — and specifically song that sounds great. So I have listened closely to a fair amount of sound equipment.
Now there are headphones that might sound better, but not at this price. And some companies might produce a sonic signature that you personally like better. Every product has a sound all its own. But B&W’s 800 Diamond series are some of the most respected and well loved speakers in the world. And these headphones do reproduce their sound very admirably.
I’ll be using these at home with my home system, but best of all I’ve now got the headphones I really want for my iPhone when I’m on the go. And I expect that once you try them, these will be the Lightning headphones that you want too. They’re just that good.