We were so impressed by theBowers and Wilkins P7 Wireless that we immediately installed it as our best wireless headphone. Wired headphones, however, nearly all sound better than their Bluetooth brethren, so you'd expect a more expensive, wired big brother to the P7 to sound absolutely knock-out.
And guess what? The B&W P9 SIgnature really does. Although at a penny shy of 700 quid, maybe that's to be expected. A tasteful vision in cigar-hued leather and hard, unyielding aluminium, the P9 isn't so much a development of the P7 and P5 as a ground-up reimagining of how B&W makes headphones.
The most obvious sonic boost over the previous Bowers cans comes from an improved driver, which is also positioned on a slight slant, so as to better follow the shape of your head and ears. Bose did something similar with its recent, superb QC35 headphones.
The positioning helps give a sound that's a little more like listening to high quality loudspeakers, with the sound field coming from in front of you rather than the usual "in your head, son" experience that headphones give. I've had a pair for the last 24 hours and even with MP3, straight from a phone, they do a really excellent job of giving a realistic, warm sound to digital music. Their performance with CD quality music, through a headphone DAC, however, is little short of sensational.
Improving the sound to these rareified levels is not just a matter of making the main component better. The driver housing and headband, and the way the earcups couple to said headband, have all also been redesigned to prevent any colouration or distortion.
The earcups are B&W's usual mix of soft leather and memory foam, while the headband employs cross-hatched saffiano leather of a type, "often found in expensive handbags." Although we wouldn't know about such things. Because we're men.
The P9 also folds up for easier transportation - although given the heft of these things, you're still not exactly going to be slipping it in your jeans pocket.
It comes with a selection of 3.5 and 6.3mm jack cables. Just bought a new iPhone? You're stuck with Apple's dongle right now, but In 2017, anyone who's bought and registered the purchase of a P9 will receive a complimentary Lightning cable of suitable quality.
SaysAndy Kerr, B&W's Senior Product Manager: "We were waiting to see what Apple did with the headphone socket, and also how good the adaptor it provided was. We felt that while that dongle is fine for what it costs, it's not really of a quality suitable for these headphones."
The P9 Signature has been built to celebrate Bowers and Wilkins' 50th anniversary. It was made by the same team behind its swanky 800 D3 loudspeaker.