P9 Signature is no ordinary pair of headphones. Launched to celebrate Bowers & Wilkins’ 50th anniversary, these luxurious headphones are capable of delivering resolution and detail like no other headphones around. They also have the ability to present recordings as though you are listening to a high-end Hi-fi system, rather than headphones. But don’t take our word for it – find a local retailer and have a listen. And to help you on your way, here are ten tracks to put them through their paces.
1. Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld – Alone With The Moon
Former Bad Seed Blixa and Spanish cellist Teho here take on a Tiger Lillies classic with some success. The wonderful wheezy church organ is full of detail, as are the lush strings, while Blixa’s laconic, beautiful voice takes centre stage. And with the P9 Signature it is as though he really is there in front of you; the amazing presentation is similar to listening on a pair of high-quality Hi-Fi speakers.
2. Monolake – GMO – Geometry Engine
Oh man, listen to that bass! When the really deep stuff kicks in at about the 90-second mark you can almost feel the floorboards vibrating beneath your feet. But this is on a pair of headphones!
3. Miles Davis – On The Corner
Not a track, but a whole album – well, at least all of side one. P9 Signature could almost have been made for this amazing piece of complex, soulful music. The various instruments sound like they are fighting for your attention, but the whole always remains musical. The effect is almost like listening in surround sound at times – this is a truly immersive listening experience that should not be missed!
4. Skilled Mechanics/Tricky – Diving Away
The almost music box sound of the melody on this track is deceptively simple; it drives the track on while never distracting from the vocals. And they are the real joy here; the wonderful, subtle separation on the two voices – lead vocals handled by the tour drummer with Tricky filling in underneath. It could sound muddled and messy, but on these headphones it is a thing of beauty.
5. Tinder sticks – Tiny Tears
This exceptional track builds and builds from its restrained opening to a majestic wash of sound. With P9 Signature it all comes together exceptionally well and while the strings continue to swell, Stuart Staples distinctive vocals remains the focus of your attention. The resolution here is just breath-taking – taking you to the heart of the music like few headphones can.
6. Brian Eno – Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free
Brain Eno’s 2016 opus The Ship is a magical work, and well worth listening to in its entirety. However, perhaps the most surprising thing about the album is this end piece; a cover version of the Velvet Underground track and a thing of rare beauty. The soundstage is remarkable, and the layers of vocals delivered with aplomb.
7. Underworld – Born Slippy (Nuxx)
Okay, Underworld would probably rather we talked about the excellent albums that they have made since the mid-90s. But when those tribal sounding drums kick in around the minute mark the effect of listening to this track on the P9 Signature is as though you are hearing it for the first time again. No mean feat.
8. Jeff Buckley – Lilac Wine
This track is all about the height. With a good stereo system, the soundstage is wide open and you really get a sense of the size of the space that Buckley is recording in. Rather wonderfully, P9 Signature manages to achieve this in a pair of headphones. It really does take the sound out from inside your head and allow you to experience it as though in free space.
9. Matthew Herbert, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Philharmonia Orchestra – Mahler Symphonie No 10
This innovative, exceptional work takes Mahler’s final and most dissonant work and creates something amazing. As it is an unfinished piece, Herbert has quite a lot of leeway in terms of the piece, and he certainly makes use of it; Mahler would never have imagined anything like this! Listening on P9 Signature, the mixture of lush orchestration and found-sound melds perfectly in this wide open, incredibly dynamic piece.
10. Glass Animals – Life Itself
The bass is excellent on this track, and P9 Signature does a great job with it. It drives the music along while the electronic sounds build and build around it, and what could be a little muddy, is in fact is delivered in a powerful way.