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Bowers & Wilkins P9 Ultimate Ear Pad Mod

  1. Jester0fTortuga
    Hey everyone!

    I’m a huge fan of B&W headphones. I enjoy their house sound, build quality, and style. I’ve had the P5, P7, and recently acquired the PX. But, the P9 -- for all its glory -- can be a particularly uncomfortable beast on long listening sessions.

    I recently completed a lengthy effort to find the perfect custom ear pad mod for the P9, and decided to share the process and results in detail for anyone else looking to solve this issue. This mod does not touch the headphone, so your warranty isn’t in jeopardy.

    You will, however, have to cannibalize a pair of stock P9 earpads.

    My main objective when setting off on this project was to find a custom ear pad design for the P9 that a) increased comfort by expanding the ear pad and b) preserved the sound signature, while easing the bass presence a bit.

    After much trial and error (and cannibalizing the stock ear pads) I was able to achieve most of what I set out to do. However, in the end, I didn’t settle on a design that eased the bass. There is a good one, I think, that achieves a more open-back sound, but I opted not to do it.

    However, I am considering a second set of pads that achieve this open-back sound. My recommendation is to replicate this project is to go the route I did (I’ll explain in the following guide where this choice needs to be made). I have new stock pads on order, and will update this review with A/B tests on sound later.

    Here's the result:



    I can’t sew, so I commissioned a set of custom cushions from an outfit called Vesper Audio. These guys are great, and were enormously patient while I went about doing this project. They do fine work, as you will see in the photos.

    The main problem with the stock P9 ear pads is that the contact surface of the pads are pretty small. If you have a big head, like me, this pressure is going to build on long listening sessions. The cavity in the cushions could also have been designed to be a bit larger.

    Dimensions are a personal preference. My mod specified a pad that expands the outer edge out 1cm in each direction, and the inner edge out just 0.5cm. The depth of the pad is 2cm, as opposed to the 1cm depth of the stock P9 ear pad.

    As I mentioned before, I recommend commissioning these from Vesper Audio. Show them that you're doing this mod, and they'll know what to do. We had a lot of back and forth on this and, like I said, they do nice work. Makes this entire project very easy.

    Here's the sketch I made and handed to the guys at Vesper. Not sure if its helpful, but here it is.



    The first cushion I commissioned from Vesper Audio was designed to mount magnetically to the P9. While it was very comfortable, I didn’t appreciate that an oversized pad on a small back does very little to relieve the pressure distribution problem that inspired this project.

    This arrangement also completely destroyed the bass presence on the P9. I did not appreciate the importance of the plastic frame found within the stock ear pads. The P9 is tuned to use this frame, I don’t see a way to achieve anything worthwhile without it. So we need to repurpose it.

    Using an x-acto knife, remove the leather from the stock ear pads at the external and internal base of the frame. Don’t discard the leather! We are going to re-use it later. Remove the foam from the top of the plastic frame.

    Once removing the yellow foam, you will find a thin layer of denser black foam that B&W used to attach the yellow foam to the plastic frame. Remove this layer of thick black foam. The plastic frame should be completely stripped, save for the shielding over the internal cavity.

    It should look like this now:



    With the black layer of thick foam removed, you will see the internal edge has a kind of protruding lip. To support the expanded ear pads, we need to create a kind of platform that stretches from this lip, out over the edge of the frame, to the end of the new cushions.

    I used an extremely hard cover from a useless book on missile defense. Trace the outer and inner edges of your custom cushions on the book cover. Cut out with an exacto knife. You may have to trim the inner edges to ensure a good fit around the lips of the plastic frames.

    Now, take the leather that we ripped off the stock B&W ear pads. Using super glue (I went to a tailor and asked for shoe glue, and they gave me a kind of super glue) you want to attach the leather to one side of the cardboard, and then wrap it around the edges.

    The process looks like this:




    Here is where we need to make a decision: preserve B&W P9 stock sound, or go for the more open-backed sound that I mentioned above. I didn’t play with this long, but there was a major boost in mids at the expense of a good portion of bass. It was very different.

    The trick to this seemed to be how I ultimately attached the cardboard to the plastic frame. If you only apply glue to the inner edge, you will create a kind of gap on the outside. This achieved what I would describe as a more open-backed, mid-centric sound, at great expense of bass.

    To preserve the stock sound, make sure the outer and inner edges of the cardboard base are sealed with glue at the contact point with the plastic frames. Again, I recommend doing this to preserve the stock sound signature as much as possible. The primary goal of this project is comfort increase!

    Here’s what this step looks like when you are done:




    Self explanatory. Using double-sided adhesive, carefully attach your custom pads to your new custom frame. Ideally the carboard frame would be flat, but depending how you did the leather re-use it won’t be entirely flat on the back side. This wasn’t an issue for me in this final step.

    Here is the finished product:



    For one final mod to help with comfort issue, order a set of Dekoni Nuggets! These are small foam supplements that attach to the head band with double-sided adhesive. Place them so that they touch the side of your head. We want to increase the area that pressure is distributed.

    That's all! As I mentioned up top, I have new stock B&W pads coming my way for an A/B test so I can properly assess what, if any, sound changes this mod achieves. If you do it the way I did, it won’t change much. I can’t say for sure. So follow my steps for comfort, primarily.

    Hope this helps someone out there!

    Vesperaudio likes this.
  2. JaviOFC
    Thanks for your courage + for sharing. This has been on my mind for a while but never jumped in to explore the project. Glad to know it's possible.
    Jester0fTortuga likes this.
  3. Jester0fTortuga
    Pleasure! Do share if you go for this!

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