This is a HiFi Review of the Mark Levinson No. 5909 wireless luxury headphones. Mark Levinson has a high-end reputation built on 50 years of experience in the HiFi market, starting with their LNP-2 preamplifier; their current website opens with the title of Effortless Luxury. These headphones, called Mark Levinson No. 5909, certainly fit the bill as their first foray into headphones.
With these No.5909, Mark Levinson is looking for “impeccable performance”, “universally appealing sound”, “good communication options” and “to be the travel companion of choice”. We will assess these headphones on these parameters.
The Mark Levinson No. 5909 are luxury wireless headphones that have noise-cancelling capability with an ambient noise pass-through option if you bump into someone for a chat, there is a wired capability too. Additionally, if you enable it, they have an ‘On head’ detector that pauses your listening if you take them off.
The headphone has a 40 mm beryllium-coated driver that is acoustically optimized to the HARMAN Curve, a frequency distribution curve used widely. They have Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity.
The Effortless Luxury tag prevails here with a premium leather headband and replaceable leather ear cushions. The headphones sit on an anodized aluminium frame with an ‘automotive-grade metallic painted ear cup’ The red, silver and pearl black combination, that I have sits well.
The frequency response available is a creditable 20Hz – 20kHz range in active mode (turned on) and an impressive 10-40kHz in passive mode. Their sensitivity is rated at a medium-ish 97dBs SPL at 1 kHz/1mW.
These Mark Levinson No. 5909 are retailing at UK: £999.00, Europe: €1,000.00 or US: $999.00.
The boxing is Apple style, and it is a premium experience. Red ribbons point you to openings and flaps and they generally guide you to the inside. In the box, you are provided with the usual suite of connections that include, comprehensively, a 4 m USB-C to 3.5 mm fabric sheathed audio cable (for lounge/static/desktop use) and a 1.25 m USB-C to 3.5 mm audio cable. The headphones connect with a USB C in the right ear. There is also a 1.25 m USB-C charging cable as well as three adapters for USB-C to USB-A, a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm audio adaptor and the obligatory Airplane audio adaptor. There is a sumptuous, soft feel hardshell case and a cleaning cloth.
The headphones are 202.6mm x 205.4mm x 65.4mm (HxWxD) and weigh in at 340g. There is a 2-year warranty on parts and labour. They are available with the cup outer coloured in radiant red, ice pewter or pearl black.
I have used mainly a Pixel 4XL smartphone with the Qobuz and Tidal Apps. Using the headphones in passive mode, I’m using my Dell XPS laptop with the ‘Editor’s Pick’ Chord Hugo 2 with the odd bit of Audioquest Dragonfly thrown in where I am literally listening on my lap!
These headphones are very comfortable indeed. They have a good fit, not too tight, not too loose. For loungewear, they’re absolutely fine and with travel in mind, they have a firm fit, I’ve had no issues at all on a dog walk picking up doggy ‘doos’.
There is an App that really just controls settings with an amount of bass control. With the App, you can enable ‘On Head Detection’, which pauses the music when you take the headphones off. This is great. The App also enables updates to be made to the headphones, always interesting.
Mark Levinson is in pursuit of impeccable performance and these headphones have this aplenty. In combination with the equally ‘impeccable’, nay, peerless Chord Hugo 2 and in passive mode (hardwired using the USB C cable and switched off) these headphones have the quality to deliver the resolution you would expect at this price level.
Passive Mode with the Chord Hugo 2 and the Qobuz desktop App
Two very nicely produced albums have emerged in the last two weeks, from Arcade Fire (titled We), and from The Smile (A Light for Attracting Attention). They are both fully mature offerings from songwriters of long-standing and most importantly, they are both perfectly produced.
In the Age of Anxiety by Arcade Fire, Mark Levinson No. 5909 offer a whisper in the right ear that is so clear it takes you by surprise if you’re not ready for it. This is quite remarkable and offers an insight into their depth of performance. With the End of Empire IV on the same album, the entry of the guitar is clean and wide open, it comes over really well. Turning to Free in the Knowledge by The Smile, the acoustic guitar to the right rear is really nicely presented.
Taking a more familiar track I listen to for resolution, Helplessness Blues sounds majestic with the myriad of guitars easily spaced out in the headstage. Lana Del Rey’s White Dress, another resolution track for me, made me stop in my reviewing tracks, wonderful. My Tidal Playlist is here.
Active Mode with Pixel smartphone and the Qobuz App
Moving onto the same tracks using the Bluetooth connection to the Pixel 4 I get similar resolution and presence but of course, there is that hankering for a bit more, having had it, and knowing it is there, but that is Bluetooth. Overall, very impressive.
Universally Appealing Sound
With Mark Levinson No. 5909, Levinson is after a universally appealing sound. To achieve this Levinson, use the Harmon curve based on a load of research about what groups of people want. With this research they offer adjustments with the App, for example, an added bump in the bass (Enhanced mode) or reduced bass (Attenuated) or just plain neutral mode (which I quite like).
In Active Mode with the Pixel, Enhanced mode is fun, it works well with the chunkier bass, and Kendrick Lemar does have a new album out this week (it is very sweary, I should caution).
Good Communication Options
I have been deliberately using the headphones at my desk with my smartphone, the ANC is so good it is a bit creepy in dead silence, but it works well. I cannot hear my keyboard at all for example with ANC. Telephone calls are dead easy, and the four beam-steering microphones apparently offer a very clear voice to my callers. I find the ambient mode is better for chatting at the desk. There is a smart wind adaption for calls which sounds useful, based on my recent Grell experiences with windy phone calls but I will comment below when I am caught on the phone, out and about and report back on that.
The Travel Companion of Choice
I used to travel a fair bit back in my former life and I can easily see the appeal and differential style of these Mark Levinson No. 5909. With the carry case and a nicely stowed array of leads for smartphones, laptops, and anything else you can think of (portable DAC). I feel as if I would have been very keen to have a pair of these leather-clad beauties tucked in my travel bag.
think of these headphones as the entry point to high end, a step up…there is performance here too,
There is no getting away from the price of these Mark Levinson No. 5909, they are chunky, but you are definitely getting style and their ‘effortless luxury’ as well as performance, no doubt. If you can, think of these headphones as the entry point to the high end, a step up from the Bose QC gang? There is performance here too, don’t forget that.
these Mark Levinson No. 5909 are a differential choice and well worth an audition
Personally, this is not my budget but in times past they might have been and there is an individual performance element here, I think the ‘effortless luxury’ tag, the travel element and the ANC elements are key here. These are good performance headphones but there’s a lot out there and you need to have a good think about this price bracket. If you’re after style, luxury, comfort, and performance on the move, these Mark Levinson No. 5909 are a differential choice and well worth an audition.
On head detection
Leather luxury feel
I’m actually quite glad I’m not travelling anymore
Full details are on the company’s site.