This year has seen the release of quite a few high-end wireless headphones. Some of them have come from well-established brands like Focal and Bowers & Wilkins, but this is one that I wasn’t expecting. Mark Levinson is a name you might be familiar with if you follow high-fidelity home audio systems. As a brand, they’ve launched some of the most premium amplifiers and turntables on the market, and now they’re releasing their very own Bluetooth headphone. The oddly named No.5909 is looking to redefine what an ANC headphone can be. Does it succeed?
What You Get
- Hard shell carrying case
- Cables (audio):
- 4 m USB-C to 3.5 mm audio cable
- 1.25 m USB-C to 3.5 mm audio cable
- Cables (power):
- 1.25 m USB-C charging cable
- USB-C to USB-A adaptor
- 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm audio adaptor
- Airplane audio adaptor
- Microfiber polishing cloth
Look and Feel
Everything on the outside makes the No.5909 look like the most luxurious wireless headphone there is. Not only does it feature a sleek design, but its build is composed of high-grade materials. Its frame uses anodized aluminum for high durability. The ear cups match that by using automotive-grade painted metal. For the headband and ear cushions, Mark Levinson uses premium leather. While the aesthetics and build are nothing but great, it does add some extra weight to the fit. The ear cups encompass my ears well, but there is some added pressure coming down on me whenever you wear them. The feeling isn’t substantial, but after a while, you start to feel fatigued.
Design and Functionality
The No.5909 is a headphone optimized to the Harman curve. It boasts a 40mm beryllium driver for a tight, clean output. With these headphones I had to have the volume maxed out most of the time, leaving little headroom to make adjustments. It reached a comfortable gain, but the No.5909 runs into that common issue with many Bluetooth headphones of just only being loud enough. Of course, it helps when your headphones have strong ANC, and for the No.5909 that is the case. These headphones come with many different noise-canceling options, and all of them are very effective. You have high and low ANC options, as well as adaptive ANC, which tunes the level of noise-canceling to your specific environment. Sony’s 1000X series is mainly known for this, and the No.5909 implements this feature beautifully.
On its highest ANC setting, the No.5909 even surpasses the strength of the industry-leading Sony headphones in some cases. I couldn’t hear any voices at all while listening to music, and the high-powered vent next to me completely disappeared. In the Mark Levinson companion app, you also get an EQ with minimal options. The EQ lets you boost or attenuate the bass and that’s it. Otherwise, the app doesn’t have any further customization options for sound.
The No.5909 supports Bluetooth 5.1 and offers LDAC and aptX Adaptive CODECs. I never experienced any dropouts while listening to music, but phone calls were a bit more finicky.
In terms of battery life, you should be able to get around 34 hours of playtime with ANC features off. With ANC on, you still get about 30 hours of charge, which is pretty good.
This is one of the strangest soundstages I have heard on a modern set of Bluetooth headphones. It takes on a specific shape that offers an equal level of width and depth. This bubble of sound is hardly stereoized, but the right and left channels are still present and organized spatial image. I’m surprised by just how super non-linear the soundstage is here. Almost none of it feels conventional. The No.5909 never feels like it is confined to a traditional stereo pattern, as the sound field takes on an identity of its own. One that meshes spatial audio with natural positioning.
Instruments consistently appear heightened in the mix, like you music is coming from above you and aiming down at your ears. I don’t think this is comparable to an open-back experience, as the No.5909 still features a closed-feeling headspace. Specific sound elements are still easy to localize, making for one of the headphone’s best qualities overall. Each performance feels like it’s coming from a point of origin rather than a speaker driver. In effect, this individualized a lot of different parts of the sound signature, making for a more cohesive output.
Without EQ, the bass region performs with a non-accentuated tone. Its timbre is clear and smooth but leans back in the mix. The in-app EQ even calls its standard bass setting “neutral mode.” I wouldn’t call any part of its response dull. There’s even some subtle sub-bass lift that does its best to enhance the feel of the frequency content. It doesn’t call attention to itself but delivers the bass in fine resolution for you to enjoy. Most who buy the No.5909 will probably turn on the “enhanced” mode in the app to get a meatier response. This adds some nice resonance to the lows, but still never becomes the focus of the sound signature. You’ll hear the better impact, but the surface of the bass will still be as smooth as butter for the most part. The No.5909 isn’t the type of headphone that will give you a quick and tight punch, but rather a soft but articulate one.
What the midrange offers more than most Bluetooth headphones is space. I previously mentioned the easily identifiable instrumentation that the No.5909 offers in its soundstage, and thanks to the clarity of the mids, the mix resonates with a lush response. However, what the mids lack is drive. Even though there is great clarity and spaciousness, the No.5909 lacks some energy in the fundamental mid-band frequencies. This doesn’t harm much in the sound signature, but I would have liked a little bit more aggression here to highlight the space that the headphones offer. While instrumentals from acoustic and synth-based performances have a fine level of fidelity, some vocals with a low register have a harder time breaking through the mix. On the other hand, vocals in the upper midrange are super elegant and crisp.
In the highs, the No.5909 offers moments of bliss. From the hiss of ambient noise to the tail of hi-hats sizzling off into the ether, these headphones operate with incredible control. While you might hear some spurts of brightness or sibilance, the No.5909 makes sure its layer of shine is highly digestible. There’s good extension in the upper treble, and its tone is focused on smoothing out harsher resonances while maintaining a crisp response. You get a good level of air and height to almost every performance put through these headphones, and that’s thanks to the highs.
For Mark Levinson’s first headphones, they knock it out of the park in terms of pure sound quality. It never feels like it’s doing too much, and it arrives at the perfect balance between accuracy and coloration. The ANC is one of the best I’ve ever tested, offering you great options and insanely effective isolation. While I was able to wear them for many hours with not much issue, the No.5909 can get a bit heavy. For the most part, though, you’ll be able to enjoy the headphones for a good amount of time before any considerable pressure is noticed. At $999, Mark Levinson is offering a wireless headphones of the highest standard.
The Mark Levinson No.5909 is available at Audio46.