Mark Levinson No. 5909 VS Dali IO-12 Comparison Review

Mark Levinson No. 5909 VS Dali IO-12 Comparison Review

Mark Levinson No. 5909 VS Dali IO-12 Comparison Review

Today, I’m thrilled to compare two stellar contenders in the world of wireless headphones: the Mark Levinson No. 5909 and the Dali IO-12. As a passionate audiophile, the prospect of exploring the exceptional quality and innovative features of these premium headphones fills me with excitement. Both models promise to deliver unparalleled sound fidelity and convenience without the constraints of wires, setting a high standard in the realm of wireless audio technology. Read on as we embark on a journey to uncover the nuances and excellence of these top-tier wireless headphones.

What you get

Mark Levinson No. 5909  Dali IO-12
-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
-1.2 m USB-C cable (for charging and USB audio)

-1.2 m long 3.5 mm mini jack stereo cable

-3 m long 3.5 mm mini jack stereo cable

-3.5 mm stereo mini jack to 6.3 mm jack adaptor

-Flight adaptor

-Luxury travel case


Mark Levinson No. 5909 VS Dali IO-12 Comparison Review

Look and Feel
In terms of look and feel, both the Mark Levinson No. 5909 and the Dali IO-12 feature modern, high-end designs accentuated by luxurious leather details. However, my personal comfort preference tilts toward the Dali IO-12. While the No. 5909 boasts a sturdy build with durable materials, its weight can become burdensome during extended use. Conversely, the Dali IO-12’s larger size offers a more comfortable fit, making prolonged listening sessions enjoyable without any discomfort.

When it comes to design and functionality, my experience with the Mark Levinson No.5909 and the Dali IO-12 highlighted distinct characteristics.
The No.5909, with its adherence to the Harman curve and powerful 40mm beryllium driver, promised exceptional sound quality. However, I often found myself struggling with volume limitations, despite its impressive noise-canceling capabilities.
On the other hand, the Dali IO-12 intrigued me with its innovative Soft Magnetic Compound system in the 50mm dynamic drivers. Though lacking an accompanying app, the physical buttons provided intuitive control over features like ANC and EQ bass boost, enhancing my listening experience with simplicity and efficiency.

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
The Mark Levinson No.5909 stands out with its exceptional ANC performance, even rivaling top competitors like Sony. On its highest setting, it effectively blocks out voices and ambient noise, creating an immersive listening environment. The accompanying app offers basic EQ adjustments for added customization.
While the Dali IO-12 may not reach the same level as the No.5909, its ANC is still highly effective, reducing most external sounds across different frequencies. During testing, I found the IO-12’s ANC reliable and conducive to a pleasant listening experience.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 VS Dali IO-12 Comparison Review

The Mark Levinson No.5909 supports Bluetooth 5.1, featuring LDAC and aptX Adaptive CODECs. While music playback remained uninterrupted, phone call stability varied slightly.
On the other hand, the Dali IO-12 offers Bluetooth version 5.2, ensuring swift pairing and a stable connection for extended listening sessions. With compatibility for aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive CODECs, the IO-12 delivers high-quality audio when paired with compatible devices.

Battery Life Comparison
Both the Mark Levinson No.5909 and the Dali IO-12 offer solid battery performance to keep your music playing.
The No.5909 provides around 34 hours of playtime without ANC, and still manages about 30 hours with ANC on, ensuring long-lasting enjoyment without interruptions.
Similarly, the Dali IO-12 impresses with up to 35 hours of wireless listening on a single charge, providing ample power for multiple sessions before needing a recharge.

In my exploration of soundstage, both the Mark Levinson No.5909 and the Dali IO-12 offered captivating sonic experiences, yet the IO-12 stood out as something truly special.
The No.5909 introduced me to a peculiar yet fascinating soundstage. Its unconventional shape, with equal width and depth, defied traditional stereo patterns, enveloping me in a unique spatial audio experience. Instruments felt elevated, as if emanating from above, enhancing the overall cohesiveness of the sound.
However, it was the Dali IO-12 that truly impressed me with its expansive and immersive soundstage. Unlike any other wireless headphones I’ve tried, the IO-12 transported me to a realm of open and spacious sound, reminiscent of high-end wired headphones. Each instrument was precisely positioned within the mix, creating a sense of depth and dimension that made the performance feel tangible and lifelike. The wide stereo field and exceptional instrument separation further enhanced the immersive qualities of the soundstage, making me feel like I was right in the heart of the music.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 VS Dali IO-12 Comparison Review

Low End
I really enjoy the bass in both headphones, especially when listening to “Westcoast” by One Republic.
The bass on the No. 5909 feels subtle yet clear, blending smoothly with the rest of the music. Even without adjustments, it offers a satisfying depth, especially in the sub-bass frequencies. Turning on the “enhanced” mode adds a bit more richness to the bass, making it punchier without overwhelming the sound. Overall, it’s a balanced and enjoyable low-end experience.
The bass on the Dali IO-12 is versatile and dynamic. In its default setting, it feels natural and well-balanced, providing a good punch without being overpowering. If you want a bit more oomph, there’s an extra bass mode that adds thickness without sacrificing clarity. It’s a great option for those who enjoy a fuller bass without compromising on overall sound quality.

The midrange performance of both headphones is strikingly similar, making it difficult for me to choose a clear favorite. However, here’s how they each make me feel:
The midrange of the No.5909 offers an expansive sense of space, contributing to a lush and resonant mix. Despite the clarity and spaciousness, there’s a slight lack of energy in the fundamental mid-band frequencies, which could benefit from a touch more aggression to fully showcase the headphones’ spatial capabilities. While vocals in the upper midrange are elegant and crisp, those with a lower register may struggle to break through the mix.
The midrange of the IO-12 stands out with exceptional clarity, even for wireless headphones. Instruments and vocals sound remarkably realistic, lifting the veil often associated with wireless audio. The notes have a palpable velocity to them, resulting in lively and emotionally engaging performances. Every aspect of the midrange feels authentically “hi-fi,” delivering believable sound quality that exceeds expectations for wireless headphones.

Both the No.5909 and the IO-12 deliver incredible highs that add an extra layer of magic to the listening experience. The highs on the No.5909 bring moments of pure delight, capturing every detail with remarkable control. While they can occasionally be bright, they maintain a smooth and enjoyable shine. With good extension in the upper treble, they provide a crisp and airy feel to every song, elevating the overall performance.
The highs on the IO-12 are equally impressive, offering plenty of clarity and detail. Although they may seem a tad bright for some, I find them well-balanced and easy to enjoy. They add a shimmery texture to the sound, enhancing its character. Plus, the IO-12’s highs provide an extra sense of height to the music, making it feel like you’re surrounded by the sound.

In my thorough comparison of the Mark Levinson No.5909 and the Dali IO-12, I found both to be exceptional contenders in the realm of premium wireless headphones.
I must admit, I’m torn between the two as they both offer outstanding sound quality and features that cater to discerning audiophiles. However, if pressed to choose, I’d likely sway towards the DALI IO-12 for its immersive soundstage and user-friendly controls.
That said, it’s worth noting that the similarities between them are striking. Both headphones excel in providing luxurious designs, effective active noise cancellation, and detailed sound reproduction across various frequencies.
Ultimately, the decision between the No.5909 and the IO-12 boils down to personal preference and priorities. Regardless of which one you choose, you’re bound to experience a premium listening experience that enhances your enjoyment of music and audio content.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 and Dali IO-12 are available at Audio46.

Read more about Mark Levinson No.5909 here.

Read more about Dali IO-12 here.

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