Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

In today’s review, we look at the Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones which use a closed-back wireless design with ANC. They are priced at $999.

Disclaimer: The Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones were sent to us as a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Mark Levinson for giving us this opportunity. 

To read more on wireless products we have featured on Headfonics click here.

Note, this article follows our new scoring guidelines for 2021 which you can read up on here.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review
Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review
The Mark Levinson No. 5909 is very smooth and easy to listen to. If you want lower end, you can achieve it with the dedicated Mark Levinson App. If you want a more neutral tone, seek out a very neutral source and you can alter the tone a bit to lean that way instead of being highly musical and warmer than usual.
Sound Quality
8.5
Design
9
Comfort & Isolation
8.7
Performance & Features
8.8
Slide here to add your score on the gear!49 Votes
8.5
Pros
Balanced tuning
Beautiful Design
App EQ is effective
Cons
Fairly heavy
Equal valued wired headphones image better
8.8
Award Score

Whoa. Where the hell did these headphones come from? Now, as an audiophile snob who has now about 2 decades in the biz’, I have come to understand that Mark Levinson made some serious gear back in the day.

As if out of the blue, their first venture into modern headphone craft has yielded this!? Yep. Sounds about right to me, they know what they are doing and it is vividly clear what the intent was with this No. 5909 model release.

Do you like sports cars and expensive-looking audio products? Well, look no further because the Mark Levison No. 5909 looks like a Ferrari with earpads…and I love it.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Tech Highlights

Driver

Inside that beautiful exterior is a classic 40mm Beryllium coated dynamic driver. The company stated that they have specifically designed the tuning of this model to suit the preferences of the majority on a subjective level, and after a truckload of testing and research, apparently.

I commend them for that. What they’ve offered does indeed seem to house a great formula, a perfect storm of great quality parts that begins with the high-quality Beryllium coating drivers.

RBH and Focal used them on their models and both were extremely amazing headphones. I suspect that Mark Levinson’s future models will adopt this too and they will secure themselves as a powerhouse headphone company if they keep this up.

ANC

The active noise cancelation on this model is excellent. I simply do not have any other headphones that compare, nor have I owned any that can compare.

I have owned Bose quite some time ago, and briefly Sony’s TOTL ANC model, but it was lost during travels years ago. So, I can only speak off memory for that comparison and I can say that I believe Mark Levinson’s ANC is superb.

It has a dedicated button to turn off ANC and run passive, which still offers nice cancelation properties just from the very good build of the closed-back design. I have gone for short walks, traveled as a passenger, and moved through busy and loud areas only to find the No. 5909 on ANC mode High = a solid drown out of external droning noise.

Cars on the road went nearly totally silent, the wind is inaudible, and my fan nearby is also inaudible. Overall, the ANC capabilities of these headphones are very, very good. Ambient Aware mode disables all of this and lets you hear what is ongoing around you without taking the headphone off.

Bluetooth

The No. 5909 has Bluetooth 5.1, as well as wired potential. As I’ve recently said a few times, the modern era BT tech is advancing to the point that wires aren’t going to be needed soon, even on audiophile products.

Yes, there is certainly an audible difference between BT mode and wired mode, but at this point, I am not caring too much these days about that when I am not in critical reviewing week.

The distance factor drops out around 30ft, which is very good. I can hear my TV audio upstairs and on the opposite end of the condo I live in and it still sounds strong. I also have not had any pairing issues whatsoever.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Design

Good God. Look at them. Just…look at them. They are gorgeous. I opted for an anodized aluminum exterior in red (Radiant Red) _, of course, but they do come in Pearl Black and Ice Pewter as well. 

I have to say, I didn’t get a chance to see the Pearl Black option until well after I was sent the package, but I really love that color too. As much as I love this red model I have, I think that Pearl Black is singing to me at night from the distance warehouse it is currently sitting in.

The earpads are leather and very soft, and due to the closed design, things do tend to get a little warm but that is to be expected and is totally normal for a design such as this. They also have a metal mesh material over the bass port.

The headphone though, I want to actively thank this company for listening to my rants in the past about bad headphone headband design and making sure their model doesn’t have these problems.

In all seriousness, the headband area is supremely comfortable and offers a light clamping pressure. It is simple in design, just a very soft foam under there that is highly functional. I am happy to see this. It looks slick but is also very elegant and comfy.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Comfort & Isolation

There is no getting around it, for a headphone on the top side of moderately heavy, the No. 5909 rests on my head immensely well. And as someone who shaves his head, I can appreciate the softness of the leather and the type of foam used. Might as well be a dreamy pillow, same for the earpads, which are the same materials.

But the lacking clamp pressure is what really got me going here. It is a very isolating experience but it doesn’t hurt to wear them and it lacks a severe clamp. That is what a great headphone angle does.

They designed these headphones very well. Nothing else needs to be said. It is both very comfortable, and extremely attractive, and also isolates very, very well. That passive isolation is still really good, and the active cancelation is even better.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Stock Cable

The No. 5909 has an interesting setup. Instead of a 3.5mm to 3.5mm, it has a USB-C entry port into the earcup for charging…AND for listening. The opposite end of the stock cable is a normal 3.5mm that will plug into the source player.

It feels weird to have a USB-C entry cable and a 3.5mm source end cable, but I am fine with it. It is a relatively new thing these days, so I am happy to see something fresh come around like this.

It is a nice fabric-laced cable, nothing too fancy to report. The leads are solid, and I detect no microphonics issues when using the wired connection. You can’t use any other style of cable with this headphone, so custom cable owners who have 3.5mm to 3.5mm or whatever else, those cables cannot ever be used here.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review
Home Screen

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review
Features

App

You can personalize your EQ settings and sound traits on the dedicated Mark Levinson app.  I find this particularly useful, as I am more subjectively fond of added low end than most people and I find the stock sound of the No. 5909 to be a highly balanced feeling.

So, if you want more, you can get it through the app. If not, that’s fine too. Of course, it is available for Apple and Android users.

Battery Life & Calls

The No. 5909 offers about 30 hours of battery life, with a 15-minute charge leading to 6 hours of playtime. It has quick charging capabilities, a short charge = neigh 6 hours of playback time. Crazy that battery tech took this massive leap forward so fast. In my testing, I have gotten upper 20’s worth of hours with Bluetooth active.

Outside of that, the call quality is pristine and one of the best I’ve heard for any portable headphones I’ve ever reviewed. I enjoy calls now, as weird as I look talking to myself with these headphones on in the mall and talking to someone on the phone, now at least I can stop caring about poor quality and just keep on going about my business.

Packaging & Accessories

The No. 5909 package was lovely. My unit was shipped in a box made and printed for Mark Levison audio, meaning the cardboard box was custom inked for them and not just shipped in a normal unbranded box.

Inside of that box, is another actual product unit box that includes a hefty zipper case, a few portable travel connectors, one short USB-C to 3.5mm cable and a long extension cable, and some documents from the company.

Overall, the package was top-notch here. Even the box itself is a dense and heavy feeling. The zipper case is also branded with the Mark Levinson logo.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Sound Impressions

Bass

The stock bass experience from the No. 5909 is very forgiving and neutral in terms of quantity. This is not a basshead headphone, but you can add some extra lower-end via the dedicated Mark Levinson app. Or, if you are me, make sure you have Foobar2000 installed on your phone or source.

The No. 5909 performs admirably for a Bluetooth model. On wired mode, you can hear the difference in quality across the board, of course. On wireless, you get a bit of a drop-off but that is normal for this type of headphone.

Considering all the other features in this model and for this price, I would rate the fidelity factor for its low-end as very good for the performance involved.

The bass impact level is wonderfully easy-going and not harsh. This could have easily been another trash pile slam fest on the low end, but the No. 5909 stays elegant throughout. The entire low end is very soft and very easy to listen to. This is a chill headphone on the low end. Even when boosted, the impact levels are still less than moderate.

Mids

The Mark Levinson No. 5909 is a middle ground vocal presentation experience, one that is not forward, but not recessed either. It plays it safe and apparently was tuned to the Harman Curve, specifically.

The vocal experience is broad and wide feeling; however, I would not call it a headphone geared toward midrange or forward presentations.

If you are into instrumentals and not mostly vocals, then this is a great model to pick up for the generalist consumer or audiophile looking for something solid overall in the midrange experience. The fidelity factor is again, very good for what type of headphones this is.

The lacking forwardness is not suited so much for it to be considered a specialized headphone, one that is intended for specific vocal enjoyment factors mostly. This is a middle ground model, intended to sound good everywhere.

I really enjoy this headphone’s upper midrange, which probably solidified itself as one of the best closed back to handle upper midrange that I’ve reviewed in many years.

Why? Well, the No. 5909 exudes high-class elegance and effortlessness in this spectrum. Some headphones have problems in this area, ending up sounding too nasal or lacking an interesting flare. But not here. The jump from upper mids to treble is sublime. It’s almost like there isn’t even a cutoff point and it naturally flows into the treble.

Treble

Mark Levinson played it quite safe with the treble on the No. 5909. It neither packs a punch nor slams harsh. The name of the game overall is ‘soft appeal’. As with the bass, as with the upper mids, the treble also hits soft and pure. It lacks a bite factor and hostility, likely intended to be a headphone to listen to for the majority of your day.

This is not a studio monitor, the No. 5909 is more of a forget you are traveling right now headphone, so there is no need for accurate hostility in the track or treble. This top side is reserved and mellow, but clean and with a gentle sparkle factor that I enjoy a lot. It makes listening to metal and fusion a pure joy. Harsh tracks aren’t harsh to my ear so much through the No. 5909.

The blurring of the lines between upper mids and treble is, again, superb. This is a fatigue-free experience for the most part and it requires an immensely harsh and loud track for this headphone to even begin to sound annoying. 99.9% of the time, the headphone tame the hostile iciness of many of my favorite genres and tracks.

So, for me, this is a headphone I will be using quite often. At the $999, yes there are better fidelity options, but I can’t name many that handle that midrange upper side canyon better than this one.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Imaging

The Mark Levinson No. 5909 is not an imaging champion, but it doesn’t let me down at all. This entire headphone is hand-tuned and not just random parts put together. They had an idea for how it should sound and they invoked the parts needed to make it that specific way.

The imaging factor is hyper-balanced, meaning the width and height are equal, as is the depth of field. Sometimes many headphones have one element of the imaging that is superior to the rest by a large factor.

Such is not the case here. The No. 5909 is wildly coherent in every direction. And when everything meshes just right like this, the experience feels broad and engaging. It feels interesting, and you don’t focus on one part of it like you would the HD800, for example.

Instead don’t focus at all and sort of end up turning your brain off to the sound staging qualities. I tend to do that with my Beyerdynamic T5, which also has a very coherent sound.

Coherency

Being a closed-back, the prowess of the No. 5909 is not found in the imaging size, but rather, in the coherency of all the imaging qualities combined. Every aspect is just good overall. Nothing is lacking, but nothing is trying to overextend itself. 

The air factor is natural and enjoyable to the point I can listen for hours and not feel like I need more. Not many headphones opt for this type of sound, and I am glad they ended up sounding this way.

Driving for massive staging can sometimes ruin the density factor of the entire headphone and make it sound thin and stretched. The No. 5909 is quite dense and hefty for a dynamic driver.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Synergy

The No. 5909 is only 32Ω, so it will mesh with any source for power needs. You don’t really need an amp, but I have found the extra power in some portable amps will drive the wired connection even more smoothly than without.

High power doesn’t add fidelity or more bass, so look to smoother sounding sources and amplifiers instead. For example, I prefer the XRK portable amp here over my CEntrance HiFi-M8 V2, which is 4x the price. Why? Because it is buttery smooth and has a musical flare, while the M8v2 is more clinical in tone.

I prefer musicality in tone to clinical on this headphone, but you can get more of either depending on your rig, so rig pair carefully with your preferences.

Grab a neutral amp if you want a neutral tone, or a very warm one if you are like me and want a lot of warmth for your enjoyment time.

The No. 5909 can swing both ways slightly to the left and right depending on what your rig is composed of. But again, focus on tone and bass/treble qualities, and not power. Power is not needed here and only really helped make the headphone sound smoother overall.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Review

Our Verdict

The Mark Levinson No. 5909 is a magnificent choice. In fact, it is one of the best wireless all-rounder headphones I’ve come across lately. The wireless features are just a bonus for me.

The headphone is very smooth and easy to listen to. If you want lower end, you can achieve it with the dedicated Mark Levinson App. If you want a more neutral tone, seek out a very neutral source and you can alter the tone a bit to lean that way instead of being highly musical and warmer than usual.

The No. 5909 is a well-rounded, feature-rich $999 sports car on your head that happens to be a good deal and nicely priced too. I will be recommending it to anyone who wants a full-size over-ear, wireless, and also who needs a smooth and enjoyable sound in tonality.

Mark Levinson No. 5909 Headphones Specifications

  • Frequency Response, 10-40k Hz
  • Sensitivity, 97 dB
  • Impedance, 32 Ohms
  • Weight, 12.55 ounces
  • Cord Length, 48″ + 156″

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