Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones review

hcchighreccomendThe audiophile brand shoots for the top with its first pair of headphones, and Ed Selley finds out if they can live up to the asking price

The No. 5909s are the first headphones of any description from Mark Levinson, and the company has elected to take the 'go big or go home' approach. Of the wireless models we've looked at recently, they've all resolutely stuck to sub-£500 price points. This pair blasts through that and comes in just shy of a grand – although perhaps that's to be expected from a company that sells stereo power amplifiers with five-figure tickets.

To justify the asking price of the No. 5909s, they make use of the best Bluetooth implementation available – a v5.1 setup with LDAC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs supported. The former of those is the highest-bandwidth codec in common use and, so long as you have a compatible device to transmit from, it can (albeit with compression) handle 24-bit/96kHz material.

This wireless signal is then decoded and output to a pair of 40mm dynamic drivers. That's a fairly typical spec for a pair of portable over-ear headphones, except that these are made from beryllium, a material which is light and extremely stiff, but also expensive and a pig to work with. Presumably there's also been due care and attention focused on the driver housing and motor assembly, but Mark Levinson is reticent about digging too deep into its engineering here.

What it does say, however, is that the sonic character of the No. 5909s is the result of extensive tuning and 'decades of research into listening preferences and the science of acoustics.' Should you feel you can do better, note that it can be tweaked within Mark Levinson's app, which also provides an alternative to the on-body controls used to flit between the stages of the No. 5909's active noise cancelling (ANC).


Mark Levinson's 'automotive-grade metallic' earcups house 40mm beryllium-coated drivers

The cans come in a carry case that's relatively large as the No. 5909s don't fold down. The headphones themselves are fairly sober in overall appearance, although the Radiant Red finish (there are also black and 'pewter' options) might get you some attention.

They are also both beautifully made and extremely comfortable. The deep leather padding and well-judged sprung weight of the headband means they are unlikely to go anywhere, without digging into your noggin' at the same time. You can feel the quality.

The Sound Of Space
You can hear it too. Connected to an Oppo Find X2 Neo Android phone which, after a bit of persuasion, connected over LDAC, these headphones did something that I've never had a wireless design do before. Listening to Tool's Fear Inoculum album via a 24-bit/96kHz stream from Qobuz, the No. 5909s are able to make you forget the cable (or in this case, the absence of one). Their sound has the spaciousness and immediacy you'd expect from a good 'home' design, even though these are portable and closed-back, and it does a fine job of pushing audio in front of the listener. There's no unwanted noise and the wireless connection is stable (although the detection for when the No. 5909s are taken off the head isn't very sensitive).

They are also impressively cinematic. With noise cancelling applied, the opening sequence of the first episode of Apple TV+ show Slow Horses is dramatic in its scope. The No. 5909s put their wide soundstage to thrilling use, while ensuring that dialogue is crisp and clear.

The noise cancelling is also extremely effective. Not only does it generate an impressive level of noise reduction, its ability to respond to outside noise is seamless. Its performance is also helped by how much the No. 5909s' overall design naturally blocks out external hubbub.

Whether this is worth more than double the price of some already very talented wireless cans is something you'll need to decide for yourself. Whatever the answer, this is a tremendous technical achievement; a wireless headphone that brings high-end performance to life on the move.

HCC Verdict

Mark Levinson No. 5909

Price: £999

We say: Expensive, yes, but the No. 5909s are an astonishing demonstration of how good wireless headphones can be.

Overall: 4.5/5


DRIVE UNITS: 2 x 40mm beryllium dynamic drivers CONNECTIONS: USB-C (with USB-C to 3.5mm cable and charging cable) BATTERY LIFE (CLAIMED): Up to 34 hours WEIGHT: 340g

FEATURES: Bluetooth 5.1 with LDAC, AAC and aptX Adaptive; three-stage noise cancelling; Ambient Aware mode; adjustable EQ in smartphone app; beam-steering mics with 'Smart Wind Adaption' for call functionality; supplied with hard carry case; 24-bit/96kHz processing; 3.5mm to 6.35mm adaptor