Mark Levinson #5909 Review: High-End without wires

Mark Levinson have been in the industry since 1972, creating top-notch amplifiers, preamps, vinyl and CD players. Belonging to the Hi-Fi and High-End category, their devices usually cost around...

Mark Levinson #5909 Review
Mark Levinson #5909 Review

Mark Levinson have been in the industry since 1972, creating top-notch amplifiers, preamps, vinyl and CD players. Belonging to the Hi-Fi and High-End category, their devices usually cost around 10,000 euros on average. This price range makes them quite exclusive, only accessible to those with their own business or wealthy relatives. However, the Mark Levinson #5909 headphones offer a chance to experience their exceptional quality for just 1 thousand dollars.

I appreciate the fact that even luxury brands are reaching out to new users by providing high-quality products at a more affordable price. The only concern is how well they can strike a balance between creating a flawless product and working within budget limitations. It’s one thing to not worry about the price and utilize the finest materials and cutting-edge technologies, but it’s a different story when they need to be relatively affordable. So, Mark Levinson #5909, let’s dive into the details and see what you’ve got to offer.

Unpacking and packaging

Let’s kick things off with the box, as always. Premium headphones usually come in a premium box, and this one is no exception – it’s super stylish. The cover features a sleek design with the headphones pictured on top, the brand name at the top, and the model name at the bottom. It’s really eye-catching. To access the contents, just pull the fabric tab on the left side. The box itself is all black with just the brand name on it, and it’s made of thick cardboard with multiple layers. It’s pretty heavy, weighing over 1 kg, and the whole package weighs about 2.5 kg. This hefty weight gives you confidence that the headphones are well-protected during shipping. Once you open the box, the headphones are right there in front of you. Unboxing these headphones feels like embarking on a little adventure – each step reveals something new and exciting. As you take out the headphones and lift the cardboard base they’re resting on, you’ll find the case containing all the accessories, along with an envelope of documentation and a cleaning cloth underneath.

Complete set :

  • headphones  Mark Levinson #5909
  • case for transportation
  • cable USB type c – 3.5 mm mini-Jack, 4 meters long (for wired stationary connection)
  • cable USB type c – 3.5 mm mini-Jack, 1.25 meters long (for wired mobile connection)
  • cable USB type c – USB type c, 1.25 meters long (for charging headphones)
  • adapter USB type c – USB A
  • adapter 3.5 mm mini-Jack – 6.3 mm Jack
  • adapter for aircraft
  • user manual, warranty card, certificate for 3 months of free use of the Qobuz streaming service and a microfiber cloth for wiping the headphones

Just wanted to mention that the case is actually made of polymer but looks like metal. The fastener is double and really sturdy. Inside, there’s a compartment for storing adapters. The front of the case has a metal logo with red accents, it’s quite nice-looking.

Specifications

Weight and size indicators :

  • dimensions 203x205x65.4 mm
  • weight 340 grams

Acoustic parameters :

  • 40 mm dynamic driver with beryllium coating
  • semi-open design
  • frequency range from 10 Hz – 40 kHz by wire
  • frequency range from 20 Hz – 20 kHz to wireless
  • sensitivity – 97 dB
  • resistance – 32 ohms
  • the maximum power in wireless use is 100 mW

Wireless connection :

  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, LDAC

Autonomy :

  • working time without active noise reduction is 34 hours
  • working time with activated noise reduction is 30 hours
  • charging time 100 minutes
  • battery capacity 750 mAh

Features :

  • 15 minutes of charging gives 6 hours of listening to music
  • use of premium materials (genuine leather, anodized aluminum)
  • adaptive modes of transparency and noise reduction
  • the possibility of a wired connection

 

Design and features

Let’s start off in a traditional manner by discussing the design of these headphones, and there’s plenty to talk about. First and foremost, they come in three different colors: Pearl Black, Ice Pewter, and Radiant Red. In other words, you can choose between a sleek black, a cool pewter shade, or a vibrant red. Personally, I have the second option, with the only difference being the color of the ear cup bodies. Mine are a stylish gray with a subtle golden tint and shiny accents. The rest of the headphones share the same color scheme.

Now, let’s delve into the build quality and materials used for these headphones. When it comes to premium headphones, there should be no compromises, and that’s exactly the case here. The foundation of these headphones is an anodized aluminum frame, while the ear pads and headband are covered in luxurious natural leather. It’s worth mentioning that the ear pads are replaceable, allowing for easy maintenance. On the top of the ear cups, you’ll notice aluminum elements, such as a ring with slots, which is chrome-plated aluminum. The circular element at the top is also made of aluminum and features the brand name “Mark Levinson” engraved on it. The end of this element is highlighted in red, matching the logo on the headphones’ case.

The construction is top-notch, everything stays solid and secure, even though the cups can swivel about 110-120 degrees, they don’t swivel anymore.
The headband feels nice and is sewn with a red thread, giving it a tidy and attractive look. The interior is lined with a foam-like material, although it’s difficult to determine exactly what it is made of.

Let’s talk about the ear cushions and comfort, they deserve a special mention. They are really spacious, providing ample room for your ears. The outer part of the ear pads is crafted from genuine leather, while the inner part is made of a soft fabric, possibly to prevent sweating. These headphones offer exceptional passive noise isolation, so you don’t even need to activate the ANC feature. In terms of comfort, they are great, although they might feel a bit heavy on your head during the initial hours of use. After all, they weigh around 340 grams, which isn’t too much, and you’ll eventually get used to it.

The package contains three cables, all of them are designed with fabric braiding. This not only gives them a stylish and premium appearance but also ensures their durability. The set consists of a 4-meter and a 1.25-meter cable for wired connections, along with a 1.25-meter charging cable. All the contacts are gold-plated, and the connectors are made partially of aluminum and rubber. To add a touch of tradition, there is a red rim that separates the connectors. Additionally, the company logo can be found on the gray connectors.

Functional capabilities

Let’s dive into the topic of microphone quality and transparency/noise reduction modes. It’s worth mentioning that the Mark Levinson No. 5909 has a semi-open design. To test the transparency and noise reduction modes, I played music on the speakers while keeping the headphones silent.

Now, let’s talk about the noise reduction mode. There are three options: low, adaptive, and high. Starting from the bottom, despite the semi-open design, these headphones provide good passive noise isolation. When you activate the low noise reduction mode, the surrounding noise is slightly muted, but the difference is hardly noticeable. The adaptive level does a decent job of cutting off loud sounds, making it an average level of noise reduction. However, even at the highest level, the noise reduction is not exceptional, and this brings us back to the design of the headphones. It’s safe to say that the passive isolation works better, and the active isolation doesn’t completely eliminate all noise.

As for transparency, I have to be honest, it didn’t leave a strong impression. There are two modes available: one that amplifies all sounds from the environment and another that amplifies only voices. In practice, the difference between them is barely noticeable. Overall, the sound does penetrate well, but you still have a clear sense of wearing headphones on your head.

Management and application

  • the left cup has 2 buttons: power on/search mode and another to toggle between transparency/noise canceling/off. It also has a work indicator. When searching for a device to connect, it blinks white, and lights up during operation
  • the right cup has a triple button: “+” – increase the volume, the central one – when pressed once, pauses the music and removes it from it, when double – the next track, when triple – the previous track or the beginning of the track, “-” – decrease the volume. It also has a charging indicator and a connector that performs the function of both wired connection and charging (USB type C). I noticed one feature that by connecting the headphones to the computer to the USB connector for charging, you can listen to music from them at the same time, so don’t be surprised that when you put the headphones on the charger and sit at the computer, music comes from the speakers or your headphones will not be heard because she will switch to Mark Levinson

 

The app is super simple, made specifically for these headphones. It goes by the name Mark Levinson Headphones, and you can grab it from the AppStore or PlayMarket for free. The main screen features a picture of the headphones. Interestingly, the color doesn’t quite match the ones I’m testing. On the top left, you’ll find the battery level shown in percentages, which is quite handy. And on the upper right corner, there’s a single button for accessing control modes and more.

  • from above we can see the possibility to control the modes off/active noise cancellation/transparency. There are 3 options for noise cancellation mode: high level of noise cancellation, adaptive and low. In terms of transparency, there are 2 modes: amplifying voices and amplifying all sounds (I talked about their work in detail in the previous section)
  • the equalizer, which is very simple, but effective, the changes are very visible and very positively reflected on the music without spoiling it, but by emphasizing what is necessary depending on the genre preference or taste, you can change it: neutral (neutral) – the most even and balanced presentation of low frequencies, enhanced (increased) – accentuation of low frequencies, attenuated (weakening) – reduced level of low frequencies
  • you can set the time of automatic shutdown of the headphones: 30 minutes, 60, or 3 hours, or at all so that they never turn off until you turn them off yourself
  • auto play/pause sensors can be enabled or disabled

The manufacturer claims that the average battery life is 34 hours without noise reduction and 30 hours with it. However, I believe this estimate is usually exaggerated. It is calculated based on using the headphones at a volume level of 50% or lower, and with a less efficient codec. So, in reality, these headphones will probably last around 24 hours without noise reduction and 20 hours with it, at a volume level of approximately 70-75%.

Sound

Moving on to the most captivating part of this review, let’s delve into the sound description. I’ll break it down into two scenarios. Firstly, we have the wireless connection via Bluetooth using the LDAC codec, without any filters, and with the “neutral” mode selected. In this mode, all frequencies are well-balanced. The second scenario involves connecting the headphones to the Shanling H5, which serves as a DAC and headphone amplifier. Unfortunately, the headphones lack a balanced connection, which could have showcased their capabilities even more effectively.

Now, let’s focus on the wireless usage. First, I’ll discuss the overall nature of the sound, and then we’ll explore the frequencies in greater detail. The Mark Levinson #5909 delivers a light, airy, and highly detailed sound. It effortlessly brings out the nuances in music, highlighting every little detail to provide a fresh and immersive musical experience. These headphones allow you to hear things that often go unnoticed on many wired headphones, and that’s truly impressive.

Frequencies

Bass frequencies are handled carefully, maintaining a natural and fast sound without adding unnecessary weight. The headphones are versatile across genres, with just the right amount of bass for a balanced listening experience. If you prefer a bit more rumble, you can switch to enhanced mode in the app for a bass boost that even bass lovers will appreciate. The mid frequencies offer an impressive soundstage for semi-open headphones, delivering natural timbres without any clutter or harshness. Each instrument is well-separated, allowing you to hear every detail clearly. High frequencies feature a subtle accent that enhances details without overshadowing the mids. These headphones excel in microcontrast, capturing nuances like the performer’s breath or the bow of a violin with exceptional clarity and realism.

Conclusion

Mark Levinson has really made a mark in the market with their first-ever headphones. They are definitely giving tough competition to other brands when it comes to the best wireless headphones. Personally, I was quite impressed with the choice of materials, the way they are put together, and the overall design. The transparency and noise reduction features work pretty well, although they didn’t completely blow me away. The microphones are of good quality and I have no complaints about them. Now, let’s talk about the sound. It’s simply amazing – crisp, detailed, and well-balanced. You even have the option to adjust the bass frequencies to your liking or even reduce them if you prefer. The only downside for me is the size and weight of the headphones. They do feel a bit heavy during the initial hours of use, but you can definitely get used to it over time.

Mark Levinson #5909 Review
Mark Levinson #5909
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