Audacious audio: Mark Levinson’s $999 wireless headphones are awesome, and hard to recommend

Audacious audio: Mark Levinson’s $999 wireless headphones are awesome, and hard to recommend

MSRP $999.00

“If money is not any object, these crazy-expensive cans are the perfect you possibly can get.”


  • Sumptuous sound
  • Very comfortable
  • Excellent call quality
  • Good ANC and transparency
  • Excellent codec support
  • Good case, tons of accessories


  • Over-the-top expensive
  • Annoying voice announcements
  • Needs ANC mode control

In the case of wired headphones, there’s seemingly no limit to how much you possibly can spend. From the hand-crafted technology of the $59,000 Sennheiser Orpheus HE/1, to the gold and diamond-encrusted $120,000 Focal Utopia by Tournaire, the wired headphone world is a playground for wealthy audiophiles.

But over within the wireless headphones space, things have been far tamer. Sure, you possibly can still spend yourself silly by adding precious metals and jewels, but in relation to buying an objectively higher set of cans, manufacturers haven’t strayed outside of three-figure pricing — until this 12 months. With the arrival of the Mark Levinson No. 5909 from the Harman Luxury Audio group, recent ground has been broken. With a listing price of $999, I haven’t any problem calling these the primary wireless headphones to hit the $1,000 threshold. But even if you happen to don’t round up, the No. 5909 are easily the most costly wireless headphones you possibly can buy.

Are they value it? Just one method to discover.

What’s within the box?

In line with Mark Levinson’s repute for high-end audio gear, the No. 5909 are beautifully appointed. They arrive nestled in a hard-shell carry case wrapped in a cloth that appears like brushed black metal but is definitely soft to the touch. Inside, you’ll discover a generous variety of cables, including a really long, 13-foot USB-C to three.5 mm audio cable; a shorter four-foot USB-C to three.5 mm audio cable; and a four-foot USB-C to USB-C charging cable that may function a digital audio cable. All three cables are braided and tangle-free, with bespoke Mark Levinson logos adorning the USB-C connectors — very slick.

You furthermore mght get three adapters: a USB-A to USB-C in case your charger or PC uses the larger port, a 3.5mm to ¼-inch headphone adapter, and a two-prong airplane adapter for aircraft that also use this outdated design. Except for the 13-foot cable, all of those extras are stowed in a central zippered storage section.

It’s a totally premium experience, exactly as it’s best to expect for this price.


Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

What makes a set of headphones appear like you only spent $1,000 — and is that even what you would like? Mark Levinson seems to have wrestled with these questions a good bit in coming up with the design for No. 5909, and it shows. It didn’t shrink back from premium materials like anodized aluminum and leather, and there’s a beautiful, seamless line because the tubular headband sliders emerge from all sides after which form the forks that hold the earcups — with nary a hinge or wire to be seen. On our Pearl Black loaner (they’re also available in Ice Pewter and Radiant Red), the red headband stitching perfectly complements the skinny red accent ring on the earcups. But there’s also a good amount of plastic, too.

In some cases, that plastic gets dressed to the nines, as is the case with the predominant earcup shells, which have been given an “automotive-grade metallic” paint job. It has a pleasant sparkle, nevertheless it’s also a fingerprint magnet. In other cases, chrome accents are used to offer one other automotive-inspired cue, as with the perforated ring that encircles the outer aluminum cover.

But to my eye, the general effect doesn’t scream luxury or high-end. They give the impression of being superb — no complaints in any respect. But, it’s value repeating: These cans cost one clam lower than a grand.

Close up of Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones earcup.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

That price is much more insane while you compare them to the more cost-effective $599 Master & Dynamic MW75, which make extensive use of anodized and polished aluminum, tempered glass, and no plastic in any respect. Seen side-by-side, the No. 5909 form of look a bit of low-cost — but perhaps that’s just me.

  • 1.
    Mark Levinson No. 5909 (left) and Master & Dynamic MW75.
  • 2.
    Mark Levinson No. 5909 (left) and Master & Dynamic MW75.
  • 3.
    Mark Levinson No. 5909 (left) and Master & Dynamic MW75.

By the best way, I’m not bringing the MW75 into this review on a whim, or simply for a comparison to a different pricey, high-end set of wireless headphones. Their shape, weight, headband and slider construction, driver size and materials, and lots of other characteristics are either equivalent — or so close they could as well be. I reached out to each firms for his or her comments. Master & Dynamic declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Harman Luxury Audio acknowledged that the 2 products come from the identical original design manufacturer (ODM).

Throughout the remainder of this review, I’ll be calling out the small differences, so you possibly can resolve if the No.5909 justify their $400 price premium over the MW75.

Comfort, controls, and connections

Close up of controls on Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As luck would have it, we’ve hit considered one of the massive differences between the No. 5909 and the MW75: comfort. This might sound crazy after I just told you the way similar these cans are, however the No. 5909 are more comfortable for longer periods. Yes, though they really weigh two whole grams greater than the MW75, they feel lighter in your head. I think the key is the No. 5909’s ear cushions, that are a bit of thinner and have a rather larger opening in your ears.

This mix does two things: brings the mass of the earcups closer to your head, which cuts down on the feeling of weight, and distributes the headscarf’s clamping force over a wider area (while concurrently increasing grip).

The difference was so noticeable that I needed to double-check the specs — I had fully convinced myself the Mark Levinsons were lighter.

All of this to say, they’re incredibly comfortable. Even after two hours of continuous use while seated and walking, I didn’t detect any pressure points. They even appear to do an honest job of dissipating heat, which is remarkable on condition that they’re leather padded and never vented in any respect.

Side view of man wearing Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphonesSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The controls are easy and get the job done. An influence/pairing button and an lively noise cancellation (ANC) mode button sit on the left earcup, while a triple-combo multifunction/plus/minus set of buttons are on the precise. This offers you all the things you might want to play/pause, skip forward/back, volume up/down, call answer/end, hail your phone’s voice assistant, and adjust your ANC.

With the optional ear-detection feature enabled, the headphones can auto-pause and resume your tunes while you remove and replace them out of your head, but again, similar to the MW75, it’s a bit quirky; you simply get a ten-second window to resume, otherwise, you’ll have to start out playback manually.

My one criticism is that it may be hard to discover the central multifunction button along with your thumb since it’s small and only barely raised above the peak of the plus/minus buttons that flank it. I prefer the layout of those controls on the MW75, which separates them into individual, spaced-out buttons. Plus, the multifunction button stands out more prominently than the opposite two.

The No. 5909 uses Bluetooth 5.1 and enjoys a excellent wireless range and stability. It’s also equipped with Multipoint, so you possibly can connect with two devices concurrently and switch forwards and backwards between them without having to re-pair. It worked effortlessly between my Mac and my iPhone, in addition to with a Xiaomi 12 Pro.

Mark Levinson app settings page.

Master & Dynamic app.

  • 1.
    Mark Levinson mobile app.
  • 2.
    Master & Dynamic mobile app.

Mark Levinson has thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at these cans regarding Bluetooth codecs. You get ‘em all: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, and LDAC. Those last two are key; they’re the 2 most generally used wireless hi-res codecs, each able to delivering as much as 24-bit/96kHz lossy audio under the precise conditions. It’s a rarity to see them each supported, as most firms are inclined to pick one or the opposite. aptX Adaptive is newer, nevertheless it’s not used on Android phones older than about two to 3 years. With LDAC, even phones going back to Android 8.0 can get excellent wireless sound from the No. 5909. Sadly, even the most recent iPhone — due to Apple’s ongoing refusal to license either aptX or LDAC — will probably be limited to lossy, 16-bit wireless audio. I’ll discuss this limitation more within the sound quality section.

Sound quality

Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones with ear cushion removed.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

So, how do the world’s first $1,000 wireless headphones sound? In a word, superb.

The No.5909 deliver an intoxicating mix of precision, detail, and beautifully balanced frequencies. They’re marked by a bass response that seems to live in its own separate sonic plane of existence — it’s tight, fast, and never obscures the mid-tones. It’s also deliciously articulate. The opening notes of Wicked Games by We Are Wolves are a salvo of deep electronica — the form of sound that may get smeared by distortion or lose a few of its impact when there isn’t sufficient resonance. The No.5909 handle them with striking dexterity and a depth you possibly can feel in your chest.

They’re, by a really small margin, the perfect wireless headphones I’ve ever worn.

That’s with the bass contour EQ setting within the Mark Levinson app set to “enhanced.” When you select considered one of the opposite two tweaks (neutral or attenuated), you possibly can ease back on the bass throttle, leaving all the things else perfectly intact.

It’s value trying those modes for content, like spoken word or classical, but as someone who loves it when bass is completed right, I kept the improved mode on for many of my time with these cans.

  • 1.
    Mark Levinson No. 5909 (top) and Master & Dynamic MW75.
  • 2.
    Mark Levinson No. 5909 (top) and Master & Dynamic MW75.
  • 3.
    Mark Levinson No. 5909 (left) and Master & Dynamic MW75.

The soundstage will be regarded as rigorously executed. By that, I mean it’s generous enough to deliver a way of space and immersion, but not so wide that it becomes distracting. Many of the perceived sound lives somewhere between just inside your ears to a few foot outside your head, or at the least, that’s the way it felt to me.

But what really caught my attention is the best way you possibly can discern the vertical space inside that stage. There’s a moment in Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man, across the 0:49 mark while you hear a high-pitched trilling, and I swear it felt like I could measure the space from the ground to where that sound was coming from.

That’s the form of performance that makes you need to pull out each considered one of your favorite tracks and hearken to them yet another time, in case the No.5909 reveal a subtle detail you’ve never heard before.

They’re, by a really small margin, the perfect wireless headphones I’ve ever worn.

Front view of man wearing Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphonesSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

But, there are a number of more things that should be said concerning the sound on these cans.

First, codecs matter — big time. I used lossless 16 and 24-bit tracks from Amazon Music and Apple Music for many of my testing on a MacBook Air M1, an iPhone 11, a Google Pixel 5, and a Xiaomi 12 Pro. The Apple devices couldn’t hold a candle to the Android phones with their LDAC and aptX Adaptive codecs, respectively. It was night and day: higher clarity, more detail, greater dynamic range.

I’ve said before that these high-quality codecs can only be really appreciated on high-end headphones and earbuds, and the No. 5909 reinforced that belief. When your gear is able to resolving that extra detail, you possibly can hear it.

To get an equivalent level of sound from a Mac, you’ll need to make use of the included USB-C charging/digital music cable, but that trick won’t work on an iPhone. As a substitute, you’ll have to buy an external DAC/amp and use the included analog cable.

The No. 5909 are incredible for calls in any environment.

Second, ANC matters; this was a surprise. Turning ANC on and off significantly impacted sound, mostly within the lower registers. With ANC off, a few of that glorious bass just disappears. The identical is true while you use the cans with the ability turned off via either analog or digital cables.

Third, and maybe most significantly, they do sound a bit higher to me than the Master & Dynamic MW75, despite the indisputable fact that each use a virtually equivalent set of 40mm beryllium drivers. But, it’s an improvement you possibly can only appreciate by going forwards and backwards between these two awesome headphones over quite a lot of tracks, and even then, it may be pretty tough to qualify. Barely higher clarity, a wee bit more detail, a touch of additional oomph within the bass: To someone with golden ears and a fat wallet, perhaps these tiny increments are absolutely value 4 more benjamins, but I cannot promise, in good conscience, that you simply’ll feel the identical way.

Lively noise cancellation and transparency mode

Close up of headband on Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The No. 5909 are excellent at canceling noise, but don’t expect any miracles. You get three ANC modes to pick from within the Mark Levison app — high, adaptive, and low — and I didn’t notice much difference between them.  Most background sounds, from coffee house chatter to droning machinery, are significantly diminished. It’s not nearly as good as what you’ll get from the Sony WH-1000XM4 or XM5 or the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, nevertheless it does the job.

What I did notice is that they behave similarly to the three ANC modes on the MW75, which is to say, they produce a small but noticeable amount of hiss when music isn’t playing, and while you change modes, the headphones take two seconds to accomplish that, during which period your music is interrupted and a voice pronounces the brand new mode. Master & Dynamic allow you to turn these voice prompts off, but Mark Levinson doesn’t.

Transparency modes (voice pass and ambient) are also excellent, providing you with a robust connection to the skin world while you need it.

But, for some reason, the No. 5909 didn’t borrow considered one of the MW75’s best features: There’s no method to select the ANC modes which are cycled while you press the ANC button on the left earcup. It’s at all times ANC > transparency > off. On the MW75, the app enables you to select any two, or all three. Hopefully, Mark Levinson will issue an update to its software that can fix this omission.

Call quality

Mark Levinson No. 5909 headphones, lying down, earcups pointed upward.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Given what I had experienced thus far, I wasn’t expecting the No. 5909 to supply significantly higher call quality than the Master & Dynamic MW75 — that are good but not great — but I used to be pleasantly surprised. The No. 5909 are incredible for calls in any environment.

During my test recording walking down a busy street, I used to be amused as a really loud truck passed inside inches of the sidewalk, and even said, “Well that’s going to be a great test.” Later, once I played it back, all you would hear was my voice — the truck had been entirely erased.

Not that conditions were especially windy while I used to be testing, but there wasn’t even a touch of wind noise.

This puts the No. 5909 among the many best wireless cans for calls, neck and neck with the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, JBL Tour One, and Apple AirPods Max.

The one caveat: When calling, the No. 5909 mechanically shut down ANC and enable some passthrough audio so you possibly can hear your voice more clearly. You possibly can’t change that, so if you happen to plan on calling from loud locations, your callers won’t pay attention to the sound, but you’ll.


Mark Levinson claims as much as 34 hours of battery life without using ANC and 30 hours when it’s turned on. From what I can tell, these numbers are almost bang-on and perhaps even a tad conservative when your volume is ready at 50% or lower.

It hardly holds a candle to the exemplary battery lifetime of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless at 60 hours of ANC-enabled play time, nevertheless it’ll get you thru a full day (or flight) with ease, and for most folk, that’s enough.

When you run low, a 15-minute quick charge gives you an additional six hours of time, which can be excellent for a set of wireless headphones.

Our take

The Mark Levinson No. 5909 are luxurious, comfortable, superb-sounding wireless noise-canceling headphones. When you want the perfect, that is it. But I don’t think there’s enough of a difference between them and the very similarly-equipped $599 Master & Dynamic MW75 to justify that price.

Is there a greater alternative?

By now, if you happen to haven’t already guessed, I’m a fan of the $599 Master & Dynamic MW75. And while they aren’t nearly as good for sound quality and call quality, there’s no way that the No. 5909 are $400 higher.

It goes without saying that if you happen to simply want an important set of wireless headphones for $400 or less, our normal recommendations still apply: You possibly can’t go fallacious with Sony’s $400 WH-1000XM5, its $348 WH-1000XM4, or Sennheiser’s $350 Momentum 4 Wireless.

How long will they last?

The No. 5909 are thoroughly built, from high-quality materials, and the ear cushions are easily replaced in the event that they wear out. The battery is sufficiently big that even when its capability drops by 50% over time, they’ll still be perfectly serviceable for all however the longest listening sessions.

With a really protective hard-shell case, I see no reason why these pricey cans shouldn’t last for a really very long time.

Harman Luxury Audio backs them with a two-year parts and labor warranty, which is double the usual one-year warranty.

Do you have to buy them?

If dropping a thousand dollars on a set of headphones is something you’re willing to do as a way to own the perfect, even when it’s only a bit higher than the next-best-thing, go for it. You’ll probably sleep well at night knowing that you simply’ve got the perfect that cash should buy.

But if you happen to think that investments of this nature needs to be proportional, save yourself some money and go for considered one of our other recommendations. It’s the rational thing to do.

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