Review unit on loan from Singapore retailer Clarity Group
Update Dec 2022: I bought the ML 5909 after the review and have updated this review after several months of use
Mark Levinson No 5909 are Hi-Fi wireless headphones with active noise cancelling priced at US $999. These are the most expensive wireless headphones at release but there are even more expensive ones released after, e.g. US $1600 T+A Solitaire T and the US $2700 Audio-Technical ATH-WB2022. These high-end audiophile headphones make the $549 Apple AirPods Max look like a bargain.
Here in Singapore, the No 5909 is priced at SGD 1620 (inclusive of GST) and it's available by Clarity Group. I do recommend bringing your music down to the shop to test the headphones because reviews that you may read online will never be able to convey how the audio actually sounds.
Disclaimer: Clarity Group sent me a review unit to test and I've also made a Youtube video. I liked it enough to purchase one unit for myself, but the main reason why I purchased this is just to have something to compare to when I review other headphones in the future. On hindsight, I should have bought the black or gray instead of the red.
This is the first time Mark Levinson has made a wireless headphone and they did an incredible job with the design, audio and build quality.
By the way, I'll be updating this review over the next few weeks and months with my user experience.
Here the the specifications:
- Hi-Res Audio certified:
- LDAC audio codec
- Digital circuitry compatible with 24-bit/96kHz processing
- Acoustic response up to 40kHz
- Expertly tuned 40 mm Beryllium coated drivers acoustically optimized to the HARMAN Curve
- Bluetooth 5.1 with LDAC, AAC and aptX™ Adaptive technologies
- Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) with three modes
- Ambient Aware mode for situational awareness while on the go
- Four-microphone voice array with Smart Wind Adaption
- Available colors include Pearl Black, Ice Pewter, Radiant Red
- Premium leather headband and replaceable leather ear cushions
- Anodized aluminum frame
- Automotive-grade metallic painted ear cups
- Weight: 12.55 ounces, 355g
- Up to 34 hours battery life; 30 hours playtime with ANC enabled
- Up to 6 hours playtime with 15-minute quick charge
Before you throw the box away, make sure to take a photo of the serial number located on the box. I can't find that serial number on the headphone and in the iOS or Android app.
These are the items included in the box:
- Hard shell carrying case
- 4 m USB-C to 3.5 mm audio cable
- 1.25 m USB-C to 3.5 mm audio cable
- 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
All the cables are braided, flexible and quality is good.
The water resistant case is huge and can hold the headphones and cables well.
The headphone is available in three colours: Pearl Black, Ice Pewter, Radiant Red. Mine's the Radiant Red and the colour looks dark crimson.
Design looks beautiful and build quality is excellent which is must given the high price they are charging. The frame is made of anodised aluminium.
The leather ear cushions are replaceable although I've not figured out how they can be replaced. The padding has a soft resistance and feels great over my ears. As the temperature in Singapore is on the higher side, you can expect to sweat slightly if you wear these for long period of time.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphone by comparison has ear cups that make the plastic-bag like rustling sound when you put them on. I've always though those Sony wireless headphones have reasonable build quality, but the No 5909's build quality is on another level.
Headband is also made with leather and comfortable cushion. The weight of 355g doesn't seem to weigh that much and I can wear this for a long time without discomfort, except for the discomfort from heat in Singapore's climate.
On the right side are buttons to adjust volumes, handle calls and media. There's a USB-C port for charging and audio input.
On the left side are the power & Bluetooth pairing button, and the ANC button which switches from ANC, ambient noise control and passive noise control.
The Bluetooth 5.1 connection supports LDAC, AAC and aptX™. Connection is good. It's possible to pair to two devices simultaneously and switch automatically to the device that's playing audio. This is incredibly convenient. I have the headphones paired to my iPhone and iPad.
Audio quality is fantastic. The audio is clear, clean and neutral. It's like you're in the same room as the musicians. There's just the right amount of bass and treble.
I'm not someone who looks at audio frequency charts (here's the 5909 chart) and if the audio sounds great, it sounds great. As to whether it's worth the US $999 price tag really comes down to how you appreciate value. And unfortunately, I don't have much experience with other Hi-Fi headphones so I can't really benchmark this. All I can say is audio quality is noticeably better than the Sony wireless headphones WH-1000XM4 and WH-1000XM3 I used to have.
ML5909 has slightly less bass with passive mode, and hence ML5909 is best used with ANC.
Soundstage for the wireless connection is wide enough. Cable audio quality is slightly better but it's really difficult to tell the difference and hence I prefer the convenience of Bluetooth. If you happen to have a DAC -- I'm using the Dragonfly Cobalt -- you can get even better clarity, sound stage and sound separation.
The included iOS and Android app has very limited customisation settings. You can adjust the EQ, sleep timing, and turn off power automatically when you take the headphone off.
The main downside is if you use cable, volume can't be adjusted with the volume buttons, strangely. You have to power on the headphones to use the buttons.
The other downside is the battery is not replaceable, not even by the company. So when the battery dies, this will just become wired earphones.
The third downside is these headphones can look big as the ear cups are bigger. They kinda look like the headsets worn by landing signal officer on aircraft carriers. These will draw attention outdoors due to how big they are.
To conclude, I enjoy the sound a lot. These are lovely hi-res high quality headphones. I recommend you go to a store to test them yourself to hear the quality for yourself.
For more discussion on this headphone, check out this forum.
Add new comment