If you’re used to $50 Bluetooth headphones that have passable audio quality, CES 2022 is about to give you a shock. Mark Levinson, a purveyor of high-end HiFi, just released the No. 5909 wireless headphones. The shock? The price, at $999.
If you’ve never heard of Mark Levinson, neither had I before today. It’s owned by Harman, the audio company responsible for the Harman Curve, which most headphones are tuned to.
Samsung owns Harman, as well as its other subsidiaries like AKG, JBL, and Harman Kardon. Before now, Mark Levinson mainly made high-end home systems, and a few for in-car installs.
Let’s crack on with the headphones. The No. 5909 is “expertly tuned to the Harman curve.” That’s good, although most of the wireless headphone market aims for a tweaked V-shape version of that curve.
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If you’re a fan of deep bass, you might want to steer clear, as these are very much tuned for a reference sound.
The 40mm Beryllium drivers are driven by an internal DAC/AMP that meets the guidelines for Hi-Res Audio certification. That includes 24-bit/96kHz signal processing and a 40kHz acoustic response. Bluetooth 5.1 is used, with LDAC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive codecs supported for a wide range of compatibility.
The No. 5909 also features Active Noise Cancelling, with three modes, and Ambient Aware so you can pass through sound from your surroundings. Calls are handled by an array of four microphones with a “smart wind adaption” feature so you should sound clear at all times.
That premium price tag also means premium materials used in construction, from an aluminum frame, metallic earcups, and real leather on the headband, and replaceable earcups.
You also get a hard shell carrying case, a USB-C charging cable, a USB-C to USB-A adapter, two USB-C to 3.5mm cables, a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter, an airplane adapter, and a polishing cloth. Phew.
The thing is, it’s still limited by the bandwidth available to Bluetooth. Apple’s AirPods Max is $549, and can’t take advantage of Apple Music’s Lossless tracks because the bandwidth isn’t there. Even with Mark Levinson supporting the newer aptX Adaptive codec, it’s still going to be limited.
That’s not to say it won’t sound good. My favorite Bluetooth headphones are the Hifiman Ananda-BT, which were similarly priced at $999 at launch.
I still feel the planar drivers in the Hifiman are a better bet at that price than the dynamics in the No. 5909 but that’s a personal preference.
The No. 5909 from Mark Levinson comes in black, pewter, and red; all available for purchase today for the princely sum of $999.
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