A few months ago I chatted with Jonathan Levine, the founder and CEO of Master & Dynamic, about the price of his company’s headphones. Master & Dynamic makes premium wireless headphones that typically cost between $300 and $500. I said it would be nice if the company had a more affordable option. He remarked that he had tried it. The company priced its MW07 Go earbuds under $200, but they didn’t sell as well. In fact, he said, Master & Dynamic had an inverse price-to-sales ratio: Its more expensive models sold better than its less expensive models.
I thought of that conversation while I was trying out the new Mark Levinson No. 5909 wireless noise-canceling headphones announced at CES 2022. Even more premium audio brand than Master & Dynamic, Mark Levinson, long owned by Harman (now a Samsung subsidiary). ), known for their high-end amps, preamps and turntables that even have numbers to name.
Number 5909 are Mark Levinson’s first headphones and yes, they are expensive at $999 (£1,000, which is about AU$1,880). However, judging by my conversations with Master & Dynamic’s Levin and the number of AirPods Max models I see popping over people’s heads on the streets of New York, there are plenty of people who don’t mind dropping big money on a set of cans. We do. The fact that the No. 5909 costs almost twice the cost of the AirPods Max may make them more desirable for a certain segment of buyers.
Not surprisingly, the number 5909 are really good headphones. They have a sturdy design (read: they’re bulky but not too heavy) without managing to feel heavy on your head and they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time, thanks to their well-padded (and replaceable) leather. Thanks to the covered earcups and headband. They fold flat but not up, and are in some ways similar to the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 in that they have an aluminum frame and feel hard to break.
Features-wise, most of what you’d expect in a pair of premium wireless headphones is here: strong, effective noise cancellation, a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in (I thought it sounded pretty natural). had been) and sensors that automatically pause and resume your music when you remove the headphones and replace them on your ears, respectively.
Battery life is rated at a healthy 30 hours with noise-canceling, and it looks like they have Bluetooth pairing (so you can pair them to 2 devices at once), but I’m waiting for confirmation .
While they have four-microphone technology for voice calls instead of six, I tested them on the noisy streets of New York and callers said my voice was clearer than on the AirPods Max, and the headphones blocked out background noise. Did a good job of reducing. They were better than AirPods Max for voice calls.
That said, I think the AirPods Max’s noise-canceling is better overall. And the AirPods Max have Apple’s Spatial Audio Virtual Surround Sound with head tracking that I think enhances my movie and TV viewing experience (I’m less enamored with it when it comes to listening to music).
As for sound, if you’re streaming wirelessly from an iPhone, it’s pretty much a similar battle. Number 5909 is certified high-resolution with support for Sony’s LDAC and Qualcomm’s aptX adaptive codecs that allow for nearly lossless streaming over Bluetooth.
Apple’s iPhone and iPad do not support those codecs while some Android devices do. Using the No. 5909 headphones over Bluetooth on my iPhone 13 Pro, it sounded more natural and refined than the AirPods Max (the No. 5909 sounded a touch more “pure” and accurate).
One difference I noticed when I added the number 5909 to my Google Pixel 4 XL is support for LDAC (you can turn on “HD Audio: LDAC” in the setting next to Headphones in the Bluetooth menu so you know what’s going on). are actually receiving LDAC).
I use the Qobuz audio streaming service which offers high-resolution streaming, and the sound was noticeably better when listening to number 5909 on the Pixel 4 XL. Overall, the sound had a bit more depth and texture, and a touch more brightness, definition, and openness. (The AirPods Max add similar depth when you use them in wired mode.)
The press release for the headphones talks about how the headphones are optimized for the Harman curve, which is a way of describing how the headphones are designed to “attenuate” the bass boost or companion in a balanced sound profile. The app is tuned with the option to.
The EQ includes three bass “countour” settings – Neutral, Enhanced, and Attenuation. This is what I liked.