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Mark Levinson No 5909 Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 19 11.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 51 31.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 77 47.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 16 9.8%

  • Total voters
    163
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amirm

amirm

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Many people also have claimed that soundstage is just a characteristic of the FR curve, well this seems to have gone up in smoke...
I should say that this aspect is there. It has the open sound you get when the mid-frequencies are not recessed. It lacks the larger spatial effects that some other headphones manage to produce.
 

PeteL

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It has a single UBC-C jack that is multi-function. If you use the included cable, it goes analog pass through from that special USB-C cable directly to 3.5mm connector. This is what I call analog.

If you use a normal USB cable at both ends, and connect the other side to your computer, it acts as a DAC+headphone amp. So you can play content digitally to it. This is the digital in, in my tests.

Bluetooth is also provided but I only used that for control/configuration. It can of course be used for wireless playback. But I did not test that as it uses lossy compression and is more of a pain to test.
OK, but my confusion comes from where you say when you connect a regular USB in DAC mode, the app don't work. But does it work with analog? How about ANC? In other words, is it a passive headphone in analog mode that has no DSP capability, and don't need battery?
 
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amirm

amirm

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OK, but my confusion comes from where you say when you connect a regular USB in DAC mode, the app don't work. But does it work with analog?
Analog pass-through is with the thing off. The only way to interact with it is when it is wireless and on.
 

Doodski

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But interestingly I have made the opposite experience recently, I listened to my $25 Blon BL-03 IEM recently, which I bought just to check it out and take on the street with the risk of losing it or getting robbed (I live in Rio de Janeiro), and with EQ I had no complaints whatsoever, detailed, clear and dynamic and engaging sound, I couldn´t say my more expensive IEMs sounded better. But with IEMs there is no huge soundstage anyway.
I use ~$180 KEFs that sound pretty good on all music if the recording is decent. I got them for ~ CAN $40. I am very pleased and they have been going for several years with no faults like a intermittent cable and such. Great value for the dollar. Mostly a inner brain soundstage.
I have never had inner ear monitors but I have been looking at them.
 

Garrincha

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Well, if you put it next to a headphone with bad frequency response, it is likely to sound a lot better. My comparison is with another headphone with same tonality but much larger drivers which imparts its own pleasing, subjective effect. Same is true of other headphones with such drivers, once you use EQ to correct their tonality.
I fully understand it. I am not advocating that the FR doesn´t matter or should be like any manufacterer likes, but that there is more to the sound than just a good adherence to the target FR curve. Not everybody in this forum took me seriously. And by the way, in digital mode it seems even better to match it than the Dan Clark Stealth, so it might be a good example to learn and investigate what is missing.
 
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amirm

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We are all going on a limb here with no research support. Could we be wrong? Maybe but I have tested so many headphones and this spatial effect is so impressive at times. So much so that I have collected tracks that really bring it out. We thought for a while that group delay had something to do with this but turns out not. It is something that can be teased out but may require multiple microphones to measure each cup to determine the spatial characteristics.
 

Garrincha

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We are all going on a limb here with no research support. Could we be wrong? Maybe but I have tested so many headphones and this spatial effect is so impressive at times. So much so that I have collected tracks that really bring it out. We thought for a while that group delay had something to do with this but turns out not. It is something that can be teased out but may require multiple microphones to measure each cup to determine the spatial characteristics.
This is really probably the most interesting open point in headphone sound. Wasn´t speculated about the angled drivers (and hence time delay) ? Would you mind sharing the track list?
 
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amirm

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This is really probably the most interesting open point in headphone sound. Wasn´t speculated about the angled drivers (and hence time delay) ? Would you mind sharing the track list?
They are intermixed in my general tracklist. Let me work on separating them and then I will post.
 

Garrincha

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They are intermixed in my general tracklist. Let me work on separating them and then I will post.
Besides the great hifi education and information here, I have already encountered many good musicians and albums I didn´t know before, which makes ASR even greater (I love the L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S by Nicholas Lens and Nick Cave which you frequently use!).
 
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peniku8

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There was another major impact and that was in Group Delay:

View attachment 215173

Fascinating!
The left graph is so zoomed out compared to the right one that it's hard to tell, but the ripple seems similar in magnitude, what's the main takeaway here? Except the ~50ms added delay for the ditial one?
 

PeteL

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We are all going on a limb here with no research support. Could we be wrong? Maybe but I have tested so many headphones and this spatial effect is so impressive at times. So much so that I have collected tracks that really bring it out. We thought for a while that group delay had something to do with this but turns out not. It is something that can be teased out but may require multiple microphones to measure each cup to determine the spatial characteristics.
I think Binaural recordings of test tones at various known distance of the microphones would help. if you play the tone at a distance of 10 feet behind in a proper stup and at playback it sounds like a few inches behind you, the heasphone is not very good at rendering spatialisation effects.
 
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amirm

amirm

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The left graph is so zoomed out compared to the right one that it's hard to tell, but the ripple seems similar in magnitude, what's the main takeaway here? Except the ~50ms added delay for the ditial one?
Ah, good catch and my bad. :) Added a note to the review. The extra delay could be the digital audio pipeline being longer. Or some filtering. Or both.
 

Leiker535

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I should say that this aspect is there. It has the open sound you get when the mid-frequencies are not recessed. It lacks the larger spatial effects that some other headphones manage to produce.

This side of research really interests me, as so far I haven't seen (and I'm speaking for myself) much HRTF research that can correlate these weird effects like those from the HD 800S' . Harman is godsend for tonality, but I personally can't see it going too much into the importance (or not) of driver size, angle, openness, etc. for what audiophiles usually call "technicalities".

Some serious p2p research would be very welcomed, as the anedoctal side of these tricks in headphone discussion/lore is heavily contaminated with cognitive bias, improper testing methods and general snake oilery.
 
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GXAlan

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We are all going on a limb here with no research support. Could we be wrong? Maybe but I have tested so many headphones and this spatial effect is so impressive at times. So much so that I have collected tracks that really bring it out. We thought for a while that group delay had something to do with this but turns out not. It is something that can be teased out but may require multiple microphones to measure each cup to determine the spatial characteristics.

1) If you take a Stealth and apply an EQ to make it incorrect (let’s pick flat), do you get spatial impression of a bad speaker? Can changing FR in presence region do it?

What would be really interesting is if you can break the spatiality with EQ.

2) if you have a really large driver and wrong curve does it work?

3) what is you have a really small driver with a giant ear cup? I need to send you my AKG after all….
 

CedarX

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From Amir’s review: “Post measurements, I started listening in digital mode that I thought it was a bit cleaner

From the user manual:

6D1EDEC9-60C7-4CA4-A735-0A6E1CDFC5BE.jpeg


In “digital mode”, as Amir listened, is the ANC ever off? The manual is not super clear and I am just wondering whether these digital aids could mess the spatial qualities…
 

Bugal1998

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I recall Toole noting that inexperienced listeners had a tendency to prefer more bass and treble ('More of everything') than more experienced listeners... I wonder if this is reflected in the Harman curve and why it's perceived as just a tad bright by some? Or is it simply the deviations above target that we're hearing?

I only used Bluetooth for listening when I had my 5909, but there was a touch of 'grittieness' that I could EQ away with a narrow filter, but still have an overall bright(ish) tonality. When I applied a general downward slope on the treble it resolved both issues. That makes me believe my personal preference is for just a bit less treble than the harman curve calls for.

AKG N700NC M2 arrives tomorrow or Wednesday... Will be interesting to see how I like the $99 AKG vs the $999 Mark Levinson.
 

phoenixdogfan

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I don't get the front localization from any headphone. What I do get with larger drivers is spread around my ears and larger separation between instruments. This is what I am not getting from 5909. It sounds like a classic headphone used to.
Looks like a pretty accurate FR. Think it would be a pretty good travelling companion, better than Bose at any rate. It's not in the Dan Clark league, but taking a pair of Dan Clark Stealth's or its equivalent out in the open, on your head or around your neck through a crowded airport? Have to be way braver than me.
 
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amirm

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1) If you take a Stealth and apply an EQ to make it incorrect (let’s pick flat), do you get spatial impression of a bad speaker? Can changing FR in presence region do it?

What would be really interesting is if you can break the spatiality with EQ.
Which spatial features? The micro level ones that create sense of space? If so, sure, I have done that with many headphones and even speakers. The macro ones are not impacted a lot in that manner.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Looks like a pretty accurate FR. Think it would be a pretty good travelling companion, better than Bose at any rate. It's not in the Dan Clark league, but taking a pair of Dan Clark Stealth's or its equivalent out in the open, on your head or around your neck through a crowded airport? Have to be way braver than me.
I only wear IEMs outside so don't look at me. :)
 
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