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Mark Levinson No 5909 Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 21 12.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 53 30.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 82 46.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 19 10.9%

  • Total voters
    175

Garrincha

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1: it is trickery (changing of the original signal and thus merely an added effect) Some may like it, others may not so would have to be defeatable.
2: headphone manufacturers would have to pay for it and build it into a headphone, not just an external app. May require different chips and OS increasing costs.
3: 'soundstage' or for headphones 'headstage' is also a very personal thing so effect may result in the same desired effect.
No, I mean quite simply why they are not using tools like this (could even be the free demonstration on YouTube) to test their headphones and tweak them to get a bigger soundstage, as I suppose most costumers are interested in.
 

solderdude

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How would one use a 'trick' to improve soundstage that can only be done in DSP by manipulating the original signal in ways that cannot passively done ?
 

fricccolodics

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I reached out to M&D and asked about out sourcing the acoustic engineering. They claimed that the acoustic design and testing is carried out in house by their own product team. I have hard time to believe this due to striking similarities in mechanical design. The app is also based on same code as Mark Levinson Headphones.
Well the question should really have been: Dear M&D, did you manufacture the drivers for ML5909.
To my eyes they are 99,9% identical.
 

PeteL

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(Again, you're not really saying anything....but I can move on)

But yes, my theory is a theory, it's not proven by any stretch, it's a correlation of my experience vs headphone construction similarities and soundstage.
That's one way to avoid a debate, basically dismissing my whole answer as irrelevant and refusing to address it, but if it's irrelevant to you it's because the premise you base your argumentation from is different than mine. What you are trying to solve is basically, is what characteristic of an headphone would create a large image, where what I am saying is that the soundstage is something to be reproduced accurately, not artificially created afterward. Maybe to start this on the right foot, my question would be: Do you agree that depth, height, and width are characteristics of the recording?
 
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Jimbob54

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Well the question should really have been: Dear M&D, did you manufacture the drivers for ML5909.
To my eyes they are 99,9% identical.
I suspect the answer to that would be "no". But I also suspect if you asked "were they instead made by the same OEM somewhere in China" the answer would be , grudgingly, "yes". I say that given the clear "Made in China" label in the 5909 FCC post here https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...n-no-5909-headphone-review.35292/post-1231198 rather than a generic and dismissive "oh, everything is made in china these days" sense by the way.

I also suspect M&D is more a design house rather than an audio engineering company but happy to be corrected my anyone with actual knowledge
 

Cars-N-Cans

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I wonder why the manufacturer apparently are not using tools like this more to improve their gear.
I think I get what you are trying to say, there. They would not use such a tool per se, but if the deficiencies with respect to headphones and imaging could be quantified, then external DSP could be provided to “correct” for the deficiencies. Sennheiser has their Ambeo recordings done with he KU-100 dummy head that use it as a surrogate for your own head to provide a semblance of live sound at a venue over headphones. It does this via the sound interacting with the head and artificial pinnae to modify it in such a way as to emulate how your own head and ears modify sound to aid in localization. It does work, to an extent. The soundstage is more accurate with respect to the lateral location of instruments and tonality. But since the dummy is based on statistical averages for the size/shape of ears, head, etc. it’s not perfect. The soundstage is still located slightly behind me and there is not a strong sense of depth from listening to a few of the tracks, which is to be expected since the cues for front/rear and elevation that result from how the ear modifies the sound are quite a bit weaker, and differ from individual to individual. In principal it would be possible to use an individual‘s HRTFs and DSP to achieve the same effect, but that would require that you be measured as well :) But I suspect applying it in a more general fashion is not so straightforward.

I think they have a link to the Ambeo recordings on YT if you search for “Sennheiser Ambeo demo.“ If I recall, the video has the KU-100 as the thumbnail. It should be in the video description and they let you sponge a few minutes for free. Edit: Also the sound quality with the KU-100 is phenomenal. Decided to go back listen to a few and if you could get headphones to image and sound like that with conventional recordings, they would be the next "Stealth" in the audiophile world, even if there are still a few things it doesn't quite get right.
 
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Robbo99999

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That's one way to avoid a debate, basically dismissing my whole answer as irrelevant and refusing to address it, but if it's irrelevant to you it's because the premise you base your argumentation from is different than mine. What you are trying to solve is basically, is what characteristic of an headphone would create a large image, where what I am saying is that the soundstage is something to be reproduced accurately, not artificially created afterward. Maybe to start this on the right foot, my question would be: Do you agree that depth, height, and width are characteristics of the recording?
I meant what I said. But it's true I don't want to continue the discussion with you. I've clearly stated my theories on how/why soundstage is different between headphones, so I'm not gonna repeat that....nor discuss it further with you.
 

PeteL

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I meant what I said. But it's true I don't want to continue the discussion with you. I've clearly stated my theories on how/why soundstage is different between headphones, so I'm not gonna repeat that....nor discuss it further with you.
Fair enough... I was not asking you to repeat... But you seem to be having a bad day so I'll accept your refusal to converse.
 

tifune

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But when you EQ the HD800 to Harman the spatial qualities remain so it can't be FR only.
Different pinna activation (driver-ear position/distance/angle/space around the ear and pads)

Maybe I've missed it in this thread, but has anyone given a few examples of headphones with this quality besides the HD800 and AKG NC700? Going from memory, Utopia, HD650 to a lesser degree than 800, and Stealth? I recall Arya v1 having a bit
 

solderdude

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The whole 'soundstage' thing is:
A: highly personal
B: recording dependent
C: not easy to 'score/measure' (no standard measurements/methods)
D: the differences between models are not as big as some make it out to be unless one has small speakers dangling in front of you or uses some simulation software it is all marginal. Some HP's are slightly better than others in this aspect. Personally I find a stable and sharp placement (imaging) more important.
 
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theobserver

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I've owned the 5909s for several months now and would like to make a few comments.

First, the 5909 is primarily a wireless & ANC headphone and, as such, sound quality is actually very good/excellent, at least compared to all other BT/ANC headphones out there (and I've tried and owned most, if not all, of the more expensive offerings by the competition). The fact that in passive mode the 5909 delivers very good sound is an added bonus as competing products tend to perform very poorly when used passively.

Unlike amirm, I think build quality is actually very good and quite a step up from the K371 (only B&O's H95 and Apple's APM offer such good quality materials. The design, though, is still not my cup of tea, but this is a solidly built headphone and, crucially, one of the most comfortable ones out there. And although not often mentioned in posts or reviews, the 5909 travel case is ideal for its intended purpose – this isn't always the case even with some premium BT/ANC headphones. Add to that that all accessories (cables, adapters, case) are truly premium, the cables themselves being also quite suple, best in class.

With regards to the ongoing discussion of soundstage/headstage, it's interesting that most people reviewing the 5909 (me included) have mentioned the remarkable wide soundstage – again, this is compared to competing BT/ANC headsets in the market. Frankly, this aspect caught me by surprise and I believe the 5909's FR is largely responsible for this. This is also truly the first headphone I've tried where the music does not sound compressed or digitised in BT mode, and I'm using 256kbps AAC files both on my MBP and iPhone.

So, taking all individual elements of the 5909, and taken as a whole package, I don't actually think this is outrageously expensive headphone.

Things that need improving: a) ML must fix the unacceptable bass boost when ANC is enabled in wireless mode; b) head-on detection is still hit and miss even after latest and only FW update; and c) 16 volume steps on iOS/macOS is unacceptable for a product of this nature (with masters/recordings of the last 25-30 years a single volume step can sound too loud or too quiet).
 

hampestampe

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I've owned the 5909s for several months now and would like to make a few comments.

First, the 5909 is primarily a wireless & ANC headphone and, as such, sound quality is actually very good/excellent, at least compared to all other BT/ANC headphones out there (and I've tried and owned most, if not all, of the more expensive offerings by the competition). The fact that in passive mode the 5909 delivers very good sound is an added bonus as competing products tend to perform very poorly when used passively.

Unlike amirm, I think build quality is actually very good and quite a step up from the K371 (only B&O's H95 and Apple's APM offer such good quality materials. The design, though, is still not my cup of tea, but this is a solidly built headphone and, crucially, one of the most comfortable ones out there. And although not often mentioned in posts or reviews, the 5909 travel case is ideal for its intended purpose – this isn't always the case even with some premium BT/ANC headphones. Add to that that all accessories (cables, adapters, case) are truly premium, the cables themselves being also quite suple, best in class.

With regards to the ongoing discussion of soundstage/headstage, it's interesting that most people reviewing the 5909 (me included) have mentioned the remarkable wide soundstage – again, this is compared to competing BT/ANC headsets in the market. Frankly, this aspect caught me by surprise and I believe the 5909's FR is largely responsible for this. This is also truly the first headphone I've tried where the music does not sound compressed or digitised in BT mode, and I'm using 256kbps AAC files both on my MBP and iPhone.

So, taking all individual elements of the 5909, and taken as a whole package, I don't actually think this is outrageously expensive headphone.

Things that need improving: a) ML must fix the unacceptable bass boost when ANC is enabled in wireless mode; b) head-on detection is still hit and miss even after latest and only FW update; and c) 16 volume steps on iOS/macOS is unacceptable for a product of this nature (with masters/recordings of the last 25-30 years a single volume step can sound too loud or too quiet).
I think the case is fine for traveling, as long as you leave the longest usb-c to 3,5 mm at home. So maybe not ideal for it's purpose.
 

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theobserver

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I think the case is fine for traveling, as long as you leave the longest usb-c to 3,5 mm at home. So maybe not ideal for it's purpose.

Actually, if you pack the long 3.5mm cable carefully, you can take it with you in the carry case along with the charging cable and adapters.
 

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martin900

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Almost 1000 $ for a pair of headphones...
Paid way over 11000 $ for my Stax setup. Everything is relative.

The big question for me is - 5909 or Sony XM5.
Audeze Penrose, Ananda BT and Amiron Wireless are all a no go (own/owned these).
 

hampestampe

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Actually, if you pack the long 3.5mm cable carefully, you can take it with you in the carry case along with the charging cable and adapters.
Well you are right, but i prefer leaving it home.
I bet you did spend more then five minutes to pack it that perfect, otherwise you are a packing genius.
 

Garrincha

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The whole 'soundstage' thing is:
A: highly personal
B: recording dependent
C: not easy to 'score/measure' (no standard measurements/methods)
D: the differences between models are not as big as some make it out to be unless one has small speakers dangling in front of you or uses some simulation software it is all marginal. Some HP's are slightly better than others in this aspect. Personally I find a stable and sharp placement (imaging) more important.
Ok, but as we have seen, there are headphones that match increasingly good the target curve (and still might not sound great), so if not soundstage, what else remains there to improve soundwise ? Resolution ? In this case I am not so sure if it really is a separate thing from FR, or just high treble (for example all the Stax electrostatic headphones, the Shure KSE 1200 and the Sennheiser HD 800 are regarded to have high resolution, but have all extended treble). What else?
The was the Onkyo A800 which came out 2017 I think and matched very well the Harman curve. I haven´t listend to it, but is is apparently not for sale anymore. Wasn´t it good? What was missing?
 

solderdude

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It is not that difficult to make virtually any headphone to match the Harman target on a specific type/model test fixture, just not passively.
It might actually have a tonal balance close to what Harman finds to be the ideal average preferred tonal balance.
The question is will all of them be equally good sounding to every one and measure well on other industry standard test fixtures.

I think headphones is one of the areas where a lot of improvements can still be had (unlike electronics) and is what draws me to the hobby.
 
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