If you thought splashing out on AirPods Max was a bit of a stretch, that's sofa change compared to the new Mark Levinson active noise cancelling headphones. The luxury brand is famed for its high-end hi-fi hardware, and these headphones are its first venture into mobile music. That means two things: one, they're going to sound exquisite. And two, they're far too expensive for me.
The Mark Levinson No 5909 is $999, so you'd expect the quality to be a level beyond what's in our best wireless headphones guide since most Bluetooth cans are a fraction of the cost: that price is way beyond the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4, our current pick of the best noise cancelling headphones. In fact, you could buy four sets of the the Sonys for the same price…
But the Sonys are a VW Golf or maybe a Mercedes C Class, and the Mark Levinsons are a Bentley: while they both do the same job, they're in very different leagues.
You get what you pay for
I don't think high-end audio kit is necessarily overpriced: to paraphrase Blade Runner, I've heard things you wouldn't believe. I've listened to my favourite music on audio equipment costing tens of thousands of pounds, and I absolutely heard things I'd never heard before in songs I thought I knew inside out.
The specs here are impressive: 34 hours of playback / 30 with noise cancelling on; Bluetooth 5.1 with LDAC, AAC and aptXTM for seriously high quality wireless playback; four microphones and wind adaptation for crystal clear calls; three-mode Adaptive Noise Cancellation; acoustic response up to 40KHz; and specially tuned 40mm Beryllium coated drivers acoustically optimised to the 'Harman Curve', a measurement of optimal headphone sound from audio company Harman, which now owns Mark Levinson hi-fi components and streamers (and is, in turn, owned by Samsung. Little corporate fact for you there.)
Is it expensive? That's relative. The Mark Levinson No 5805 amplifier costs $8,500 and the No 5105 turntable costs about $7,000. So in this company, $999 isn't that much money, and I'm sure it delivers the same audio fidelity that's made me laugh with joy in hi-fi firms' listening rooms. I might not be able to afford them, but I'd love to listen to them.