These audiophile noise-cancelling headphones make even AirPods Max look cheap

Hi-fi legend Mark Levinson launches high-end wireless headphones with ANC that aim to take the 'luxe sound on the go' crown

Mark Levinson 5909 headphones on yellow background
(Image credit: Harman)

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.

Carrie Marshall
Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).