May
2022

Country of Origin

USA

N°5909

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Sonnet Pasithea, Soundaware D30Ref SD card transport & USB bridge; Preamp: icOn 4Pro S w. hi/lo-pass filter; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64;  Headamp/DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: DMAX Super Cubes
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Integrated amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail in EU: €1'000

Mark Levinson. Outside audio he was married to actress Kim Catrall who was one third of the female leads of Sex in the City. The couple authored a book, Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm. Inside audio he helmed the firm named after him until 1980 then reappeared in 1984 under Cello Ltd. and later Red Rose Music. He presently runs Daniel Hertz Audio from Switzerland. Yet this isn't about the living and walking tradename, the man Mark Levinson. This is about the N°5909 of the eponymous company. In 1984 it changed hands to Madrigal Audio Labs. Since 1990 it is owned by Harman Int. so now part of the enormous Samsung Group. The brand name is as much inextricable part of American high-end bedrock as was Krell under Dan d'Agostino or the Audio Research Company under William Z. Johnson. Half a century has passed since the brand first launched in 1972. Today's N°5909 is their first-ever Bluetooth headphone. It presages luxury positioning, superb finishing, posh comfort and advanced technology. At €1'000, it aims at a very different clientele than the ubiquitous wireless earbud. But so already did Mark Levinson's car stereos for Lexus. What Blaupunkt? If one brand can elevate Bluetooth headphones to proper high-end cred, counting out Mark Levinson's cachet and in-house engineering resources would be foolish.

In our upcoming podcast review, John and I will compare notes. What did any of it actually mean once we strapped such weighty legacy and expectations to our two wooden noggins in Berlin and Kilrush? Like the Deborah Harkness All Souls Trilogy novels, it all begins with absence and desire. One doesn't yet have the thing. Absence creates desire. Try it on. Reach beyond slick ad copy and photoshopped images on the ears of professional models. Enter the experience of actually using it. What would that be like? I was extra curious since this would be my first-ever review for the brand…

Stay tuned…