Pre Amplifier, DAC & Headphone Amp
HiFi fans are always trying to eek out improved performance from system upgrades. It’s an insidious business to ones wallet sometimes. Maybe not as insidious as Russian Novichok in Salisbury town centre, but obviously ‘wow moments’ can be had in some components which are very much worth it.
In this regard there seems no end to how Digital to Analogue Converters (DACs) have improved as technology advances. This predecessor DAC to the current Mytek ‘Brooklyn DAC+’ model is an interesting study of the performance of DACs in the last few years and what’s now possible for the money and what Mytek are all about. It is in these senses that I review this product, and as an early foray into reviewing.
Mytek are a pro audio firm based in New York with manufacturing capability in Poland. They have specialised in the pro recording market but until relatively recently have entered consumer audio. The Mytek Brooklyn DAC then is of similar specification to devices such as the Benchmark DAC3 HGC.
In simple terms this unit is a solid state pre amplifier to be used with power amplifiers or powered speakers, a headphone amplifier with dual right and left sockets, and ostensibly a DAC, either stand-alone or with pre amp duties using its volume control. As you’d expect it supports CD standard quality audio onwards to high resolution PCM audio formats up to 32bit/384khz, including high resolution DSD (up to DSD256) and MQA. The USB 2.0 input supports files up to this higher bit and sample rates and native DSD up to DSD256, with other digital inputs of lower sample rate DSD over PCM (DoP). It too has RCA inputs for connecting up an analogue source or as a moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC) phono stage pre amplifier, and both analogue and XLR outputs. With this specification it’s very much a jack of all trades and the fact Mytek have got all this kit into such a small unit is clearly a feat of good design. The unit has a lovely ‘dimpled’ milled aluminium front panel and the top and bottom cooling holes are punched in the company logo, which is smart too.
This unit prescribes a ‘how many people can you fit in a mini’ approach to using all the space on the back panel for connections. The USB 2.0 input is definitely the one to use and in my tests I connected a very silent Innuos Zenith Mark 2 server using Chord C-USB digital cable and I additionally tried it with a Cyrus Stream X Signature UPNP/DLNA streamer feeding it over coaxial. You can either connect it to the mains via the AC socket and for this purpose I used a Chord Shawline Power cable ,or you can use the 12v DC socket to either a battery supply or one of a number of commercially available linear power supplies. Mytek somewhat cautiously recount that a batter or linear power supply “may have a positive impact on sound quality”.
The attention to design is no more evident too when you turn the unit on and are confronted with a lovely coloured high resolution OLED display with input buttons on the front panel for making selections in conjunction with the volume control knob. You can change between a simple screen view with the sample rate and bit depth and volume level, or a settings display view to move between all selectable options and with metering displays for RMS and peak levels of both channels.
If you use the unit as a stand-alone DAC you need to turn on bypass mode to set maximum fixed gain output to your volume controlled pre amp, integrated or possibly active speakers. And talking of the volume control, its both of the digital and analogue variants. It initially seems a bit strange that Mytek supply an Apple TV remote but it’s metal construction does compliment the units design. Another neat feature is the ability to change the brightness and colour of the Mytek logo on the front left side panel, great for matching to other non Mytek components in your rack.
First sound impressions
Early impressions as a DAC / pre using Cyrus Mono x200 Signature power amps, is that this DAC has a liquidity to it, such that the music seems to flow very well. It’s very transparent with an airy presentation, which is probably its main character, offering realistic sibilance to lispy vocals. It’s not in anyway an in your face analytical sound. Bass is nice, fast and deep, and the overall sound is fast on its attack of music. Experience dictates good gains are often achieved using a linear power supply where you can, and with the Brooklyn DAC this might increase soundstage and imaging to levels more associated or matched to more expensive pre amplifiers with dedicated power supplies. Unfortunately I didn’t have a proprietary power supply to hand at the time of this review. Maybe it would perhaps have been beneficial if a dedicated power supply was made by Mytek for the Brooklyn DAC, as both an upgrade and up-selling opportunity. Trying other aftermarket PSU’s that work with the Brooklyn DAC would be interesting too.
The Brooklyn DAC is at ease with low bit rate recordings as it is with higher resolution material. It’s very good at taking an old CD ripped recording which may be lacking in detail and dynamics, and bringing the recording up to a better standard. This is obvious in some classical recordings and you cannot be anything other than very impressed, particularly as the Mytek creates a level of insight into music with this openness and airiness. This makes music very real and satisfying. Having once experienced it is hard to go back to any lesser standard.
Feeding it DSD tracks from the Innuos Zenith Mark 2 it certainly took on board extra levels of attack, realism, speed, and naturalness. I compared Tidal MQA masters fed from the Innuos, enabling and disabling MQA in the Brooklyn’s settings to hear immediate effects with the blue MQA detection logo illuminating. I have to say the presentation took on a more natural balanced form in enabling MQA for a full unfold of the MQA file. It was subtle and slight but as if the balance of all components to the music were more discernible and better layered, vocals were in their place and so were accompanying instruments. I think therefore that MQA encoding functionality is worthwhile in this DAC.
Using it just as a DAC into my Cyrus DAC XP Signature and PSX-R power supply combo on pre amp duties, there seemed to be the best of the Mytek’s detail, transparency and airiness, with good soundstage and drive to the music. Compared to my Cyrus DACs, I was definitely still getting more detail, resolving power and speed and the pleasing airy treble was still there. It struck me that this is a DAC that would work very well in systems with tonally warm speakers and amps to elevate resolution and transparency and give best balance. This would be my preference in buying the Mytek Brooklyn at least and good system matching is required. To use it with analytical amplifiers or speakers with good treble might be overpowering and in such speaker configurations there are smoother DACs on the market and the airy treble might not be to all tastes.
It was also very responsive to better sources like the Innuos and in not feeding it noisy digital files across bog standard PC type peripheral NAS drives and routers, unsurprisingly it performed much better. The Chord power cable I used helped lower the noise floor too in creating a relatively quieter background.
It didn’t quite have the same dynamic raw realism of a Chord Electronics 2Qute DAC in comparison to its airy presentation, but it’s clearly been voiced with a different sound in mind, so horses for courses. For almost all albums I regularly listen too I thought it terrific and it’s very good on all music types. Playing some fast paced electronic music, it’s very dynamic and fast paced indeed and synths stand out as if they are being played by a synthesiser in situ.
I used the fast roll off filter which provided the best quality sound. In the box are gain jumpers which Mytek report are to be used so output level of the DAC can be reduced by 6db, which appear to be used to gain match with other non Mytek amplifiers.
It’s clear that the Brooklyn DAC works very well as a whole in all the things it does. It’s a kind of fast hatchback car. Like such a car is fast, practicable, and the kids can also sit in the back, the Brooklyn DAC could fit into lots of systems. It’s well designed and made, has very good sound quality on a pound per pound basis, and it ticks lots of boxes. It also beats some similarly priced pre amp DAC combos I’ve heard particularly those with lesser specced and revered DACs, on paper at least. It would work really well with some quality stand-mounts and a decent power amp. This iteration of the ESS Sabre Pro 9018 DAC chip works well too. The new Brooklyn DAC+ model is reported as having the new ESS Sabre Pro 9028 DAC chip, improved analogue input performance, improved phono stage transparency, a better headphone amp, and finally a dual mono analogue path.
Albeit this is the original model in the range and not the new one, to conclude on the original question of whether a ‘wow moment’ happened, the answer is a resounding yes. Features and sound quality is fantastic for the price, albeit bear in mind the presentation might not be a match for all kit and tastes. I’d heavily recommend looking at the Mytek Brooklyn DAC in the right system, and particularly if the changes in the new model build on this one as would be expected. It would be interesting now to review this model against the Brooklyn DAC + and to form a view about the balance of the newer model.
- Type : Solid state pre amplifier and PCM, DSD, and MQA capable DAC with line and phono inputs
- Colour : Black or Silver
- Digital Coaxial Inputs : 2 X S/PDIF Input (PCM up to 192k sample rate, up to DSD64 DoP)
- Digital Optical Inputs : 1 X Toslink optical (PCM up to 192k sample rate, up to DSD64 DoP)
- Digital USB 2.0 Input : up to 32bit/384k sample rate and DSD256
- Digital AES / EBU Input
- Analogue Inputs : single ended line or MM/MC phono
- Analogue Outputs : Balanced XLR, single ended RCA line level out, fixed or variable levels (with bypass mode)
- Certified MQA Decoder
- ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip
- Dual headphone jacks : Dual mono right and left jacks with balanced operation
- Weight : 2kg
- Dimensions : (HxWxD): 44 x 216 x 216mm
- Around £1610 subject to availability
- £1,930 for the Brooklyn + model launched October 2017- price as at May 2018.
148 India Street, First Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Tel : +1 347 384 2687