It’s a new DAC with two mono ESS9038pro DAC chips in parallel (said to be equivalent to 32 9028 DAC channels in parallel).and with fully discrete output stages....no op amps.
i will put it like this, from what I hear, this thing blows away anything else close (or far) in price. Now I have heard the Nagra $30K DAC and that is incredible. Waiting to see how close this will be.
The reason for the mods when new is that once I bring home, I will never be able to ship it back out for mods, so just getting them in beginning is easier. He does quite a bit to it, will get you a list once I get the invoice.
I finally ordered a unit myself, and am very happy I did. The consensus over at Head-Fi where they are ordinarily into mods (even on earlier LKS models), is that this unit doesn’t need any, though I’m certian Ric will want to touch it up here or there. Given the number and quality of the components it should perform, and it does. There’s nothing like it currently available: 2 ESS 9038pro dacs and all discrete components. Who can estimate what this would cost with a fancy name plate on it? I’m not a reviewer so not a ton of comparisons but it completely transforms the sound of CDs coming out of my Oppo 105 through spdif.
There is no sheet metal on this unit; it’s built like a brick, large and heavy--it has two massive torroidal transformers. Very large heat sinks. No sheet metal at all. It sounds great even after running it only for 24 hours. Was a bit dark at first turn on. Very smooth, VERY dynamic, unbelievable (to me) control of the bass, and the spacial aspects are spectacular-wall to wall. I’ve just played a couple of classical CDs. Many, many steps above the Oppo. No surprise given its insides, but it feels good to confirm. The last time I had this feeling is when I replaced a pretty good transistor phono pre with a very good all tube unit. Not that the sound is the same, but the quality is there. There’ll be more breaking in and I’ll start trying some higher resolution files.
This is really fun.
"what other dacs do you have experience with? Please share your comparisons based on your experience. Thanks."
Almost none. I am mostly into analog.* The only other DAC I have owned is a Lavry DAC a while back. If you want comparisons write to Stereophile; I am not a reviewer. I have tried hard not to overstate my credentials. I just took a look at what this thing has inside, read what some others have said, thought it should be good and took my chances, I can't really compare as I've not had any digital that is close. It's closer to my analog--with the usual digital advantages. You couldn't pay me to sit down and compare a bunch of DACs. I'm not trying to sell anything.
*Though this LKS has me trying out old CDs the way my then new phono pre had me trying out old records. I don't think I did that, to this extent, with other digital changes.
From Ric Schultz on the WBF:
My friend in Pocoima has a modified Yggdrasil and recently received the LKS MH-DA004 DAC ($1600 delivered from China). The completely stock stone cold out of the box LKS DAC was better in almost every way. Now he has modified the LKS (per my instructions) and feels the LKS sounds as good (playing 16/44 through Beatis server, through coax, through modified IFI spdif Ipurifier) as his $20,000 turntable system. Does this mean the LKS with mods would be better than Berkeley or DCS?
The LKS DAC has I2S input, plays DSD up to 512, has digital volume control and 7 selectable digital filters.....completely discrete output stage, discrete shunt regulators for output stage and is the first and only DAC in the world that I know of that has two ESS 9038 DACs in parallel.
One thing here no matter how much anyone mods the unit and all the Hype
Which everything is subjective .the saber chips yes even their new ines have a distinct personality detailed and for me a bit bold.
There a re a bunch of Very good dac s out there a. The new Totally custom
architecture fro PS audio Direct stream is in that $10k class can be bought for around $4k
and modular just had a Big firmware upgrade. Playback designs is like their big brother similar sonics in many respects . The tube Lascala dac is Excellent as well as Lamizator,and many others.
that being said some people donot want a analog sound if their equipment ,
cables,or speakers are a bit laid back this dac Rick mods may be perfect.
there is nothing perfect that suits everyone. Everything is system dependent
System Synergy means everything . I am working on a 3-4 USB cable comparison for anyone to even think a cable is a cable is total out of touch .1010
arejust bits timing accuracy, and yes metals used effect everything to some point.
even with digital .a $20 monster cable although very well engineered lacks many qualitys a reference cable can only bring .quality of parts just as in the dac .
It will be good to see the results on this dac , and key what equipment and cables used .i totally dislike a comment best of best .with no indication what you used to make this statement.
From the EVS site:
5-15-2016: I have a friend in Pocoima who has one of these and we have been tweaking them at the same time. He has a great turntable system ($20,000 worth) and he says that playing 16/44 from his Beatis server through coax and then through modified IFI spdif Ipurifier and then through modded LKS is at least as good as his turntable system!! No upsampling....nada....just great sound.
Hardly unbiased, as it is by or about the guy that did the mods.
Not saying the DAC is bad, but consider carefully the source of all these comments.
Does seems odd to me that a Baetis server (~$4-5K, and nice but nothing special, you can build the same or better at home for ~$2K, I did <look online for the photos of Baetis servers that have been taken apart, very revealing> ) is used to feed a $1500 DAC. And a "modded iFi unit"? Whatever......
My opinion, I sincerely doubt this would be better than a Berkeley or DCS DAC. Not in the same league at all. Not likely to find a real comparison either, as I see the owners’ of these DACS to be mutually exclusive. And no real reviewer is likely going to write-up a DAC handled by the DIY crowd, for obvious reasons.
That said, I’m still interested in the DAC and finding unbiased objective reviews or comments on the unmodded unit from sources that are not part of the DIY crowd and from someone with sufficient listening experience to make meaningful comparisons with other DACs.
"One thing here no matter how much anyone mods the unit and all the Hype"
First of all there is no "Hype." The LKS unit is virtually not marketed at all. If you want to talk about "Hype" continue to write about PS Audio. Fact is you’re comparing $1600 product that you have never heard with a Direct Stream Jr. @ $4000 or a Direct Stream @ $6000.
And just for the record, Ric has recommended the LKS without any mods at all on the Digital Asylum site. While he, as everyone knows, has an interest in mods he had nothing to gain from this recommendation, actually to a working classical musician who writes very frequently on the subject of recorded music.
Also as a person who does mods, Ric has an interest in identifying good hardware at a good price as a subject for modification. That’s the bias, if you wish.
As for more bias, mine is for vinyl.
"My opinion, I sincerely doubt this [$1600 and then fully modded DAC] would be better than a Berkeley or DCS DAC. Not in the same league at all.
Do you mean the $5000 or the 16,000 Berkely DAC;
or do you mean the $11,000 or the $35,000 dCS DAC?
A "sincerely" held opinion about a DAC that you have never heard. But, you know, you might be right.
I love these threads.
@melm Which Berkeley, which DCS? Whichever one @gareneau was referring to.
Yes I’m being sincere in my opinion about beating these top DACs. But nowhere near as bombastic as the posts claiming it could be the worlds best DAC. Blows away others no matter the cost. Now THAT’S a crazy statement.
But sincerely (ha!) I do hope it turns out to be a really good DAC that can compare favorably with ones maybe in the $2000-$4000 range.
Be sure to read the Denafrips Terminator post for a completely different POV on ESS / delta sigma DACs.
In the gareneau post, someone was asking a question. You, however, were offing a sincere opinion. So I would respectfully stand by my questions.
Anyway, I find it interesting that you think the LKS may achieve the sound of up to a $4000 DAC, but not the sound of an $11,000 DAC for example. Since you haven’t heard the LKS, by what logical reasoning do you come to that conclusion? Do you go by weight? Volume? Absence or presence of op amps? Do you look inside and estimate the cost of their components and apply a multiplier? (If you do, by the way, don’t neglect the LKS’s Furutech, Cardas and Neutrik connectors.)
As for delta sigma chips, I would not claim they are the best, or even know whether there is a best. But I fear you may be a bit behind the times. Even the older ES9028PRO has been implemented very successfully, and that is the key, I think: implementation. Most who have heard the newer ES9038PRO have written that the early "glare" complained of is entirely gone, and so it seems on my LKS. If the ESS chips have an economic advantage that leaves engineering room for things like better clocks, and particularly a more sophisticated audio section. Sounds good to me.
I just don't understand new dacs "blowing away" all of the older more-expensive models. What didn't they know 5 years ago that they know now. I will tell you - from my experience with Naim gear, the power supply has a huge impact on the sound. So I can see where a massive outboard power supply might be of consequence. But I just don't know what has been recently discovered in the world of dacs. Seriously.
I get where you are coming from chayro and I agree that power supply quality is of paramount importance. That being said, the progress in DAC chip power/capability/flexibility, digital circuitry, output stage design, etc plays a part too.
In this particular case (the LKS 004), it really is three things: the utilization of two powerful DAC chips in a dual-mono 2 channel configuration (vs, for example, Oppo using the same 2 chips, but with one for two channel mode and one for multi-channel mode in their 205), the elimination of op amps in the output stage (discrete), and the fact that a Chinese firm is able to design, build, and direct market a quality full-function DAC with high-end sonics/construction/feature set at a selling price 50% (perhaps up to 90%) less than past or even current established-brand products with comparable sound quality.
I have never maintained that this unit blows away anything. Frankly, I have no idea. What I do know is that this Chinese maker has just piled in a lot of quality parts and technology in a $1500 package, beyond anything, I think, that a known American or European brand has ever done at anywhere near this price point. I don’t care about "blowing away." I do care about great value. I think most people will acknowledge that it sounds good. Better than Brand X? I don’t know, and don’t really care for Brand X will cost more, probably a lot more.
The LKS has dual ES9038PRO DACs, large dual toroidal linear power supply (50? watts each) with 13 groups of regulation*, all JFET discrete output stage, Amanero USB module, Crystek femtosecond clock, Jensen or Mundorf caps, Cardas RCAs, Neutrik XLRs, Furutech IEC, and even a Swiss Shute fuse plus a remote in a 15.4 lbs. package. Who does that for $1500?
I acknowledge that there may be other, better, approaches to building a quality DAC. But surely this one is pretty OK.
Closest domestic brand value manufacturer I can think of is Oppo, and they make great, high value stuff. I have a 105 and love it. But a lot of people have spent more than the price of the Oppo to modify it, and likely will continue to do so.
*talk about the importance of power supply, something I share
" ...the fact that a Chinese firm is able to design, build, and direct market a quality full-function DAC with high-end sonics/construction/feature set at a selling price 50% (perhaps up to 90%) less than past or even current established-brand products with comparable sound quality."
Comparison with DACs at 50% to 90% higher price will be needed to prove this to be true. Direct comparison, in the same room, the same setup, and at the same listening session. That’s the only way. Any takers?
@melm - I wasn't really talking about this DAC in particular. There are countless new digital products on the market that the makers or the masses claim far exceeds what came before and I find it difficult to comprehend why the DCS Rossini is allegedly so much better than the Puccini. What didn't DCS know when they built the Puccini? Planned obsolescence? Possible, but I don't know. Again, a big power supply is always a factor and I think more companies should offer the option the way Naim does. Not that I am pushing Naim, but I think that many people have never heard what a really big outboard power supply can bring to a preamp or digital product. Amplifiers too, of course.
@chayro - IMO properly designed it doesn’t have to be outboard. Whoever has written about the LKS finds it absolutely silent. That’s true of a number of others with large inboard PS, as well as preamps with large inboard PS, etc. I'm with you that power supply is very important. I’d rather get it built in then be offered a sell-up option at much higher ultimate cost.
I would wager that every designer would always opt for a huge outboard supply, but the market wouldn't tolerate it. I was talking to Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note about the CD 4.1x and he said he had to design it as a 1-box unit for the Japanese market because of space issues. I think what you're saying about "well designed" is important, but no matter how well-designed, you can't do internally what you can do with a brute force outboard. I think. I know Linn has a "Brilliant" PS, but I don't know if it's internal or not. I leave that to the engineers.
Fair challenge. I was basing that statement on Ric Schultz’s comment in a recent phone conversation that he felt that the LKS 004 sounded better (to him and a customer) than a modded Yggdrasil DAC in a head-to-head listening comparison. Just a data point. I too would like to read real-life comparisons between the 004 and the DACS you mentioned and other well-established products in the higher price ranges.
The manufacturer’s support page is at: http://www.mu-sound.com/about.asp?id=3
The manual, such as it is, is at: http://www.mu-sound.com/files/MH-DA004.pdf
To use the Coax, Optical, AES/EBU or the BNC, there is no set-up, just plug it in. If that’s all you plan to use, no reason to buy the optional Amanaro USB board.
If you have a sophisticated music server that outputs I2S you also don’t need the optional board.
For the Amenero USB I found the set-up easy as I have JRiver. With the help of the email factory support all I had to do was download the Amanero driver, from Amanero or from the support page, and set JRiver as follows:
Audio Device is set at "Combo384 ASIO 1.03 (ASIO)",
DSP & Output Format should be left at "None".
Bitstreaming should be set to "Yes (DSD)".
The factory suggests that DPLL should be set at BW08 or above. I set it a bit lower. It works perfectly playing any kind of file from my computer. I’ve used my Oppo to rip DSD files off all of my SACDs and they have never sounded so good.
Instructions that I would not be able to follow are given for Foobar. Other users have done it successfully and would be glad to help, I’m sure. Or perhaps the factory by email.
If you are expecting the level of support given by Oppo, it’s not likely to be there. You will likely have to do some learning, and correspondence with other owners.
A list of DACs that someone on some forum have so far said is out played by the LKS 004:
GUSTARD DAC-X20 Pro Super Ultimate
modified Schiit Yggdrasil
modified LKS 003
EE MiniMAX Plus
holo spring level three
oppo sonica dac
T+A DAC8 DSD
Some are more, some are less expensive.
That being said, though the DAC is continuing to perform extremely well IMO, it has a known overheating problem. That is being addressed in a few ways, the easiest of which is simply to have a very cheap whisper fan on top of the grill opening.
Melm, Thanks for your input. For now, I think it will be used as a DAC connecting my Onkyo C7030 CD player as a transport into it, then into my pre-amp. Later on I plan on getting more sophisticated with streaming music. I really am a novice on this digital music stuff, the learning curve is going to be really high for me! This is my concern about the LKS. The Oppo Sonica may be a more user friendly unit, but not as good sound quality as the LKS MH-DA004. If anyone has more input I would appreciate it!!
I have been looking into this LKS some more, and have some questions if someon could help me out. This is what I would like to do with an DAC, can the LKS MH-DA004 do this?
1) Use CD player, Onkyo C7030 as a transport only device and connect it to a DAC
2) Stream Spotify or Tidal
4) Connect Iphone to play music bluetooth or wifi
Sorry if this sounds like I dont know what I'm doing, but like I stated before I am all new to this stuff.
Iv ordered an 004, and coming from a chord Dave I'm very excited, other Dave v 004 posts have said very close, with the win for the Dave, just, (so it should)
but of course this new chi-fi improvement will never catch on with the brand name purists,
I'm glad I sold my Dave at a good price. these Chinese dacs are a no brainer , especially the Denafrips terminator, which is my next order to a/b test.
My friend owns a msb select with a 33clock and dual power supply, so will be doing some serious testing in the coming future 😀
How did your LKS MH-DA 004 DAC modification turn out?"
Funny, but I think we’ll never know. This question has been asked since this old thread began. Something seems to have happened to Jib222’s DAC at, or on its way to or from Ric. The last news is that it had to be returned to the factory. Strange because, though I’ve read virtually everything that’s been written about this DAC on the ’net (and in several languages), I have never read about a unit that came from the factory that hasn’t work perfectly. Quality control seems to be exemplary. (There was one case where the optional Amanero board was replaced immediately upon a complaint.)
Also, as for how the modification might turn out, the only two persons who have written about having their unit modified by Ric each have had their DAC directly shipped to him. So a before and after "How did it turn out?" may never be written. Ric’s modifications to this DAC seem to be less extensive than those he does on the Oppo. On the Oppos he replaces the entire analog output section with a new discrete one. Not necessary on the LKS that features 8 JFETs and associated components.
Hi audiophile friends.
I came across this threat and i know it is a bit old. But thought I'd respond in case anyone is looking for a new DAC. I bought sight unseen after discussing the feedback with a few others. My current system is highly resolving after years of cobbling together what I consider a reference system now:
Rega Planar 5 w Crown Jewel mc cartridge
Laptop feeding via USB mostly lossless FLAC and SACD iso and DSD files (I have over 3 TB of data in a mirrored array - please do this, I lost my entire collection at one time as I procrastinated to get a backup drive)
Jriver music server (works the best at serving up DSD and SACD iso files) feeding
Convergent Audio SL1 Legend black path edition preamp
Classe Omega Mono amps (the last of the production specs)
YG Anat upgraded to Sonja 1.3 status
cables are non descript
I was using a variety of DACS over the years and had settled on a MF 1A DAC tried both USB and using a Gustard U20 reclocker.
I thought my system sounded just great, until I just got my LKS 004 w upgraded Amanero USB input.
It would be hard to go into too many details, but I am certain the system has been brought to a level of resolution and clarity I did not think was possible. I've listened to the "best" DACs on the market at many audio shows in the past several years and it would be hard to find fault with this unit just out of the box. I'm still running it in but after about 5 days, I think I can confidently say that I no longer have a desire to pull vinyl off the shelf. Even PCM files via flac sound beyond what vinyl can reproduce.
The dynamic range is on par w records sans the clicks and pops.
The level of transparency allows for resolution and space to be determined in live recordings so that individual voices and instruments can be localized in both depth and height. What I was hearing as occasional glare and sibilance - especially w female voice and horns - has disappeared - I was blaming this on the speakers having been at a loss of what was causing this.
The phase information on the recordings is clearly being transmitted and this can be determined in the system's ability to convey sense of recorded space and time delays from room reflections on the recording and in a great sense of depth and overtones/harmonics after notes are struck especially percussive instruments like piano and drums.
I had been leaning toward PS audio's perfect wave DAC as a competing option but for the price of this DAC, I can't imagine anything besting it.
There are folks like Ric Schultz doing modifications on this unit, but Jinbo at the LKS production facility has been taking suggestions over the last year from such people and adopted some of the mod suggestions into the newer production. I wouldn't mess with what is an essentially perfect machine. The production quality is not to be believed at this price. look at the forums elsewhere at pictures of the chassis and boards.
I'm not one to write reviews on things here but I felt compelled given all the banter about it back and forth. If anyone is on the fence, please keep this unit in mind when making a consideration. I bought mine directly from LKS (muaudio) and Jinbo is quick to answer emails and questions. You will save a couple of hundred buying direct from him vs his distributor and will be assured to have the latest production model.
Thank you very much for your post on this thread. I am now really leaning towards purchasing the LKS 004 Dac. I plan to make up my mind after attending Axpona in 4 weeks. I was inable to find their site on the internet. Could you direct me on how to contact muaudio and Jinbo in order to purchase an 004?
Thank you. Please try the Total Contact Enhancer as it will elevate the sound quality of your system markedly. Easy to apply and well worth the 300 dollar investment. I have had in my system for not even 2 weeks and it is as if I changed out run of the mill cabling for pretty nice cabling throughout my whole system. My system was already pretty good with nice cabling.
I doubt you'd be disappointed. For the money, I can't imagine finding better and honestly, i'm not sure for 10x the price you would have a "better" DAC. They have really put these DAC chips to good use in this uint. The quality of the build is over the top given the price point. Sonically, it is detailed and incredibly transparent and coherent. I hesitated for sure. I went directly to MU Sound to get mine. I bypassed the middle man and saved a couple hundred. They respond quickly to emails if you have questions or concerns. I'm not one to sell anyone on anything, and I'd prefer to buy USA products, but do your research and talk to others first and make your decision after due diligence.