Whatever blows your balloon.
Nothing wrong with happiness.
@fuzztone - dude relax on the arrogance. Melm has been an excellent resource and engineer.
@melm - your descriptions started getting me somewhat excited until you got to the silver-plated windings and solid-silver hookup wire, lol. I'm sure this sounds great in a lot of systems, but I actually avoid silver content nowadays.
Thanks for the kind words. I'm not an engineer though I wired up a number of units long ago and used to do mods before the industry went to surfaced mounts. Screwed up a few and quit.
As for the Musetec, FWIW as far as I can tell the silver components have only to to with the power supply. The analog signal path is by traces on a six layer board. It is refreshing to me to see a maker tell you exactly what he has put inside. Most descriptions provided by DAC makers are just promotional gibberish.
I'm not trying to sell anything here, just to provide this DAC with some exposure. Since there has never been any promotion of these products, my surmise has always been that the the company is tiny and sells all it can make
I also have the 005, extremely highly resolving dac capable of sounding wonderfully natural in sympathetic setup. I've also experienced less than stellar results with various silver components and cabling. In this case I hear no deleterious effects, ps is part of this dac's magic, extremely low noise, vanishing black background here.
I suspect price and origin of manufacture will bug some, too low priced to be competitive and product of perceived enemy. Naysayers should be ignored, valid comments from actual users and those interested welcomed.
Melm is an experienced audiophile, has valid and real world experience in audio. We've had difference of opinion on 004, totally agree on 005.
I too have purchased the 005 and have been delighted. As I said on another forum: For the record I wanted to share my conclusions about the 005 after around 400 hours of break in. I am pretty much in agreement with what others have said. With a good recording and room lights turned low so you can listen without distraction this dac will re-create the reality of a live performance as experienced from a good seat in a good concert hall. A Steinway, with rich resonant bass, will sound like a Steinway, not just a piano. That kind of accuracy is, to me, amazing. I have never heard better. On the other hand, I have never had a more expensive dac in my system. I have heard more expensive dacs in an audio showroom in more expensive systems. They were not close to what I hear now from the 005 in casting a spell of reality.
I would love to read a review of this dac compared to other aclaimed and pricier dacs like the Holo May or Chord Dave.
On presumption of bias by some toward Sabre chip dacs; I can understand that bias as I've heard what some characterize as digititus in particular Sabre dac setups. On the other hand, I've heard very nice presentations of previous Sabre chip dacs in sympathetic systems.
I can only say this particular dac is capable of very natural presentation. First off, the sheer resolving power allows for extremely dimensional imaging and precise and properly proportioned soundstaging, giving illusion of live performers in room. Another standout aspect of this dac is really special micro and macro dynamic presentation. Macro presentation, just as with soundstage, is properly proportioned, the real magic is in micro presentation. Amazing ability to expose the smallest gradations of dynamic performance, singers and wind instrument breathe, different fingering techniques of non-wind instruments greatly exposed such that sense of live performers in room heightened. I presume excellent power supply responsible for this performance.
And now for the assumed bugaboo of Sabre chip dacs, namely timbre, and perhaps timing. I can only say in sympathetic setup 005 is capable of natural timbre. I grew up on analog, have been to tons of live performance, including non amplified, and I do have pretty nice analog setup. I can only say I don't feel deprived on this score with the 005. Add to this a neutral tonal balance in my system with choice of three amps and four preamps setups. If timing is perceived as function of dynamics than micro dynamic excellence solves that issue. I've yet to experience that feeling of irritation that long digital listening sessions can bring about, says good things about lack of digititus to my way of thinking.
Now, I'm not here to anoint 005 as a dac for all seasons. It is capable of sounding analytical in certain choices of setups available to me. I can't fathom anyone evaluating it as a warm or romantic device, I'd describe 005 as broadly neutral. By the same token, I'd find it difficult to believe one would evaluate it as ruthlessly revealing, I've found very few recordings sound worse than with previous less revealing dacs in my system.
Now, I'd really like to hear this dac comparatively reviewed against some of the higher price spread such as Holo May, Mola Mola, Briscati, Totaldac, etc. Devoid of such a review we are only left to speculate as to it's place in dac hierarchy.
Since sns has written about the ESS Sabre DAC chip, and because Sabre chips were trashed by someone in the MH-DA004 thread as others have in other places, I'd like to share my reasons for going this route. The main reason for the trash talk, I think, is that these chips are used in a great many inexpensive and otherwise not very good performing DACs that can then advertise the same chip as in the expensive DACs.
But the ES9038PRO is probably the result of more R & D over multiple generations and three decades than any digital to analog sound circuit on the planet. Implemented well they are used in some of the best DACs available. For example, the Ayre QX-5 Twenty ($9000), the Mytek Manhattan ($6000) and the Weiss DAC502 ($10,000). Apparently the Meridian Ultra DAC ($23,000) also uses a pair of off-the-shelf chips, but their identity is unrevealed. Could they be Sabres? Like Meridian, by the way, many DAC manufacturers try very hard to hide what's inside. Too many have not heard chips implemented this well and yet have formed general opinions about them anyway.
Call me technologically limited, but I have never understood the interest by companies in developing alternate digital to analog circuits on an FPGA chip, except as a marketing scheme. Nor have I understood the willingness of the audio public to pay a premium for it. At the end, you still have a chip, and to build a great DAC you still have to surround it with great components--power supply, clocks, USB to I2S converter, analog stage, etc. Designers can use a chip like a Sabre, and they don't have to use the full range of offerings of this chip if they don't wish to. They can bypass functions and implement their own, like filters, for example. Designers have done just that. But they don't have to reinvent the basic digital to analog conversion and charge their customers extra for doing it. It takes a lot of resources, pushes the DAC price up and probably takes its toll from other parts of the circuit.
Any talk of FPGA must consider the Chord DAVE ($12,500). I mention the DAVE especially because some audiophiles who have listened to it and the LKS MH-DA004 ($1500) have characterized them as being in about the same audio ballpark. One can believe or disbelieve as you wish. The MH-DA004 has the advantage of a large linear power supply while the DAVE has a switching power supply normally costing far less to make. Beyond that, and that it has an FPGA, I know nothing about what's inside the DAVE though I have read all I can about it.
Just to complete the circle I also considered an R2R Ladder DAC, seemingly the current favorite. R2R DACs of comparable quality, though also from China, cost about twice as much as the Musetec, for a quality R2R has a lot of very high precision parts. I did much reading/research on R2Rs. I found comments from satisfied users around the Web, much like some in a thread here comparing DAC technologies. There were expressions like "a relaxed presentation," "allows body relaxation," the sound was "further back in the hall," it "allows my body to relax" and even that it gives "the ability to go into a kind of meditative state." My own preference is very different. For me listening to audio is a substitute for going to a concert. When I do that, I expect my pulse to be greater at the end than when I walked in. Otherwise, what's the point? Same with audio. A Beethoven symphony is not a lullaby. And do I want a middle of the hall perspective when that's not where the main mikes were? Not me. These typical R2R reactions are not what I am personally looking for.
Totally agree on sound quality preference I'm looking for in dac. If I need more romance/warmth I can build that in elsewhere in system.
Dac topologies aren't my primary concern in dac purchase, whatever the topology I like to see a mature implementation of that topology. 005 has certainly implemented excellent engineering elsewhere in unit with this highest performing Sabre chip.
Thanks for sharing.
At the price point of 3k I wonder how this would compare and contrast to the Holo Spring DAC (also 3k), but R2R.
I would love to see more reviews of the MH-DA005 though.
Currently I have the Gustard X26 Pro (Dual 9038 sabre chipset), and am loving it.
The 3k price range would probably be my next step up in the DAC department.
Thanks for your post.
Those of us who have and enjoy this Musetec DAC would love to see a professional review of it, but, unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen. There are just too few units out there, and though there’s a distributer in Europe, there’s none in the US..
The best I can offer is to let you know that there’s an active thread over at head-fi with several owners of this DAC participating. https://www.head-fi.org/threads/four-years-after-the-l-k-s-da004-the-musetec-da005-dac.953177/ Any one of them, I’m certain, would be glad to offer comments and answer any question you might have. I think most of us originally owned the LKS MH-DA004. There were many more of these units out there (at $1500 price point) and I used to have a long list of favorable comparisons to other DACs at that price or more.. Confidence in the designer and the very detailed description of the deluxe parts he put into the Musetec, along with comments by early users did persuade us. I think we were very happy with the LKS’s performance with the dual 9038 sabre chipset. The Musetec seems to take those dual chips perhaps about as far as they can go, and most of us think that's pretty far.
And by the way I made a mistake in my original post. The transformer powering the analog section is not a torroidal. It is an O-Ring transformer that can cost 8 to 10 times the cost of a torroid. That’s but one example of the parts quality in this unit.
I didn't know very much about the Giscard, but it looks like a fine unit and a good value. After reading a bit about it, I think a closer comparison would be to the LKS MH-DA004 which I had and liked very much. In fact I started a thread about it here about 4 years ago where I describe its components and sound impressions in detail.
The Musetec MH-DA005 though is in another league entirely with component parts costing multiples of what's inside those DACs. As for comparisons, one of the posters to the Musetec thread over at Head-Fi has said he will soon be comparing the Musetec ($3000) to a Holo Audio May Level 2. ($4800). I look forward to reading that one..
That would be good. We really need comparative reviews of 005 against Holo May and dacs above Holo price point. I previously owned Okto Dac8 stereo which was comparatively reviewed against Weiss in Stereophile and did relatively well considering the price differential. Okto dac can't even keep up with orders, last I heard no longer taking orders. Well, the 005 is quite a bit better than Okto IME. So, where does that take 005?
R2R dacs all the rage these days, delta sigma old news. Then Musetec does no marketing, no wonder relatively unknown. My take on this dac having now owned over a period of time and exposed to further upgrades to my streaming solution is it is extremely revealing and transparent, fully capable of exposing the most extremely low level information contained in recordings. It can be ruthlessly revealing, yet also capable of presenting real live beings performing music into your room. Very fine line between the two. I've now experienced the ruthlessly revealing and had to bring my system back a notch on the revealing aspect. I'm going to assume only the top tier dacs can deliver this kind of resolution, transparency without going into ruthlessly revealing mode. Never know for sure until we have some comparative reviews.
My Gustard X26 Pro also seems to be built with some similar characteristics as the 005. I am not an engineer so I am going by the descriptions. The Gustard is not as revealing as my Benchmark DAC3B (close) but it is warmer. The 005 sounds a bit like an mix of my 2 DACs.
I wish I could find a DAC like the 005 with built-in fibre optical streaming like the $12K Lumin X1 or the $40K Linn DAC. I use fibre optical in my DAC3B and Gustard but with a Sonore OpticalRendu. The next step would be to ditch the OpticalRendu and go directly into the fibre input of the DAC.
The way you describe the 005 sounds similar to how I have heard Mola Mola Tambaqui owners describe their DAC.
First, I don’t know what you mean by the 007. If you mean the Musetec 005 we would all be happy to see a review. However, a comparative review with the Gustard X26 Pro would probably not be a fair comparison.
The direct import Chinese DACs generally have pricing that is a fair reflection of the quality of the materials within. This is because other costs like labor and marketing are usually very low, and the competition very high. In the case of the Musetec, it uses an o-ring silver plated transformer for the analog circuit that can cost upwards of 20X the cost of the transformers in the Gustard. It uses custom clocks costing multiples of the off-the-shelf clocks in most (even more expensive) DACs. It uses very high quality European capacitors, some costing $95 each. It uses a bank of super-capacitors and a special circuit generating battery-like DC for its digital circuits. And a whole lot more. For further details, if you are interested, you can see the full description at http://www.mu-sound.com/DA005-detail.html It has always been my experience that long-time enjoyment of an audio component is enhanced by the quality of its internal parts.
As I wrote earlier, everything about the description of the Gustard seems close to that of the LKS 004, a DAC whose insides I know very well, and which I would easily prefer over the Gustard for several reasons, some described in detail in my OP and follow-up at the LKS 004 thread here. I don’t mean to diminish the Gustard in any way. It’s just that I made a careful choice when I purchased the LKS and enjoyed it very much for several years.
As for built-in optical streaming, or built-in anything else, it has always been my preference to have separates. That way when you want to upgrade (and that can happen a lot in digital), you don’t have to get rid of your whole system.
I realized I said 007 when I meant 005, but it was too late to change.
I would love to have Sandu (one of the best reviewers) do a comparison of the Gustard and 005 given his comments on the Gustard.
The One to Beat: Gustard X26 PRO DAC Review (soundnews.net)
Built-in optical is like built-in RJ45 or even USB. It will be the next wave of streaming inputs as can be seen by the very expensive Lumin X1 and new Linn DAC. I doubt it is that expensive to implement. Most people do not know how to use it.
I really doubt Gustard plays in same league as 005, likely more in Okto dac8 range. Still, any comparative reviews would be good to help ascertain 005 place in hierarchy of dacs.
Bypassing usb could be good thing if theoretical advantages of alternative inputs were actually implemented, not always the case.
@sns Well you're 100% correct. Just got the DA005 and it blew me away right out of the box. Did a 5 song listen on the Gustard and as soon as the DA005 got it's turn my jaw dropped!
The sound field is excepllent and it brings out clarity like I've never heard before. Vocals clear and forward, and in no way artificial. Details and seperation spot on, and cymbal crash and decay have never sounded better.
Bass!... Wow, not just depth, but how smooth and well preserved the DA005 makes the bass. There were moments where on the Gustard I would feel the bass was kind of harsh especially with bass heavy parts of music, but the DA005 just took everything and made it sound dynamic all the while controlled and contoured.
The music just comes to a whole new level with the DA005 from the X26 Pro.
Super happy with it all.
Good for you, your result is what I'd expect. 005 stands on its own as a high resolution piece capable of presenting performers in room sensation with natural timbre and balanced tonality. At least one comparison review found it at least on par with Holo May L2, I found it substantially better than Okto Dac8 stereo, which has been favorably reviewed in comparison to Weiss dac, and is currently not even available due to excessive demand. Only more widely distributed comparison reviews against better competition will gain this dac the recognition it deserves.
Welcome to the club. Glad that you’re enjoying the DAC. Your initial response was similar to my own. I hesitated to say exactly why I liked my new DAC. It was just . . . everything! A very similar dropping jaw. Found it hard to believe that the same DAC chips and a similar design could be made to sound so much better. It’s all in the implementation. We keep reading that’s true, but here it is.
@dbb Funny you mentioned Goldensound, because as soon as I watched the Gustard X26 review I asked on Youtube to review the 005.
But yeah, I boxed up my X26 after the third song while listening and am never lookong back.
Very excited to have this DAC and happy to finally working towards "long term" system.
@dbb @ja_kub_sz I enjoy Goldensound's videos. Don't always agree with him but they're well-done and watchable. He's previously reviewed DACs that his viewers loaned to him -- that's how he got to review the Rockna I believe. Maybe someone here could send him a Musetec for review. The downside is, he might love it and indirectly drive up the price for the rest of us :)
Actually his latest review, of a Gustard, was done thanks to a loan from a Chinese retailer. For a Musetec, perhaps he can contact Musetec's European distributer in Cologne. Though with his viewership and subscriber numbers he may be making enough from his videos to purchase a unit and sell it later.
I sold my Gustard X26 Pro and got the 005 just now ($2969 today). Just for curisoity sake. I liked the Gustard a lot. It lacked a bit of detail that my Topping D90SE and Benchmark DAC3B have but it had a lot of other things going for it. I will be streaming from Sonore OpticalRendu wirh the 005 as I do with the Topping.
BTW- I really like the $900 Topping D90SE. It sounds great with my slightly warm CODA amp.
Can anyone weigh about the presence or absence of higher frequency digital glare from the 005, in a tube-based system?
I am following this thread, and others about this DAC. I’m considering an upgrade from a Holo Spring 1 KTE Dac. It’s paired with Audio Research Ref75 amp and an LS 28 pre; feeding ProAc 30 DR speakers. I like the combo a lot because of its black background, sound stage and holographic quality. Nonetheless, I am considering upgrading.
I’ve owned Delta-Sigma and ES chipset DACs and while I liked the higher resolution, the digital glare killed my ears because I’ve developed sensitivities to higher frequencies as I have aged.
Thoughts? It will be much appreciated.
I use 005 with Coincident 845 SET, custom built 300B monoblocks and modded Prima Luna Dialogue Four, used with SED EL34, Coincident Statement preamp, which uses 101D direct heated tube, greatly modded Klipschorns.
I've not heard any semblance of glare, but particular sound qualities can vary depending on which amp and particular tubes I'm using in both amp and pre. I've taken great pains to have both highly resolving system while maintaining natural timbre, really fanatical in regard to timbre. I've also been fanatical about clean AC and proper ground system, room treatments.
I only mention above as to attention to details required to get best out of this dac. While I've not experienced glare or other bothersome sound qualities, I wouldn't characterized this dac as forgiving, but neither is it analytical, how about neutral in regard to overall gestalt. In my system, 005 is both highly resolving and natural, even analog like with well recorded streams or cd rips. It will reflect recording quality in deserved manner, having said that, I have no problems with vast majority of recordings.
005 will be higher resolving than present Spring, you'll hear the poorer qualities of some recordings, price you'll always pay with higher resolving pieces. On the positive side, best qualities of middling recordings alway outshine the poorer qualities, makes them very involving. This dac will never sound boring, always demands my attention, even at lower volumes. Best thing I can say about it, brings live performers into my room with every listening session. This has a lot to do with it's microdynamic capabilities, this dac breathes, I suspect supercapacitors in power supply have a lot to do with this.
I'd like to think this would synergize well with your system, although I can't know your sensitivity to higher freq's. Some claim Klipsch bright, perhaps 005 would be bothersome with my Klipschorns if stock. No doubt your AR and Proac is high resolving, 005 will absolutely increase all your setup's good aspects. However, if you hearing any defects, 005 will also increase those as well.
Which Sabre chip dacs have you heard or owned in past?
@yyzsantabarbara Good for you! Keep us informed with listening impressions.
@sns -Thanks for the overview response. Very detailed, giving me a lot to consider. I've rotated Mytek 192, Ayre and Wyred 4 Sound through my system, and think you hit the nail on the head about the revealing nature with regard to poorer recordings. That's when and where the glare would be most prominent.
I read your posts with interest. I use all tubes (Rogue) but for the Musetec DAC. I am surprised by your comment that age brings about sensitivity to higher frequencies, as I’ve always thought the opposite. In any event, some tube rolling can tone things down. Like dbb, my interest is in classical music, IMO the most difficult to reproduce. And, as in analog, detail matters.
I continue to compare digital to my analog (still all tubes) and I find it comparable. Sometimes, but not always, the same recordings sound eerily near each other, but for the usual analog sounds.
I find the Musetec to be a truth machine and to be extremely responsive to what comes before it in the digital chain. I use an SOtM unit as a DLNA device with a very simple laptop running JRiver. As I wrote in another place, even adding an $18 ethernet switch and having my hard disk server bypass the router yielded a surprising SQ benefit. Is an audiophile switch in my future? I don’t know.
I have also found it quite responsive to the USB cable, and I do recommend that the Musetec is optimized for USB. But it needn’t be an expensive cable. The DAC seems so cleanly extended at the frequency extremes that a simple solid core copper is doing better for me than expensive silver wires.
That being said, as a truth machine it will reveal the truth of your software, sometimes as gloriously recorded; sometimes not so much. Did we not go through exactly the same thing in analog?
it seems that you have a great deal of experience with a variety of DACs and have not yet settled on a Sigma-Delta v. R2R. I don’t yet know whether you are sufficiently convinced about the Musetec, but the current sale price at Shenzhen is attractive and they offer a 30 day No Reason Return. While you would probably have to cover return shipping, that is likely to be less, for example, than the 5% restocking fee plus 2 way postage for a return of a Schiit Yggdrasil to California. Perhaps that adds some perspective.
Good luck to you whichever direction you go.
@melm -Thanks for your comments and insight. I agree not everyone develops sensitivities to higher frequencies as they age. In my case, I have. Too many years of screaming kids in school environments with terrible acoustics.
With that said, I put in my order for the 005. It's a no-brainer, frankly. The price and return policy convinced me it's worth auditioning and hopefully keeping.
I am excited!
As dbb wrote we are especially eager to have your evaluation. While I think you will hear something very special within the first day or two, be sure to run it hard for the 30 days. It can use a lot of break-in, and the break-in is not linear; give it the full time.
@melm - Thanks! It’s always exciting trying something new in my system. As you noted, I go back and forth between the positive attributes of Delta Sigma and R2R DACS. This will be fun. One question-You wrote, "...be sure to run it hard for the 30 days." When I’m not home I’m under the impression I should play a CD on repeat without powering up my pre-amp. Correct?
@dbb -I’ll be happy to share. I feel like I’m going beyond my comfort zone, and looking forward hearing what’s outside of it. I’ve been listening to music most of my life, starting with my parents console and then purchasing Lafayette Audio equipment waaaay back in 1970 with money earned on a newspaper route and yardwork. I definitely have enjoyed the ride, so to speak.
@dbb -Thanks for the advice. My Cambridge transport has either coax or optical. Which one is better for the 005? And my Aurender music server has USB. I'm using an Audio Quest USB. Curious which USB audio cable you are using?
I had been using a solid silver cable with the LKS 004. As opposed to other cables it gave it some extra body and high frequency extension. For the Musetec I found it was unnecessary, and am now using Audioqest Pearl which is simply a solid copper cable. But that is something I will experiment with. As I said earlier, the Musetec is very responsive to what comes before it in the digital chain.
When I broke in my DACs I simply put a flash drive in my old Oppo 105 and let it run some files as a loop, not excercising any mechanical device. One week of 24/7 should be enough at least for a good evaluation. It is many years since I played a CD. I proved to myself a while back that rips had clearly better SQ even with a simple set-up, though I appreciate that you have a fine disk player Also, as I wrote earlier, the Musetec is really optimized for USB. Anyway, someone who remembers Lafayette Radio probably has the time to rip his CD collection--as I did. 😀
@melm -"Anyway, someone who remembers Lafayette Radio probably has the time to rip his CD collection--as I did. 😀"
I have an Aurender server with days worth of music on it. Think that will do it. Thanks again!
@yyzsantabarbara and @wharfy , congratulations! Hoping to her your impression about this DAC. On the other post on this DAC the OP mentions that he prefers this DAC over the Holo May....which is a big deal comparing the price difference and the fact that the Holo has bested many other well know DACs. I have never heard a R-2-R DAC. So don't know what that means against a chip-based DAC. I generally upsample everything to DSD, except Tidal and Spotify.
Regarding your comment about I2S: When I first got the LKS 004, which also had 2 I2S sockets (so enticing!), I also thought of finding an ethernet to I2S device to bypass the USB entirely. While this appeared to have a theoretical advantage, I found that such devices out there were few and kind of expensive. After all, there weren’t many DACs that accepted I2S and there still isn’t an I2S standard. There was one at a not too unreasonable cost that was tested by Hans Beekhuyzen. His finding was that it did not improve SQ on his Brooklyn Bridge beyond what was accomplished with USB and the lowest cost SOtM device..
In fact, as I wrote elsewhere the Musetec is optimized for USB with its conversion from USB to I2S enhanced beyond what was done on the LKS. Theoretically you might find something that will outperform it, but I looked extensively and I couldn’t.
In any event I’m especially eager to hear of your response to the Musetec. Let us all know.