Musetec (LKS) MH-DA005 DAC


Some history: I was the OP on a four year old thread about the Chinese LKS MH-DA004 DAC. It achieved an underground buzz. The open architecture of its predecessor MH-DA003 made it the object of a lot of user mods, usually to its analog section, rolling op amps or replacing with discrete. The MH-DA004 with its new ESS chips and JFET analog section was called better then the modified older units. It has two ES9038pro DAC chips deliberately run warm, massive power supply, powered Amanero USB board, JFET section, 3 Crystek femtosecond clocks, Mundorf caps, Cardas connectors, etc., for about $1500. For this vinyl guy any reservation about ESS chips was resolved by the LKS implimentaion, but their revelation of detail was preserved, something that a listener to classic music especially appreciated. I made a list of DACs (many far more expensive) it was compared favorably to in forums. Modifications continued, now to clocks and caps. Components built to a price can be improved by costlier parts and the modifiers wrote glowingly of the SQ they achieved.

Meanwhile, during the 4 years after release of the MH-DA004, LKS (now Musetec) worked on the new MH-DA005 design, also with a pair of ES9038pro chips. This time he used more of the best components available. One torroidal transformer has silver plated copper. Also banks of super capacitors that act like batteries, solid silver hookup wire, 4 femtoclocks each costing multiples of the Crysteks, a revised Amanero board, more of the best European caps and a new partitioned case. I can't say cost NO object, but costs well beyond. A higher price, of course. Details at http://www.mu-sound.com/DA005-detail.html

The question, surely, is: How does it sound? I'm only going to answer indirectly for the moment. I thought that the MH-DA004 was to be my last DAC, or at least for a very long time. I was persuaded to part with my $$ by research, and by satisfaction with the MH-DA004. Frankly, I have been overwhelmed by the improvement; just didn't think it was possible. Fluidity, clarity, bass extension. A post to another board summed it up better than I can after listening to piano trios: "I have probably attended hundreds of classical concerts (both orchestral and chamber) in my life. I know what live sounds like in a good and bad seat and in a good and mediocre hall. All I can say is HOLY CRAP, this sounds like the real thing from a good seat in a good hall. Not an approximation of reality, but reality."

melm

@wharfy

Glad to see that you received the Musetec quickly and that you like it.

But "brittle"?😕

As for the filter, most of us use Slow-L, I think. I do think you have to pick one or the other. The Singxer SU1 converts USB to I2S (or even spdif). The Amanero board inside the Musetec converts USB to I2S, so the Singxer is redundant. I recall similar discussion re: the LKS 004 and the Singxer. The consensus, IIRC, was that the Singxer and the Amanero board in the LKS were about the same in performance. I have to believe that the Amanero Board now containing the new upgraded crystal clocks do an even better job. Of course, there is no harm in trying, but that would involve an additional (really, unnecessary) cable. Not sure I see the point. If it were me I would just sell the Singxer.

Remember that break-in may not be in a straight line. Congratulations and enjoy the DAC.

@yyzsantabarbara

Now that the dog is under control, any further impressions?

@wharfy I prefer slow L, I for one would be interested in your impressions of Singxer and I2S into 005. I have Singxer SU-6, haven't tried yet since usb sound quality has been so enjoyable. If you reported positive results I'd be motivated to try SU-6.

@melm ​​​​@sns -This morning's sound update-The sound is improving. It is more organic.

Played with the DAC this morning. The Singxer SU-1 is redundant. I am happy I have simplified cabling. When I sell the Spring 1 KTE I will include it as part of the sale. 

I am reading the manual and if I understand correctly TOSLINK and coax are not converted to I2S. Yes?

 

All inputs on all dacs converted to I2S, I2S protocol is inherent to all dacs. The supposed advantage of I2S conversion prior to dac is to bypass this conversion process within dac, some claim bypassing that conversion within lends itself to sound quality improvements.

 

While that may be true, external I2S converters may have their own issues, you're adding a fair amount of complexity with external conversion. Also, in case of 005, usb has top notch optimization. The only thing I'm not quite sure of, is there variable quality of I2S inputs on dacs? Being a native protocol within dacs, I'm not sure there can be any quality variability with I2S inputs.

@melm I switched from my CODA 07x preamp (easy for the dog to hit volume) to the Benchmark LA4 preamp. Both sit side-by-side and share XLR and RCA inputs between the Musetec 005 and Benchmark DAC3B outputs. I have also matched the gain on the CODA 07x preamp between the 2 DACs (not LA4 gain). The Musetec is connected to the LA4 by RCA. I have almost identical Sonore OpticalRendu’s going into the USB of each DAC. The only difference between the 2 streamers is the LPS and USB cable, both of which are not noticeable to me.

The 005 now must have more than 30 hours. I have been playing it into my RAAL speaker interface box when I am not around. So, the unit has been getting nice and warm each day.

I did do some comparisons between the DAC3B and 005 using the CODA 07x preamp and my RAAL SR1a headphones. The CODA 07x preamp was gain matched as mentioned above. Now I expected to hear differences with the SR1a since it is incredibly revealing. However, at this point in time I could not tell a single difference between the 2 DACs on the RAAL. I was shocked at this. I used ROON GROUPED streaming to both DACs.

On my Thiel CS3.7 speakers I did notice a difference between the 2 DACs on both preamps. First of all, I am still getting a bit of fatigue from the 005. However, this fatigue is going down to almost negligible levels. I think this is because the 005 may have more bass energy and also the unit is breaking it. The sound also seems to be denser on my Thiels, the soundstage more filled in, which is great. It could be the bass?

I also notice the tone on the 005 is really gorgeous. The whole range of sound is so coherent, with nothing seemingly out of place. The DAC3B has a more noticeable top end, which a friend of mine attributes to a bit less bass (he also owns the DAC3B). I like the DAC3B for certain music like hard rock, to get the juices flowing. The 005 seems to sound like what I was going after. Something a little less ’hot’ than the DAC3B, more like my departed Gustard X26 Pro, but with greater sharpness and detail without the top end sounding ’hot’.

I need to give the 005 more hours because I can hear the changes in sound and my fatigue going away.

My prior DACs were the following:

- Benchmark DAC3B (and others)

- Topping DAC90SE

- KRELL K300i (internal DAC in integrated amp)

- Matrix Audio Mini I-3 (sold)

- Gustard X26 Pro (sold)

- AudioMirror Tubadour III SE (sold)

The 005 is already the best (for me) of the bunch. I will post updated photos later tonight because my office system is DONE. No more purchases for this system.