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

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."


Err my last post which contained an expletive was deleted by the moderator, the main point of that post was to support @toddk31 and his return of his 005 on principal based on the fact he purchased it partly?/mainly? because of the Jinbo’s published measurements, which ASR’s measurements have revealed to be "optimistic". IMHO Jinbo must have known his measurements were "optimistic" given the quality of his DACS and his recent correspondence with @melm - no? Jinbo and his distributor have so far responded properly and that is to their credit, but now the cat is out of the bag it should be clear to them that it is in their interest to supply more realistic/accurate/reproducible measurements on the Musetec website and marketing materials moving forward - or "fix" the problem WITHOUT ruining the 005’s secret sauce. As for my own 005 versus the D90SE that the ASR crowd adore, my listening tests so far have me feeling it is indeed difficult to hear a qualitative difference between them via 2 channel listening. Headphones are next. But it is still early days. Btw @yyzsantabarbara which D90SE PCM/DSD filters do you like the most?

@kairosman I don't know why you would want to support the ASR shill. As others have mentioned he sold his Holo Spring (which had a good rating on ASR) presumably because he didn't like it, again presumably he preferred the 004 which he owned.

Now if you like something and would like to upgrade to the new model and there have been zero negative reports about the new model, then it would be logical to just buy it and enjoy it, yes?

Either on his initive or that of his master he drop ships it directly to ASR. He informed us that Musetec and Mid West Audio knew exactly what he was doing and were fine with this. Niether have commented so far.

Well he's been following this thread and must be well aware that the 005 takes 6-8 weeks to fully burn in, maybe a little more. Well that's not good enough for the shill he wants to send a cold one, which he does.

So regarding the test they are SINAD tests and better than commenting myself I refer you to Goldensound's video on testing which you can easily find on YouTube.

Secondly we have the "dreaded hump" well this is a peculiarity of all ESS chips, which to all intents and purposes cannot be heard. Now don't you logically think that one of the largest chip makers in the World don't know about this issue, and if there was a real problem they'd fix it, yes? Even Weiss use the same chips among other Hi-End brands.

Now what the shill says here and at ASR are juxtaposed. Over there he's a big hero and getting plenty of slaps on the back. Now if this was a scientific experiment he'd also send in his 004 for testing and send the 005 to Goldensound or actually listen to it himself, but it's not about logic or truth is it?

Finally @kairosman  and I don't mean to insult you here but if you can't tell the difference between the 005 and the D90SE then to be brutally honest this hobby is not for you. We are all good at somethings and not so good at others so sell the 005 and keep the D90SE and move over to ASR, because they can't or don't listen to differences either. You'll also save an absolute fortune on cables. Otherwise you'll end up like me currently auditioning a $3k USB cable.

@kairosman Unfortunately I have had too many DACs go through my home in the last 2 years to remember the details of the D90SE filters. I know I tried them all but do not recall which on I settled on. I do remember thinking that I should try a filter that was not too 'hot' on top when I was listening with the RAAL SR1a headphones. As I mentioned previously the D90SE was not great with those headphones because I had a bit of fatigue..




@lordmelton no offense taken, you could be right, I might have old-man hearing (I am 59). The guys over on ASR certainly have suggested as much more than once. BTW the dude on here who has returned his 005 is not a hero over on ASR, all he has said there is that he was disappointed that the ASR measurements revealed Musetec's published measurements as overly optimistic. Whether Amir burned in the 005 prior to testing and whether his testing regime is fair are other matters for discussion, agreed. Just to be clear which side of the fence I am on, I am all for listening over measurements, but I am also for truth in advertising and feel like Jinbo will be doing the right thing by addressing the issue of his optimistic measurements head on... it could very well turn out that Amir's testing regime is the culprit here and NOT Jinbo's pecuniary ambitions!

| He must be well aware that the 005 takes 6-8 weeks to fully burn in, maybe more.

The major issues found with distortion and jitter in this unit will not be impacted by burn in..

| This is a peculiarity of all ESS chips, which cannot be heard

At minimum the continued presence of the hump represents inadequate engineering skills and testing equipment. Audio companies using this chip - including Weiss - have engineered it completely away.

There are SO many well-engineered DACs with vanishing levels of distortion and jitter and close to textbook linearity- you could spend a lifetime auditioning these. If you have bat ears that go beyond 20-bits of resolution, and available funds, then the May, Weiss, Mola Mola, Meitner and others await your appraisal.

There may be a small group of truly gifted designers who can build certain components largely by ear, but even they typically have years of previous experience with measurements and circuit design. In general, building by ear is NOT a good strategy for DACs.