Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ Review - An Astonishing Achievement

Overall Score 96/100
Sandu Vitalie Sources

My video review:

Designed in New York, USA and Made in Poland proudly says the founder Michal Jurewicz about their products. He founded Mytek Digital in 1992 in New York but a couple of years have passed until their first product seen the light of the day. All the assembly work was moved entirely to Poland, so all their devices are made in EU. As its name suggests Mytek Digital has strong roots in the zeroes and ones of the digital audio world and the fist DAC they released: Stereo 192 DSD DAC made big waves in Pro-Audio and audiophile community not only because it sounded excellent but because it was among the first DAC to natively decode DSD material.

Today I will write about another first-time product that Mytek released and are proud about and that is the Brooklyn DAC+ that is the first MQA certified DAC to hit the market.

Meet the family

Mytek Digital makes mostly digital audio products but offer a power amp as well. Brooklyn Family is their biggest family of products that offer a high-end streamer, a DAC and a power amp. If you want to go high in the sky: Manhattan DAC II got you covered.

Unboxing experience is really top-notch:

Double boxed? Check!

Personalized Mytek tape? Check!

Super thick card-board box? Check!

Lots of foam for extra protection? Check!

A user manual that looks more like a book than a manual? Check!

A Power cable, an USB cable and a metal remote?! Triple check!

What can I say, looks like Mytek invested some time and a bit of thinking in their packaging and unboxing experience. Everything just screams high-quality.

Design & Build Quality

To me Brooklyn DAC+ looks unique and unusual from the sea of audio components I tested of late.

That snake-skin like pattern on the front panel is very eye catching, not to mention that big sized LCD screen on the front that will show all the important information you need. I must say it is a bit smaller and lighter than I anticipated, but I’m glad it didn’t steal a lot of space on my desk.

The construction is entirely metal made; the body uses thick metal sheets + a heavy-duty aluminum plate on the front panel. The top plate and the one underneath it has a clever heat-dissipation system in the shape of a big M letter. The thick front aluminum panel is also hole-punched in the left corner with a big M letter, a color-changing LED will remind you that you are listening to a Mytek Digital device.

The moment a took a glance at the back panel is the moment my jaw hit the floor! I have nothing to say, just look at it!!! Simply said, it has more inputs and outputs than two of my DACs put together. Now, let’s check what everything does.

What is exactly the Brooklyn DAC+?

That is a very good question that will have a much longer answer.

  • First of all, it is of course a high-performance Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC for short) capable of decoding PCM material up to 32bit/384 kHz and natively DSD material up to DSD256 (quad rate DSD). It also has built-in MQA Hi-Res decoder in case you want to stream such Hi-Res content from your favorite streaming service provider.
  • It is a powerful headphone amplifier capable of outputting up to 6W of power and 500mA of current. It offers dual ¼” (6.35mm) headphone jacks and with a special adapter those dual HP outs can be converted into a single 4-pin XLR balanced headphone out for the absolute best results, will test those claims really soon.
  • It is a dedicated relay-controlled analog Preamp: need a line level input, a Phono M/M or M/C input? DAC+ got you covered.
  • It can be a powerful audio interface as if needed all digital inputs can be routed into PC via USB2, it allows connection of external digital sources such as CD players and digitizing ADCs.

Now, besides that Brooklyn DAC+ can be powered using a simple AC cable (using its own power supply) or it can be powered by an external 12V DC power-supply or battery-pack. How cool this could be? A battery powered transportable high-end DAC? Unreal!

It offers 5 digital inputs (USB, Optical, x2 coaxial and an AES), a World-clock in and out, RCA analog inputs and outputs and a balanced XLR output. That was longer than usual.

I’ll be honest with you: I never seen such a feature-packed DAC until now. If offers so many features that I feel I just scratched the surface in my one-month test period.

LCD Display and front panel features

Powering On for the first the Brooklyn DAC+ can be a bit overwhelming, there are lights everywhere, a bright LCD screen and so many buttons. But after just few minutes of play, everything was crystal clear to me. The initial LCD stage will show simple information like the bit-rate, selected input/output and the volume position (if it is not bypassed). Pushing on the volume wheel will show a much bigger picture and basically all the magic happens in this menu. Turning the wheel will show a lot of settings that can be controlled, all of those can be individually set by the four buttons. If you feel like having absolute control of the device I recommend disabling the MQA decoder so additional features will be displayed on the screen: You can set the volume in the analog or digital domain, you can bypass it, you can phase invert, you can select multiple PCM filters and few DSD filters. Every feature of your Brooklyn DAC+ can be controlled from this menu.

If you are listening to it in front of a PC or MAC, you can also install the Mytek Control Panel app where all those features can be controlled inside the app, you can even easily update its firmware from there, I already did that, all my listening sessions were made on the 1.24 firmware.

If you are listening to your loudspeakers on the couch, Mytek provides a metal Apple Remote, I recommend checking the book, I mean user-manual and learn how to have a better control of your unit.

Under the hood of Brooklyn DAC+

It is rocking the latest ESS Sabre 9028 PRO 8 channel DAC chip that can natively decode DXD and DSD material + a much needed MQA decoder for the streaming heads.

It uses a very advanced clock system, called Mytek FemtoClock Generator that operates at only 0.82 ps of internal jitter. For headphone addicts (myself included) it is offering 500mA current and a whopping 6 Watts of power and zero output impedance. It is not entirely clear if those 6W of power are at a low or high impedance but I can confirm that DAC+ is very LOUD when it comes to headphone listening.

Mytek decided to use an advanced analog attenuator and a 32bit digital attenuator by using a purist relay bypass circuit. It is also rocking a built-in Phono M/M and M/C and analog Preamp, relay controlled and switchable of course.

Weighting only 4 lbs (2kg) and having a really small footprint it can be easily integrated in tiny offices, workplaces or large living rooms.

OK everyone, I think it’s time we have a looong listening session.

Sound performance

I. In a speaker-based system

It takes only few seconds to realize that Mytek Digital is fighting in heavy-weight category with its DAC+.

Only moments passed, and I mean literally seconds passed and I was already hearing an incredible layered sound around me and absolute levels of control. Those were first thoughts that stroke me.

Listening more and more I am realizing this is an absolute sound, simply a vanishing experience, where I am listening to a live performance and not to a hardware component, it sounds effortless, smooth, easy going and weighty in the same time.

I am pretty sure with DAC+ the only limitations will be the rest of the acoustic chain: your speakers, headphones, or the amplification stage. DAC+ is really like a microscope for your entire acoustic chain.

From my point of view the audio source is the heart of an audio system, everything starts with it. I am a strong adept of GIGO (Garbage-in => Garbage-out) concept and DAC+ delivers on that in spades with a crystal clear presentation.

Since the philosophy behind DAC+ is a no-compromise performance the sound delivered by it is extremely clear, airy, detailed and effortless.

It is surely among the airiest sounding DACs I ever tested at my place, the soundscape is really wide, extended in all directions that carries a lot of micro-details and information. Pin point imaging is very precise, almost clinical at times.

The placement of musical notes is a simple game of mind and any veil ever existed with a sub-par source will be completely lifted on the DAC+ in a very real and natural manner.

I can’t assign a sound signature to it, since it is lacking any coloration, to me it is extremely linear and precise but in the same time sounds tight, musical and easy-going, it lacks brightness and doesn’t emphasis a particular frequency range.

If on Aune S6 Pro there is a slight mid-bass and midrange emphasis for a very uplifting performance, to a much smaller degree the same can be said about my reference Matrix X-Sabre Pro, but with Brooklyn DAC+ nothing particularly stands out. There isn’t a spotlight on any particular audio range. It’s quite interesting since it is not smoothing the frequency extremes, yet the treble is very extended and harsh-free.

Listening to Marianne Thorsen - MOZART Violin Concertos (MQA remix 2016) any hidden nuance is easily and clearly heard, any subtlety or micro-detail is heard with an incredible ease, I don’t need closing my eyes for hearing those anymore. The breath of the artists, fingers touching the keys or the movements from the auditorium, I feel the air moving in the hall, I can easily distinguish that is was recorded in a big concert hall, sounds are like flying to no end without a soundstage limit. There isn’t a single trace of overcrowded performance, of dirty and muddy background, that will never happen on DAC+.

For me symphonic and classical music was a total delight on this device.

On Oja Gjeilo – Stone Rose I felt how her foot is touching the piano pedals, how trumpeter is inhaling air in his chest and with long violin vibration in the background. The background is completely black, as if all my windows were opened to the music. This tune is full of naturalness, having an outstanding full-bodied tone. I guarantee a total relaxation of the mind on this track accompanied by a sublime level of detail retrieval.

On Norwegian folk Trondheimsolistene I really appreciated the dynamics, the speed and the level of information present in the track. Double-bass from the background, even if buried deep had an incredible leading-edge and was going down to the lowest octaves. Violins sounded so real as if they were playing in from of me, I appreciated their longer vibration, dynamics and the ability of this DAC to show a speedy and precise performance.

A very interesting phenomenon for me was the volume level: I observed that I am listening to a much higher volume than usual. For example, if I am listening to it for a lengthy evening, on the second day I power it On and I realize the volume I was playing on the previous day was really loud. This phenomenon explains how low is the noise and Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) level of the DAC+. It’s a psychological thing, I raise the volume until I hear a low level of distortion, but in this case that is never happening so I raise the volume much higher.

It is a purist sounding DAC and most probably you will be touching the limits of your acoustic chain, be sure a device like this will stay away from artifacts, veils or colorations.

Listening to some progressive/instrumental rock and a bit of fusion and jazz there is a single word that comes to mind: Musical. Nik Bartsch’s Ronin and Bozzio Levin Stevens made me close my eyes and smile a long period of time. That smile and my feet tapping explains my Nirvana state. Both sounded musical, alive and very palpable.

All those tracks shown me how good DAC+ is playing the lows and the midrange. I loved so much its bass response, that I felt I don’t need to make additional bass tests on my electronica tracks. Bass always sounded full, fast, hard kicking with a crazy amount of control and grip.

There is one thing that I want to mention: system matching. With Brooklyn DAC+ you shouldn’t be preoccupied by it as a complete lack of any coloration with a natural note and tons of micro-detail makes it the perfect mate for any amplifier, speaker or headphone.

II. In a headphone-based system.

With its crazy 6W of power there isn’t a single headphone in my stable that would need more power than that. I mostly listened to it via the headphone adapter cable for 100% balanced headphone drive.

With the balanced adapter powering my Quad ERA-1 planar magnetic headphone I could raise the volume up to -25dB, up to -30dB with my Sennheiser HD660S and up to -26dB with Audeze LCD-4Z open back headphones. Quads and LCD-4Z seems to be the most power-hungry headphones from my stable and the most accurate sounding ones.

It is crazy thinking that I still had 25 dB of headroom left on the volume pot! You could go deaf with DAC+ on the headphone out, be careful selecting the desired output and the volume level before plugging in your headphones.

I am a headphone addict and I own several headphone amps and truth to be told Brooklyn DAC+ with its internal headphone amp section blew few of them out of the water.

LCD-4Z and ERA-1 could sound sloppy, slow and uninteresting on a wrong headphone amp but that wasn’t the case with DAC+.

More than ever I felt an extraordinary grip over the headphone drivers, an impressive diaphragm control that only serious headphone amps are delivering.

DAC+ had also the same full of substance, fast, impressively layered sound presentation as it had on speakers. DAC+ delivers explosive dynamics when asked for with linear as a straight-line frequency response.

When it comes to raw power and finesse even from the start, I can say that it outperformed the Burson Fun, the Erzetich Bacillus, the Gilmore Lite Mk2 and the xDuoo TA-10. It is just on another level, at least with a level or two above them all.

However, since it is not sweetening the performance at all, you really need to love your speakers or headphones first as DAC+ will not change their sound signature but will show the best or the worst of them. It will not sweeten them, will not smooth them out and will not wake-up or calm-down a frequency area. It will just pump a lot of juice into them without changing their character.

If you are not 100% pleased by your speakers or headphones, Brooklyn DAC+ will not magically make them better, probably will even emphasize all those cons you don’t like about them as DAC+ is a very honest and revealing audio source, probably among the most revealing sources I’ve heard at my place.

There was a single instance when I wasn’t particularly impressed by it and that was by using very sensitive In-Ear-Monitors (IEMs for short) like the FiiO FH7 and FA7 multi-driver wonders.

That happened because there is a faint hum/hiss when I am plugging my very sensitive IEMs. Even at lowest volume setting there is just a tiny residual noise that I am not sure where is it coming from.

We have few possibilities: Power from my wall-wart is not super clean and a bit of residual noise enters the DAC+, I don’t know for sure but maybe a cleaner, external 12DC power supply will completely resolve this small issue

Other possibility is that DAC+ was not created to be used with very sensitive IEMs but only with full-sized desktop headphones that are not picking that noise. I should have an external power supply called SBooster BOTW ECO 12-13V coming my way shortly and will update my review once I have it.

Alright everyone I think it is time for some comparisons.

Comparisons

I. Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ (2195 USD) VS Matrix Audio X-Sabre PRO (1800 USD)

When it comes to build quality X-Sabre Pro is just better, you can’t go wrong with a thick fully CNC-ed enclosure, it is much heavier and larger.

DAC+ in its defense offers A LOT more features: a powerful headphone amp, an analogue Preamp, a M/M and M/C phono preamp, a digital recorder, not to mention a larger screen with tons of extra features and filters.

Internals are almost the same, both are using the best Crystek femto-clocks, X-Sabre is ES9038 PRO based and DAC+ is ES9028 PRO based, everything else is custom-made by both parts. Looking at specs you might think that the ES9038 PRO one should win this fight easily, right?

I so want this to be true…X-Sabre Pro is my unit after all.

For the best comparison possible I volume matched both for a clean 4Vrms XLR out, I used the same power cables and the same XLR interconnect. Both were connected to the Aune S7 PRO headphone amp driving the Audeze LCD-4Z and Quad ERA-1 in balanced configuration.

Let’s start with frequency response. X-Sabre Pro has a slightly fuller presentation like the bass and midrange delves deeper, I presume pe Noratel transformer said its word. Moving on to DAC+ I hear a bit clearer and higher treble presence. It is just more defined; it has more shimmer and a bit more presence. Bass and midrange performance are not so jumpy towards me.

When it comes to slam and impact, both DACs will deliver the same lightning quick transient response and ballsy slam. It is important mentioning that DAC+ has a much higher VRms output on both RCA and XLR out, so volume matching is a must when comparing to different sources.

When it comes to leading edges of the notes, the “sharpness” of the notes as I am calling it. With DAC+ everything is haze-free, super clear and sharp, very outlined. You are just clearly hearing the texture and the shell of said musical instrument. With X-Sabre Pro the same can be said, but the texture is a bit meatier and heavier and probably not as tight sounding as it was on the DAC+

The end result is that both DACs don’t sound as cheap ESS Sabre based designs. I never thought I would say this, but X-Sabre and Brooklyn DAC+ are quite natural sounding with a lot weight to them, very non-SABRE sounding in a way. There were times when I thought DAC+ had more micro-information and plankton, other times both sounded almost the same. A non-conclusive, double-KO result.

I could make the X-Sabre Pro better sounding by adding an extra X-SPDIF2 converter via the I2S connection, but that adds 370 USD to the cost. The same can be said about Brooklyn DAC+ as adding a better external power supply will probably make it even better, I am sure the midrange and bass will bloom with a higher performance power supply.

I consider it was a tied battle. However, with DAC+ the power output of RCA and of XLR out can go out much higher than 4.5 Vrms of the X-Sabre Pro, up to 9.7 Vrms actually, if you want to do that only DAC+ can provide that. If that is important to you then DAC+ wins this battle easily.

II. Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ (2195 USD) VS Benchmark DAC 3 HGC (2199 USD)

This is a pending comparison; it will be published in about two weeks. Both are competing units and this should be a really fun comparison. Watch this space closely.

Conclusion

Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is an excellent feature packed device that will please a lot of speakerphiles, headphiles, vinylheads and Pro Audio guys. Its musical presentation, its multitude of features and the no compromise approach was felt immediately after pressing the play button.

It is very easy to use, in front of PC or in the living room due to the included remote control and that big and easy to read LCD screen. Truth to be told, I never seen so many features, inputs and outputs crammed in a device as small at this one.

In terms of sound performance, it plays at the highest level with the best of this generation of DACs.

If you are hunting for a top-performing DAC that can also serve as a preamp, a phono preamp, a headphone amp or a recorder, I never heard something better than this. At only 2195 USD/EUR I think it punches way above its price point!

USA residents can purchase Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ from here

Europe residents can purchase Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ from here

PROS:

  • Solid build quality
  • The most feature packed 5-in-1 device of this size tested by us
  • Total lack of sound coloration
  • Unmatched levels of resolution and detail retrieval
  • Open wide soundstage, precise pin-point imaging
  • Explosive dynamics, excellent PRaT
  • Lack of any distortion or noise
  • Very 3D sounding with headphones and speakers alike
  • Beefy headphone-amp section

CONS:

  • Tiny bit of hum with sensitive IEMs

ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT:

  • DACs: Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, Matrix Audio X-Sabre PRO, Burson Swing + Playmate, Aune S6 PRO, Loxjie D20
  • Headphone amps: Aune S7 PRO, Erzetich Bacillus, Burson Fun, Headamp Gilmore Lite Mk2, xDuuo TA-10
  • Headphones: Audeze LCD-4Z, Sennheiser HD660S, QUAD ERA-1
  • IEMs: FiiO FH7, FA7
  • Speakers: KEF LS50W (active)
  • Interconnects: QED Reference XLR
  • Power cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier

Overall score 96/100

Features & Settings 100/100
Background Noise (Headphone amp) 88/100
Background Noise (DAC) 98/100
Resolution 98/100
Dynamics 96/100
Frequency Response 97/100
Stage Size 94/100
Build Quality 95/100
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