MYTEK BROOK­LYN DAC+

DAC/pre-Amp/HeAD­pHone Am­pli­fier

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

It’s a DAC, it’s a phono pream­pli­fier, it’s a head­phone am­pli­fier… it can do any­thing… and does it re­ally, re­ally well…

James A. Mich­ener in his 1971 novel ‘The Drifters’ in­dulges in a bit of cheap psy­chol­o­gis­ing, sug­gest­ing hi-fi fans are prin­ci­pally in­ter­ested in a sense of con­trol. That flies in the face of the min­i­mal­ism of the past few decades: the shed­ding of tone con­trols and graphic equalis­ers, and the pref­er­ence for hav­ing only a vol­ume knob for con­trol.

That said, when it comes to dig­i­tal au­dio there are things that are worth con­trol­ling. Mich­ener’s myth­i­cal con­trol freak would love the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+ be­cause it has ad­just­ments for just about ev­ery­thing. Hi-fi purists will love it too, for its other virtues… and, per­haps, be­cause it has ad­just­ments for just about ev­ery­thing.

The equip­menT

First, what is the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+? It is a DAC. It is a head­phone am­pli­fier. It is also a phono pream­pli­fier.

Let’s drill down on those. As a DAC it sup­ports all in­put types. That is, there are two S/PDIF coax­ial dig­i­tal au­dio in­puts, plus one op­ti­cal one. There’s a USB Type B socket for use with a com­puter. And there is an XLR in­put for the pro­fes­sional AES/EBU dig­i­tal au­dio stan­dard.

The dif­fer­ent in­puts sup­port dif­fer­ent max­i­mum sig­nals. The all-round most ca­pa­ble is the USB con­nec­tion. This sup­ports 16-bit, 24bit and 32-bit PCM at sam­pling fre­quen­cies of 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kHz and 384kHz. Win­dows con­firmed that. It also sup­ports stan­dard and dou­ble speed Di­rect Stream Dig­i­tal (that is, DSD64 and DSD128). The AES/EBU in­put and the two S/PDIF coax­ial in­puts of­fer the same sup­port, ex­cept only up to 24-bits of res­o­lu­tion. That in­cludes DSD. The op­ti­cal in­put is limited to 176.4kHz sam­pled PCM and DSD64.

But there’s a spe­cial set­ting where you can use the two wired S/PDIF in­puts to ac­cept DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 from pro­fes­sional DSD record­ing equip­ment. That is not some­thing I tested.

The unit also sup­ports MQA de­cod­ing for those who stream from Ti­dal and per­haps gather such mu­sic files from else­where.

There’s also a word clock I/O, so you can ex­ter­nally clock the DAC if you want to get that deep into things. Its own built-in clock is the Mytek Fem­to­clock Gen­er­a­tor, rated at 0.82ps jit­ter. By way of com­par­i­son, even with 384kHz sam­pling, the in­ter­val between each sam­ple is 2,600,000 pi­cosec­onds.

For head­phone out­put there are two front panel 6.35mm stereo ‘phone sock­ets. They can be switched to sup­port bal­anced head­phones.

The out­put is rated at up to six watts and up to half an amp of cur­rent. When used in stan­dard mode, one of the head­phone out­puts is in ‘ab­so­lute’ phase, while the other is in re­verse phase.

For line out­put you get both RCA sock­ets and bal­anced XLR.

There’s a ro­bust three-pin mains socket on the back for power (volt­ages from 100 to 240 are sup­ported), but there’s also a socket for con­nect­ing an ex­ter­nal 12-volt power sup­ply. The man­ual says that some may want to use this to bat­tery-power the de­vice. It can draw up to 17-watts with that con­nec­tion.

It’s this kind of thing that makes you re­alise that this de­vice is re­ally about op­tions. You can use the built-in power sup­ply, or go for your own. It’s up to you. You can con­nect to your sys­tem with bal­anced or un­bal­anced in­ter­con­nects. It’s up to you. You can lis­ten in or out of phase through your head­phones. And as for ana­logue in­put, the pair of RCA sock­ets can op­er­ate in nor­mal line-level mode, or at phono level with RIAA equal­i­sa­tion. There are gain set­tings for both mov­ing-mag­net and mov­ing-coil car­tridges. It’s up to you.

The front panel fea­tures the afore­men­tioned two head­phone sock­ets, plus four con­trol but­tons, a con­trol knob (which is press­able for se­lect­ing things, and dou­bles as a vol­ume con­trol in some modes) and a 65×25mm OLED dis­play panel.

The Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+ mea­sures 218×44×206mm (HWD), weighs 1.6 kilo­grams and is avail­able in black or sil­ver fin­ishes.

Con­Trol

Con­trol is via the four but­tons on the front panel, along with the knob. It’s pretty straight for­ward and you soon learn how to do it.

If you’re us­ing the unit prin­ci­pally as a DAC for a com­puter, then you’ll in­stall the con­trol panel on the com­puter and will be able to change the set­tings in that ap­pli­ca­tion. On Win­dows at least I thought the con­trol panel was poorly de­signed, be­cause in­stead of hav­ing the many op­tions organised into some kind of block, they were spread across the bot­tom of the panel in a sin­gle hor­i­zon­tal line. They would all show only if I max­imised the panel on my very high-res­o­lu­tion com­puter mon­i­tor.

Pack­aged with the unit was the re­mote con­trol for… an Ap­ple TV. Or you can use a re­mote con­trol with stan­dard Philips in­frared codes (there’s a set­ting for that). Clever. You get a classy-look­ing and ef­fec­tive re­mote con­trol rather than the cheap plas­tic thing of the kind to which small-vol­ume equip­ment mak­ers of­ten re­sort.

In­for­ma­tIon

I prat­tle on fre­quently in my re­views about the im­por­tance of a com­puter DAC telling you what the sig­nal does. It is re­ally, re­ally easy to ac­ci­den­tally se­lect the wrong out­put set­ting in most high-fidelity mu­sic play­back soft­ware. Do that and you could end up with DSD be­ing con­verted to PCM in your com­puter’s soft­ware, or PCM mu­sic be­ing re-sam­pled to some­thing other than the orig­i­nal sam­ple rate. The Brook­lyn DAC+ user man­ual only cov­ers the ba­sics of in­stal­la­tion, so it would best to go to the Mytek site and fol­low the in­struc­tions in the on­line ‘Soft­ware Setup User Guide’, which cov­ers Foo­bar2000, JRiver, Audirvana and Amarra along with some pro soft­ware.

The Brook­lyn DAC+ has, I think, the best in­for­ma­tion dis­play I’ve seen. There are two stan­dard dis­plays: a clean sim­pli­fied one and a fussier, fuller dis­play. Both show the for­mat and the sam­ple rate. And they show the bit res­o­lu­tion of the sig­nal, which is in­for­ma­tion that is rarely pro­vided. You will be able to lis­ten, con­fi­dent that your com­puter’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem isn’t do­ing some­thing be­hind the scenes to de­grade the dig­i­tal au­dio sig­nal.

In Use

The Brook­lyn DAC+ was de­light­fully easy to use. Most peo­ple will want to stick with the de­fault set­tings, but if you re­ally want to ex­hibit a Mich­ener-al­leged level of con­trol, you’ll prob­a­bly want to switch off the MQA de­coder, be­cause that opens up a whole bunch of ad­di­tional ad­just­ments, in­clud­ing no fewer than seven dif­fer­ent fil­ter slopes and sys­tems for de­cod­ing PCM. There are also sev­eral choices for hand­ing DSD de­cod­ing, should you wish to use them.

You can choose between a dig­i­tal vol­ume con­trol and an ana­logue one. Or you can by­pass this so that it only af­fects the head­phones. With that set­ting the line and XLR out­puts by­pass the vol­ume con­trol. That’s the way most peo­ple will plug it into their sys­tem.

Insert­ing a head­phone plug into a socket switches off the line out­put and en­gages the level con­trol if it had pre­vi­ously been by­passed. (The pre­vi­ous mode re­turns when the head­phone plug is pulled.)

The sound de­liv­ered to my sys­tem by this DAC was—how do you say it?—per­fect. Well, per­fect to the lim­its of my lis­ten­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and, I sus­pect, per­fect to the lis­ten­ing abil­i­ties of any hu­man be­ing. Noise? None. Con­trol? As good as it gets. Tonal bal­ance? Ex­act. List your favourite au­di­ble char­ac­ter­is­tics of a piece of high-fidelity equip­ment, and the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+ will meet or ex­ceed them.

Nat­u­rally I did the great ma­jor­ity of my lis­ten­ing to dig­i­tal ma­te­rial. But what about ana­logue? I use a Rega Ex­act mov­ing-mag­net car­tridge in a Rega Pla­nar 3 turntable, so I didn’t check the mov­ing-coil side of things. The first thing you no­tice with vinyl is some­thing that it prob­a­bly triv­ial, but some­thing that pleases me.

Way back when, the switch from vinyl to CD also in­volved turn­ing the vol­ume con­trol rather less in a clock­wise di­rec­tion. Even to­day, in most cases you have to ad­vance the vol­ume set­ting for the phono in­put much higher than for the dig­i­tal in­puts to achieve the same level. But as we’ll see, the out­put level for this DAC is much higher than the norm. That ex­tends to the phono in­put. Se­ri­ously, I was play­ing my sys­tem with some ten deci­bels less gain than usual.

Af­ter a bit of Prince’s al­bum ‘1999’, with its dis­ap­point­ing ab­sence of deep bass (that’s the al­bum, not the DAC) I moved to Weather Re­port’s 1982 self-ti­tled al­bum, which I haven’t lis­tened to on vinyl for many years, al­though I fre­quently go to the dig­i­tal ver­sion.

I am happy to re­port that my Columbia half-speed mas­tered copy sounded sim­ply glo­ri­ous through this DAC, wear­ing its phono pre-amp hat. The bass was full and ex­tended, while the kick drum had full im­pact and full depth. The cym­bals were liv­ing things between the speak­ers, and depth and height and width and a sense of tan­gi­bil­ity were ab­so­lutely first class.

The Brook­lyn DAC+ has, I think, the best in­for­ma­tion dis­play I have ever seen

If you want the high­est qual­ity of sound from your DAC or head­phone am­pli­fier, look to the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+

I was torn. I spend most of my time in front of my com­puter. Should I use the Mytek Brookly DAC+ there with my KEF LS50 speak­ers and Krix sub­woofer…or with my main sys­tem where it could do dig­i­tal and phono?

Sadly, it’ll have to go back, and I’ll get to use it for nei­ther.

Con­Clu­sion

If you want the high­est qual­ity of sound from your DAC or head­phone am­pli­fier, look to the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+. If you want close to the high­est level of con­trol from your DAC, look to the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+.

Stephen Daw­son

Readers in­ter­ested in a full tech­ni­cal ap­praisal of the per­for­mance of the Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+ should con­tinue on and read the Test Re­sults pub­lished on the fol­low­ing pages. Readers should note that the re­sults men­tioned in the re­port, tab­u­lated in per­for­mance charts and/or dis­played us­ing graphs and/or photographs should be con­strued as ap­ply­ing only to the spe­cific sam­ple tested.

con­trol has no ef­fect on the out­put level— then a full-scale 16-bit PCM sig­nal pro­duces a rather high 5VRMS. I think 2VRMS would have been bet­ter, since that’s been more or less the con­ven­tion since the CD was in­tro­duced some 35 years ago. Expect to have to turn down the in­put to which this DAC is con­nected. On the other hand, that means that any noise caused by elec­tri­cal in­ter­fer­ence to the in­ter­con­nect line will be 8dB qui­eter than nor­mal… and that’s al­ways a good thing.

Noise was ac­tu­ally very low. Most mea­sure­ments I con­ducted with 24-bit sig­nals pro­duced re­sults bet­ter than –109dBA for noise lev­els. The charted noise showed it at –130dBA in the up­per bass, lower midrange, and fall­ing away to be­low –140dBA from 1kHz and up.

I want to fo­cus on this for a mo­ment. You see, I had the Brook­lyn DAC+ plugged into reg­u­lar power. I had the Sur­face Pro 4 also mains powered. I know for a fact that the lat­ter is a noisy ar­range­ment. When I re­viewed the Au­dio­quest DragonFly Red DAC, I wrote: ‘With the com­puter plugged in, the dBA noise level was a 16-bit-like –91.8dB. With the com­puter un­plugged, it was an amaz­ing –109.5dB.’ The com­puter in ques­tion was the same Sur­face Pro 4.

The Mytek Brook­lyn DAC+ pro­duced an ‘amaz­ing’ –109.4dBA noise level. And it didn’t mat­ter a damn whether the com­puter was plugged into power or run­ning of its bat­tery. The re­sults were iden­ti­cal. In an­other re­view I won­dered: ‘I don’t know if it’s pos­si­ble, but ide­ally at least a DAC would some­how iso­late its ana­logue out­put en­tirely from elec­tri­cal noise de­liv­ered over its dig­i­tal in­put. DACs work with com­put­ers, and com­put­ers are noisy.’

Mytek shows that it is in­deed pos­si­ble. And it has done it. Oth­ers should fol­low its lead. Dis­tor­tion was low. THD was 0.0013% for all sig­nals. IMD was around 0.0045% for 16-bit sig­nals, and 0.003% or bet­ter for 24-bit sig­nals.

With CD stan­dard 44.1kHz, 16-bit sig­nals, fed via a USB con­nec­tion from my Sur­face Pro 4, the noise was –97.6dBA.

Now, what about fre­quency re­sponse? This is a bit com­pli­cated be­cause of those seven dif­fer­ent fil­ter shapes from which you can choose. A few tests I con­ducted showed that the line and min­i­mum phase fil­ters made no dif­fer­ence to the fre­quency re­sponse, so I ran a se­ries of tests us­ing 96kHz sam­pling to see what af­fect the fast, ver­sus slow, ver­sus apodiz­ing, ver­sus hy­brid, ver­sus brick wall fil­ters had.

Let me cut to the chase. When you feel like it, have a lis­ten to the op­tions to see if one or the other takes your fancy. Mean­while, if you’re not con­fi­dent do­ing that, just stick with the de­fault FRMP—fast rolloff, min­i­mum phase fil­ter—set­ting. With 96kHz sam­pling it pro­duced the most ex­tended re­sponse, down by 0.28dB at 20kHz, 1dB at 35kHz, and 2dB at 45kHz. The Slow set­tings start rolling things off faster around 33kHz. Apodiz­ing kind of tracks FRMP to around 43kHz, al­though with a weird rip­ple in the mea­sure­ment, and then hits a brick wall. Hy­brid is down fur­ther, even at 20kHz (an­other –0.2dB) and drops sharply shortly be­fore hit­ting 40kHz. Brick ex­actly tracks FRMP un­til just un­der 42kHz and then cuts off sharply.

Do any of those dif­fer­ences make an au­di­ble dif­fer­ence? Not that I can hear. But the purist in me says that FRMP seems to be best. Es­pe­cially when it comes to 44.1kHz sam­pling. With FRMP se­lected, the re­sponse was down by –0.14dB at 20kHz, and hit a brick wall just a lit­tle above 21kHz. The (‘Slow’) SRMP set­ting had the shoul­der at a rel­a­tively low 15.5kHz, with the re­sponse down by –5dB at 20kHz. The BRCK set­ting had the shoul­der at 19kHz, and 20kHz also at –5dB.

FRMP seems to be the way to go for the flat­test fre­quency re­sponse. Its re­sults with 192kHz sam­pling were sim­i­lar to those for 96kHz, but more ex­tended: –2dB at 50kHz, –3.2dB at 60kHz, –5.3dB at 70kHz. I am not equipped to mea­sure the re­sponse for higher sam­pling rates, but I imag­ine that it would be broadly sim­i­lar. Stephen Daw­son

On Win­dows I thought the con­trol panel was poorly de­signed, be­cause the many op­tions were spread across the bot­tom of the panel in a sin­gle hor­i­zon­tal line and would show only if I max­imised the panel on my hi-res mon­i­tor.

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