Mytek Digital Brooklyn Bridge II Roon Core preamplifier Page 2

Headphone listening
The next thing I did was plug in some headphones. I wanted to learn if I could hear differences with the same tunes streamed over Qobuz via Bluetooth from the phone vs the desktop Qobuz app via USB, and vs Qobuz through Roon via Wi-Fi. I tried an assortment of music from Qobuz's new releases. The Bluetooth stream sounded a bit plastic, as Bluetooth will—not the same tonal balance and not as much low end as Qobuz streamed through Roon via Wi-Fi and direct from Qobuz on my computer connected by USB.

Between USB-connected Qobuz and Roon-streamed Qobuz, the sound seemed about the same. Which Qobuz delivery method I'd choose would depend on what's more convenient.

The BBII's headphone amp had no problems driving several different pairs of cans, including the demanding 600 ohm, 88dB/mW AKG K240DF, although it nearly ran out of gas: The comfortable volume level was 90–95 out of 100. I don't have any 'phones that are more demanding than that, so I can't say if the BBII would crap out under the heaviest headphone lifting, but there is plenty of power for any mainstream headphone. With my go-to pleasure-listening cans, Sennheiser HD 650, the comfortable listening level was 77 or lower.

The sound? I'd call it a bit laid-back. The low end was present and accounted for, but some albums sounded a little washed-out compared to, eg, my Little Labs Monotor. I don't think Mytek did any "warm voicing" or the like on its headphone amp; its sound is straightforward, the background quiet. One could use it to make music-production decisions with professional headphones like the Neumann NDH 30.

Connected to the big system
I took the BBII upstairs and connected it, unbalanced, to the living room system. Now the Wi-Fi hash was less audible. In the listening seat, at listening volume, head about 8' from the speakers, the Wi-Fi hash wasn't audible. Downstairs, at reasonable music volume, with speakers about 3' from my head, the noise/hash had been audible during very quiet passages and between tracks. Cranking the volume up far beyond comfortable listening levels, the hash was slightly audible upstairs. Again, connecting via Ethernet and disconnecting from the Wi-Fi network silenced it completely. For the remainder of my listening, I used the BBII connected via balanced cables to the Benchmark LA4 and heard no odd noises.

The BBII's display indicates a volume range from 0–100 in 0.5 steps, calibrated in dB according to Mytek, although that isn't obvious from the readout. A reading of "80" matched my dCS Bartók with its line output set to 2V and volume control set to unity gain. With levels matched, I set about streaming the same content from Qobuz over both devices, switching back and forth on the LA4 preamp.

The Bartók costs a whole lot more than the BBII, so I wasn't surprised that its sound was deeper and richer, with a more 3D image that drew me above and beyond the speakers. But the BBII sounds damn good. Its character was uncolored and revealing, as I would expect from a pro-grade Mytek DAC. It was not a sacrifice to listen to hours of music through the BBII; indeed, it was a joy.

I connected my Oppo universal-disc player via coaxial S/PDIF and spun a few CDs. Again, the BBII is a fine DAC, in the top tier of its price range, even ignoring all its other features. I was especially pleased that Mytek designed an analog buffer following the DAC that is capable of serious dynamics and bass extension and that digital sources run dead quiet from the balanced outputs. CDs made during the peak "loudness wars" (footnote 8) sounded as crunched and annoying as expected, but they did not sound distorted, which means that the BBII has enough headroom to handle whatever over-level things happen in the conversion process.

One fun listening session was decidedly non-audiophile: the 4-CD soundtrack to the PBS miniseries American Epic (footnote 9). My friend Nicholas Bergh expertly transferred the dozens of seminal 78rpm recordings included in the set, which is focused on how the advent of electrical recording enabled recordists to travel out into America to record regional musicians and musical styles on their home turf. This is how bluegrass, country, blues, Tex-Mex, Zydeco, and other regional styles came to be heard by a wider national audience and how the careers of many famous artists took off beyond the front porches, juke joints, street corners, and local auditoriums where they first got established.

These recordings are what Nick Bergh calls "wild": made with almost no engineering control beyond placing the microphone correctly and letting the musicians do their thing for 3 minutes, no stopping or overdubs. The result is wild dynamics and sounds—whatever musical eccentricities bubbled out of the performers. It's great, and Nick brought forth every bit of sound cut into those old wax grooves. Some of the recordings put the performance right there, like a hologram of the early 1930s between the speakers.

I highly recommend the American Epic soundtrack album, and the Blu-ray set of the miniseries. It was underpromoted on PBS and easily missed.

Spinning black circles
A few days later, it was time for some LP spins using the BBII's phono preamp in moving magnet mode. I installed an Ortofon 2M Blue (5.5mV output at 1kHz, 5cm/s) on my Technics SL-1200MK7 turntable, figuring that this sort of midlevel, no-fuss vinyl setup would be typical for a target BBII customer.

Via Roon, I streamed from my library a needle-drop of an LP: the old Chess blues anthology Wizards from the Southside. Simultaneously, I dropped the needle of the 2M Blue onto the same vinyl platter and switched the BBII back and forth, adjusting the phono preamp gain submenu until the listening levels were closely matched. This required turning the phono preamp gain up by 5dB. There was enough hiss and hum to be audible at the listening position, through all outputs: balanced, unbalanced, headphone. The same turntable/cartridge combo does not hum audibly at comfortable listening levels when connected, for example, to my Pro-Ject Phono Box RS2. The hiss and hum are not so loud as to disturb rock music or lively/complex jazz, but it could invade the silences between notes and the low-level parts in classical and some jazz recordings.

Hum aside, the music sounded vivid, the tonal balance was right, there was plenty of headroom: Albums cut loud played loud but were undistorted, and the bottom end was just fine. If the noise and hum can be tamed, this will be quite a good MM phono preamp. I didn't try the MC settings (footnote 10).

While I had the turntable hooked up, I spun some bargain finds from Acoustic Sounds' big spring sale. Especially enjoyable were Big John Patton's Oh Baby! and Reuben Wilson's Love Bug, both soul-jazz classics with heavy doses of Hammond B3 recorded by Rudy Van Gelder. I also made what for me was a great musical discovery: The late jazz pianist Herbie Nichols was unknown to me until I bought the Blue Note Classic reissue of his Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 LPs. He was a unique creative spirit, and it was a pleasure to listen to and learn his music.

Finally, I hooked the turntable back up to the Pro-Ject preamp and ran its unbalanced outputs into the BBII's line-level unbalanced inputs. The hum and hiss were gone. It's not a fair comparison, I suppose: a complex component like the Brooklyn Bridge II with all its features (including a powerful computer inside) vs a high-quality (though affordable) stand-alone phono preamp.

For a modern audiophile comfortable in the streaming world, the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge II Roon Core can serve as the heart of a very capable music-listening system, now and for years hence. If physical media completely disappear, the BBII owner will be fine with a Roon subscription, some music-streaming subscriptions, and/or a large collection of music files.

The BBII has a fine-sounding DAC, tending transparent but perhaps a bit thin compared to the very best, including the much more expensive dCS Bartók (which may be less neutral-sounding than the BBII). The BBII is among the best I've heard in its price range, and it includes almost every digital-connection option—everything but I2S and HDMI.

Noise leakage into the unbalanced outputs (in rather particular circumstances) and the audible hiss and hum in the phono section make the BBII a less-than-ideal option for a perfectionist vinyl system. It's probably adequate if you play vinyl casually, especially if your taste is mainly busy music, like good ole rock'n'roll. If you don't intend to play records and you can use the balanced outputs, none of that matters. Hopefully Mytek will fix the noise problems and the analog-focused parts of the BBII can live up to the standard set by the digital parts.

Footnote 8: Stereophile published extensive coverage of the Loudness Wars at the end of the last century. For example, see this 1999 essay.—John Atkinson.

Footnote 9: Tom's claim that this is not an audiophile experience is a matter of judgment—but that's a discussion for another day. For now, see and—Jim Austin

Footnote 10: I asked TF to send me the BBII when he finished his auditions so that I could give a listen with an MC cartridge. But first I evaluated MM mode, with an MC cartridge and a K&K. step-up transformer. In my system, at a normal volume setting but with no music playing, I heard no hum at the listening position. At higher volume, above any level I'd ever listen at, I heard noise that was roughly white in character, low in level and unobjectionable.

MC mode was a different story. Playing music at typical levels then lifting the needle, the 60/120Hz hum/buzz was easy to hear, very different in character from what I had heard in MM mode—and louder. With music playing, the hum/buzz was completely masked. I was listening to complex music, though; this noise could be objectionable in the silences of quieter works.—Jim Austin

Mytek Audio
148 India St., First Floor
NY 11222
(347) 384-2687

michelesurdi's picture

what happens when roon goes bust?

hb72's picture

this is indeed a legitimate question: should a streamer (Bridge) be seen, used & reviewed only as a roon endpoint to a PC running roon which would then be the actual streamer (that manages data streams, playlists etc from different internet based music sources)?
Is it sufficient to see the Bridge only as an endpoint that just converts externally preassembled data stream into usb, or similar, for DA-Conversion?

I bet Mytek do their own streamer SW that allows to directly run Qubuz & Co (and perhaps not at lower quality), however, that point was not addressed - or did I just missed it? Also, control SW (the app) and usability is important to happiness or absence thereof.

best regards

rshadowen's picture

The files you put on the server are still yours to put on a NAS or other streaming server. I have a Roon server but also have a raspberry pi which can stream to DAC from my NAS, so that was less than $50, and since the Mytek works as a standalone DAC then you would be set. Granted it's barebones compared to Roon. Once you have your music on a NAS there are endless options. Of course the target market for this device may be less comfortable with patching together a tech based system, so point to you there.
Also, Roon is primarily a software company, so they don't run the same risks an audio equipment manufacturer does.

hb72's picture

Thanks for feedback.

I am used to using Volumio Streaming SW, which integrates many sources and treats them all alike, e.g. local drives, local servers, all sorts of Streaming Platforms such as Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify, and Internet Radio stations etc; so you can put radio stations, songs, albums into your own playlists, all operated from your phone, to easily play, extend, and jump back where you want to: One SW! One Streamer device, and a phone, tablet or TV, nothing else; i.e. NO further powerful PC needed to buy, maintain, boot, make sure is around your hifi system. Also not necessary: cost for Roon license.

Most if not all Streamers come with some sort of their own control SW / UI SW. So, my expectation is that a review, such as the one above, would _also_ capture and rate that, if you want in comparison with Roon, Volumio, etc, w.r.t to its usability, features, reliability, as it really can make a difference to the musical journey and also the quality (SQ), the threshold to overcome for a non-nerd to reasonably operate the device.

best regards

jimtavegia's picture

Not an inexpensive device, but it does show how the streaming hardware market is truly evolving. Your recording background would lend you to notice noises, hums, and other artifacts that don't belong in the music, but being 76 and growing up with a transistor radio listening to WLS out of Chicago in my youth and thinking how great that was, it is funny about what we are complaining about today. And, it is really not complaining just pointing out performances issues that are audible in our nearly transparent audio world of today.

I did take your recommendation and ordered American Epic on Blu-ray and it will be here tomorrow off Amazon. Looking forward to that.

Your review had me thinking back to my first real system of a Fisher 500TX receiver, Dynaco A-25's and my Dual 1209 with a Pickering XV-750 cart. I later added a Teac 350 cassette deck and thought I had reached the heights. I really knew I had not as I could not afford the Bozak Concert Grands I lusted after. Then it was FM or physical media. No longer for sure.

I guess the real battle will be if the streaming services can start turning a profit. The issue with MQA shows how fragile things can be.

I have really been enjoying my recent purchase of the KEF Q-350 speakers, my first speaker buy in over 25+ years. I should not have waited so long, and and many may feel the same way about streaming.

manisandher's picture

"Via its digital and analog line inputs, Mytek's Brooklyn Bridge II offers generally excellent measured performance."

Line maybe, but digital? I can't see anything even approaching "generally excellent".


donnedonne's picture

Is Mytek actively fulfilling orders? Last I heard they hit pause due to very long-standing supply-chain issues

Jeffpm1's picture

I have had an order in for 2 years since Sep 2021. Nothing. And I prepaid.
I think Mytek not only had issues with supply chain, but design problems.
MQA is going out. Roon is not much better than Tidal’s standard interface.
I am really concerned that Mytek can’t even respond to my inquiries.
Is this all a big scam.

jimtavegia's picture

I watched the entire 2-disc set in one sitting. My take is a mixed bag.

The early recording process and the gear is very interesting start to finish. It is amazing the ingenuity that began this recording of live events and to look at where we are today. Making those lacquers one at a time, each under 4 minutes in length; and I was surprised that in each remake they did not have a count-down timer on the wall for performers to know where they were close to the end of 3 1/2 minutes.

I would give RCA a lot of credit for taking their recording gear to the places that they did knowing how difficult travel was back in the late 1920's and later. Even the performers took the time to travel hundreds of miles with the chance to be "discovered".

The country music aspect of this was interesting and how far the quality of music has gone from the Carters until now, and how sophisticated it has become in comparison, but all music had to start somewhere.

I was also shocked and naive about how prevalent drug use was even back in that day, whether one might view this as recreational or not. What I did find interesting and sad was the connection that artist NAS made to the early blues and today's RAP is kind of a sad tale to me.

The movement into more complicated and sophisticated jazz later is really interesting and no doubt very academic in structure that really evolved over the decades. The fact, to me, is that RAP, 90+ years later, is just an extension of those early 1920's recordings from Memphis and New Orleans is troublesome to me only with even more negative lyrics. It was easy to understand where these early music compositions came from due to very sad circumstances of the performer's lives, often a very cruel existence.

There will be some who take exception to my thoughts on this and I do not minimize what those folks went through and how they best tried to make music even in their jug bands and wash-tub bass instruments due to a lack of money for real instruments.

All in all an interesting look at early American music and that it is now archived is really a miracle. Thanks for the heads-up on these discs. I have really enjoyed all of the "Now Hear This" series from PBS and presented by Scott Yoo. I own all of those as well.