Mytek HiFi Brooklyn D/A processor–headphone amplifier Mytek Brooklyn Plus

Jim Austin auditioned the Mytek HiFi Brooklyn DAC+ in April 2018 (Vol.41 No.4):

In the year since I sampled Brooklyn's music scene—in my November 2016 review of Mytek HiFi's Brooklyn DAC—there's been a lot of local music news. Jay-Z (whose name is or ought to be derived from the subway lines that pass through Williamsburg and Bushwick on the way to Jamaica, Queens) was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the first rap lyricist to be so honored. He released a new album, 4:44, to critical acclaim. (I listened. It's good.) He also had twins—a boy and a girl—with his wife, Beyoncé. Brooklyn indie faves Grizzly Bear, now sounding much older than they did on their previous album (they are much older: five years is a lot when you're still in your thirties), released Painted Ruins; I haven't yet decided if I like it.

Two Brooklyn bands made it onto the soundtrack of the new Twin Peaks: metalheads Uniform (episode 5) and synth-poppers Au Revoir Simone (episodes 4 and 9). Stereophile's music editor, Robert Baird, profiled Brooklyn Rider, the borough's talented and innovative string quartet. Mutoid Man, a fun quasi-metalcore band with a sense of humor, released War Moans, a fun, hook-laden album with a cameo from Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman, and featuring such lyrics as "Blow / Blow me / Blow me a kiss / Blow me a kiss of death."

Since Aaron Copland walked along Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn has changed.

In other Brooklyn music news, Mytek, manufacturer of the acclaimed (by Stereophile and others) Manhattan II and Brooklyn DACs, has released a new version of the latter, the Brooklyn DAC+ ($2195). It replaces the earlier version ($1995). I compared the two (footnote 1).

Much as with the Benchmark DAC3 HGC DAC–preamplifier–headphone amplifier, which I reviewed in November 2017, the upgrade of the Brooklyn appears to have been motivated by the appearance of a new DAC chip, the ESS Sabre 9028 Pro—the same chip used in the Benchmark DAC3. Mytek's Michal Jurewicz also improved the Brooklyn's analog attenuator circuit, seeking, and reportedly achieving, lower levels of noise. The DAC+'s preamplifier functions, both line and phono, were also reportedly improved. The DAC+ boasts what Mytek calls a "dual-mono analog path," though I don't know what that means—I still see only a single power supply. Speaking of power supplies, although it's not mentioned in the list of added features, Jurewicz told me that the Brooklyn's power supply has been improved; anyway, you can still add an external linear power supply if you want to.

The DAC+'s feature set, which includes MQA and a built-in moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage, is largely the same as the original Brooklyn's. However, the new chip makes possible an increase in the number of reconstruction filters offered: eight in the DAC+, including MQA. The DAC+ will convert to analog any format you're interested in, up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSDx1 via DoP, via its digital inputs: two S/PDIF, and one each AES/EBU, TosLink, and USB Type 2. If you can muster a source compatible with Sony's SDIF-3 signal-exchange format, you can play up to DSDx4.

There's word-clock in and out, facilitating the usual pro-audio functions and allowing the DAC+ to be used in multichannel configurations. The two headphone jacks can be used together to drive a single pair of balanced 'phones. There's one analog input, via a stereo pair of RCA jacks, which can be used at line level—or as the input for the Brooklyn DAC+'s built-in, all-analog phono stage. There are balanced and unbalanced outputs.

Listening: I compared the Brooklyn DAC+ directly with the original Brooklyn, sending output from both units to different channels of the same preamplifier, a PS Audio BHK Signature. Connections were made via identical, high-quality, balanced interconnects: 10' lengths of Canare cable with Sescom connectors. I made sure both preamp channels were well broken in by playing music through each for several days before testing. And to further ensure that there were no differences between the preamp channels, I switched between them often during testing. I also tried bypassing both DACs' preamp stages, sending the output from both directly to my Pass Laboratories XA60.8 monoblock power amplifiers.

Because the DAC+'s analog volume control is among the things for which improvement is claimed, I used the analog volume controls on both DACs. I went through the menus of the two Brooklyns carefully, to ensure that they were set up the same way.

In my early listening, with both DACs fed through the preamp inputs and the DACs' volume controls set to maximum, I heard little difference. There may have been a slight increase in transparency in the upper midrange/lower treble with the DAC+, noticeable in upper-midrangey percussive sounds with extended harmonics, such as those from harpsichords, woodblocks, and shakers. In the Kyrie of Mozart's Coronation Mass, K.317, with Laurence Equilbey conducting Accentus and the Insula Orchestra (24/96 MQA, Erato 560926/Tidal), the massed staccato violins following the two-minute mark had perhaps a touch more air and aural breathing room. Real or not, I didn't find it this difference musically important—although it could be, I suppose, with certain types of music listened to through certain systems.

Next, I dug down a little into the DACs' volume controls, turning them to lower settings in hope of exposing any inconsistency in channel balance, or any noise that might be found there. I couldn't go down far, because, this system doesn't have a lot of extra gain—it has the right amount for me, so I can run it with minimal attenuation and volume controls working within their optimal range. Still, I was able to dial the two DACs' volume controls down to about –30dB—the Brooklyns sit at 0dB at maximum output and attenuate from there—and still have enough volume for a reasonably wide dynamic range. I heard no volume-control–related anomalies.

The sound was superb from both Brooklyns. One quality I prize highly in the playback of instruments and voices is image corporeality—fleshiness. But Ella Fitzgerald singing "Black Coffee" and "Angel Eyes," from her Sings Songs from "Let No Man Write My Epitaph" (24/96 PCM download, Verve/HDtracks), wasn't up to my usual standards or corporeaiity. Her voice seemed disembodied—but in a lovely way, hanging in space, close, immediate, breathy, textured, colored, slightly dephased, wider than life. It took me a while to visualize the aural image I was hearing, but finally it hit me: I wasn't hearing Ella directly. I was hearing the microphone—one of those big, old-fashioned mikes like the Shure 55 "fatboy" or Electro-Voice Cardyne, or so I pictured it. Of course, when we listen to recorded voices, we're always hearing the mike—but here, that sensation predominated.

This coloration was not a flaw in the Brooklyn DAC+ or in any part of my system. It was this recording itself, correctly rendered and made real.

After that, I removed the PS Audio preamp from the system and ran those Canare balanced interconnects directly to the Pass Labs monoblocks. This allowed me to turn the DACs' volume controls down another 8dB and still have adequate volume. I heard nothing new or interesting.

Listening to Vinyl: I compared the phono stages in the original and new Brooklyns using my Ortofon SPU 90th Anniversary Edition MC cartridge, sometimes paired with my Auditorium 23 standard step-up transformer feeding the two Brooklyns via short Auditorium 23 interconnects.

I put on a prized near mint, Duke Ellington favorite, Jazz Party in Stereo, in which Dizzy Gillespie joins Ellington's trumpet section of Ray Nance, Clark Terry, and Cat Anderson (Columbia CS 8127). I played it first with the DAC+ phono in MM mode with the step-up transformer. Good soundstage depth, rich textures—full range, nice weight. When I removed the step-up and set the DAC+ to MC mode, the sound got a little brittle, a little bright, with less soundstage depth. It was also noisier—noticeably so during the run-in groove.

Such a difference might be attributable, at least in part, to imperfect cartridge loading. Ortofon recommends a loading of 10 to 50 ohms—lower than the typical MC phono load—and John Atkinson's measurements of the original Brooklyn revealed an MC-mode input impedance of 990 ohms, which is high for MC, and inflexible.

For most people who listen to LPs with an MM or high-output MC cartridge—or with an MC cart with a good step-up transformer—the DAC+'s phono stage will be sufficient. The most discriminating vinylphiles would surely spend more on a standalone phono stage than the $2195 cost of a Brooklyn DAC+. In MM mode, I thought it sounded great—completely satisfying. In MC mode, the DAC+'s phono stage was less impressive—which I'd also found with the original Brooklyn DAC.

Summing Up: Despite its consumer-friendly features, Mytek's Brooklyn DAC+ is a reference professional-quality DAC. And in pro applications, "transparency" has a specific and important meaning. I've been told by respected professional audio engineers that, in a studio, music often passes through a DAC several times. If there were an important audible difference between the old and new Brooklyns—important enough that it could be heard in just a single pass—then in multiple passes those deviations from transparency would accumulate, coloring the sound to an unacceptable extent. If that were true of either Brooklyn, old or new, whichever deviated from neutrality—or deviated more—would be much too colored for professional use (footnote 2).

There's a lot new in Brooklyn—and in Mytek's new Brooklyn DAC+—and much that remains unchanged. The Brooklyn DAC+ performs superbly—it's good enough for a professional sound studio—and its compact size and expansive feature set make it a great choice for that hipster Williamsburg loft.—Jim Austin

Footnote 1: The Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ costs $2195. Mytek, 148 India Street, First Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11222. Tel: (347) 384-2687. Web:

Footnote 2: This can also apply to any time-domain problems that might exist: artifacts of digital conversion can accumulate, though that will depend on the kind of filter used. The effects of linear-phase filters don't accumulate with multiple passes; however, the effects of filters with nonlinear phase response—including minimum-phase filters, which delay high frequencies to eliminate pre-ringing—do accumulate with multiple passes.

Mytek HiFi
148 India Street, First Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(347) 384-2687