Mytek Liberty D/A processor

I've never aspired to owning a BMW 7-series, or a Martin D-45, or a Rolex Submariner: BMW's far less expensive 3-series models capture my imagination by bordering on the affordable, likewise Martin's D-18—and as long as I live, I'll never understand the appeal of expensive wristwatches. Bling's not my thing.

True to form, when I visited the Mytek display at High End 2018, in Munich, my attention was drawn to the brand-new Mytek Liberty DAC and its three-figure price: for $995, one could now own the equivalent of the original Mytek Brooklyn D/A processor, without that model's phono preamp—this according to the company's Adam Bielewicz, who served as my product-line guide on that sunny May day. And if it's true that the Liberty does more for less—the Brooklyn was introduced in 2011 at a price of $1795—then it also does more with less: the Liberty, which was designed in Brooklyn, New York, and is manufactured in Poland, measures just 5½" wide by 1¾" high by 8½" deep, minus knobs and connectors. That's approximately 35% smaller than the Brooklyn—and is, coincidentally, precisely the size of the paperback edition of Robert Evans's A (Brief) History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, which I recommend.

Like Mytek's other D/A processors, the Liberty is built around a 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC—in this case, an eight-channel ES9018K2M chip, which Mytek uses in double-balanced configuration for two-channel output. The Liberty's single USB input addresses an XMOS receiver chipset, and is the portal for the DAC's ultimate performance: PCM up to 24 bits and 384kHz, and native DSD up to DSD256. Via its other digital input jacks—one optical (TosLink), one AES-EBU (XLR), and two S/PDIF (RCA)—the Liberty handles PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz and up to DSD64 via DoP. Mytek claims for the Liberty a low 10ps of wordclock jitter and a big 129dB of dynamic range, the latter just 2dB less than the dynamic range claimed for the ES9018 chip itself.


Unlike the aforementioned and overachieving Brooklyn, the Liberty has neither an analog volume control nor analog inputs of any sort. The Liberty's output options are also fewer: It has one front-mounted ¼" stereo headphone jack instead of two, and while the Liberty has both single-ended and balanced outputs, the latter are three-conductor ¼" jacks, not the XLRs found on the Brooklyn (and on most other domestic electronics with balanced outs). The Liberty's single-ended outputs are RCA jacks, as per usual.

Otherwise, as Mytek's Michal Jurewicz confirmed in an e-mail, the Liberty is "more or less" the same as the original Brooklyn, though its "PCB and surroundings are a bit different." Those surroundings are impressive: The Liberty, which weighs only 3 lb, is built into an aluminum-and-steel enclosure, most exterior surfaces of which are painted in a dark-gray, textured semigloss. The top and bottom plates are machined with small cooling holes that also form the outlines of the company's stylized M logo—a touch that manages to be more classy than gaudy. Inside and out, the construction quality of my review sample was superb.

Installation and setup
To say that I installed the Mytek Liberty is puffery: I removed it from its nicely made carton and packing, plunked it down on the middle shelf of my Box Furniture D3S rack, and used its generic AC cord to connect to my Shindo Laboratory Mr. T power conditioner. Simple. As the Monkees once sang, I could teach a dog to do that.

For playing music files and streaming from Tidal, I connected my MacBook Air to the Mytek's USB input with a 1m-long AudioQuest Carbon USB link. Playback software was Roon v.1.5, build 339. To play CDs in my Sony SCD-777 SACD/CD player, pressed into service as a CD-only transport, I used a single 2m run of Luna Red interconnect from the Sony's S/PDIF digital output to one of the Mytek's two S/PDIF inputs. I relied on my well-worn Audio Note AN-Vx silver interconnect to go from the Liberty's single-ended analog outputs to the line inputs of my Shindo Monbrison preamp.


I set out to be the big-shot reviewer who doesn't need documentation to operate a consumer-grade DAC, but soon turned to the manual (download only) when I realized I didn't know how to wake the Mytek from standby. The Liberty had powered itself up as soon as I plugged in its power cord, as I could see from an illuminated LED on the left side of its front panel, but was otherwise unresponsive. As it turns out, the Liberty's sole user control—a knob on the right side of the front panel—is also a pushbutton: push and hold it in for a second or more to awaken the Liberty, upon which five more front-panel LEDs, arranged in a row, also light up. In use, the LED at far left, labeled MQA/DSD, indicates the type of file being played: orange for PCM, white for DSD, green for MQA, or blue for MQA files that have been approved or verified by the pertinent artist, producer, or copyright holder. The remaining five LEDs act as a bar indicator to display the volume-control setting: when all five glow red, the digital volume control is at full throttle and thus removed from the signal path.

In addition to their careers as volume-level indicators, those five part-time volume LEDs bear labels that correspond with the Liberty's five digital inputs: from left, USB, AES, S/PDIF 1, S/PDIF 2, TosLink. When the DAC is out of standby mode, briefly pushing the control knob illuminates the LED of the selected input; further pushes cycle through the inputs and LEDs until the desired one has been selected.

During the Liberty's time in my system, all of these control functions performed as described above. In particular, the file-indicator LED never failed to correctly identify the type of file being played. (Only a very few MQA files made the LED glow green instead of blue—make of that what you will.)

A mild caution: Roused from standby, the Mytek Liberty ran very warm to the touch. I don't think it will ignite your curtains, but I wouldn't go leaving CD cases or paperback books—or anything at all, really—atop its case. Just saying.

There are so many things that real music has in abundance but that playback technologies tend to miss: Color, as opposed to colorations. Naturally occurring textures, as opposed to artifacts. Physical force, as opposed to electronic bursts. The momentum and drive that tell us when music is alive with forward movement, not stagnant like a pond.

There's something else—a quality I admit to overlooking much of the time, simply because it's so painful when poorly done: crispness: These are the flashes of sound we hear as the attack components of notes—sounds that, in real life, last only long enough to assure our subconscious minds that we're hearing real music and not some grotesque imitation of same, but that in hi-fi linger long enough in the air to screech and keen and glare and make us wish we'd taken up stamp collecting instead.

Not only did the Mytek Liberty nail that realistic, just-enough crispness while playing some of my favorite music, it did so from the very first recording I played through it—and in doing so made possible the kind of involvement with the music that followed me into the next room and, I swear, almost made me dance. (I offer that description with apologies, timid in the knowledge that no one should ever, ever be made to watch or even imagine a middle-aged male dancing—not even another middle-aged male.)

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

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Give me Liberty or give me Kalista :-) .............

Robin Landseadel's picture

Try a Martin DRS2, beautiful sounding, a little dark, really well set up.

tonykaz's picture

DACs are not much differing in perceivable performance. Even Jason Stoddard has mentioned that DACs are boring. ( I think he's right )

It seems like Audiophile's mostly 24k Golden Ears struggle to describe significant performance differences in DACs.

Tyll's 2015 "Big Sound" Event in Montana had nobody pointing out one DAC as the Outperforming Design ( including the often praised but dirt cheap Yggy from Schiit ).

It seems to make sense that this $1000 DAC will please about as much as any other DAC out there.

I like the Mytek Liberty, I'd like it more if it were named the Warsaw but not enough to be inspired to impulse "Buy-It-Now". hmm.

Thanks for tell'n us about it.

Tony in Michigan

johnnythunder's picture

Because of ever changing digital tech, getting ahead of state of the art in DACs and streamers seems to be nearly impossible. I too think that DACs these days are all a little closer to state of the art than not within reason (DCS not withstanding.) As always, a preferred sonic signature will be available at all price ranges. If you like incisive without harshness, Mytek DACS are ideal. A similarly priced DAC that's to me a perfect blend of detail and warmth without venturing into overly euphonic coloration is the AYRE CODEX. Speaking of euphonic coloration I'm also intrigued about the Border Patrol DAC but havent had a chance to listen.

political_analyst's picture

Dudley, you review overpriced audio gear—gear that is the epitome of bling. Some self reflection in the future please, if you can manage. Thank you.

ok's picture

is almost a sacrilege when referring to a swearing..

oldbigears's picture

Dudley, thanks for your enjoyable review. I'm getting more and more interested in this DAC - you obviously like it.

But here's the did what most audio reviewers do, hoping nobody notices. Instead of comparing the Liberty with key competitors that anyone would cross-shop if they were in the market for the Liberty, you pick out a couple of irrelevant DAC's waaaaay outside the Liberty's bracket.

No comparison to Border Patrol, or RME, or appropriate Schiit models for example. And we all know why, don't we? You'd have to start ranking them, and that would obviously make the unfavored brands unhappy. So instead of that you do what you always do - you say something like "'s almost as good as xxx brand costing more than twice as much." So everyone's happy, right?

No hurt feelings. Everyone's a winner.

The trouble is, it makes the whole exercise a pointless sham - don't you agree?

Go on - tell us what you really think about this DAC. Be dangerous.

spyder1's picture

Mr. Dudley, a Editor for Stereophile Magazine, has years of experience writing articles and reviews. I like reading his articles, and find them informative. Art (Arthur) is his name, in case readers missed it.

oldbigears's picture

Apologies to Art. The use of his surname was entirely accidental but thanks for pointing out the error and correcting me. I'm delighted that you enjoy Art's comparisons and feel no reason to comment. I also enjoy his reviews, in spite of this facet of them. They would be more useful if the comparisons were realistic, in my personal opinion. But we've all got opinions, I grant you that.

political_analyst's picture

The world is grateful for your intervention, Mr. Manners. Where would we be without you?

oldbigears's picture

If that was a serious question directed at me - my guess is that you'd be with your head buried deep in the sand. Afraid of asking a simple question or pointing out a blatant truth.

I'm sure Mr Dudley doesn't mind the odd question that challenges his findings. If he does, that would be sad. But I suspect he'd prefer to do without the creepy protection of fan boys and speak for himself.

political_analyst's picture

Sorry, I must have clicked on a wrong reply button. The busybody is the one above who pestered you about calling out Dudley.

I’m with you on this one. Apologies for the mess.

misterc59's picture

From the comment about busybodies, it would seem the pot is calling the kettle black as that is exactly what a busybody would do. Websters has a great definition! Of course, my comment fits right in, but at least I'll admit that. Whether I agree with Mr. Dudley or not, I'll have the decency to address him with a bit of respect and common courtesy. I'm not in the habit of addressing someone by their last name, but I suppose someone with an axe to grind might, and you don't agree with someone's point view, then it seems all bets are off. I'm anxious to hear what vitriol I might receive in response!


oldbigears's picture

The use of Art's last name was accidental, apologies were offered several posts ago. Please relax and focus on the substance of the post, if you can manage to get past that typo. Thanks.

audiophool's picture

If you think that Art Dudley has earned your respect, that's good for both of you. His earning my respect is still work in progress. :))

Doctor Fine's picture

A good DAC really opens up the sound at the front end of your system.
Done right it puts life into the music.
Done poorly it wrecks everything that comes after it in your chain.
MQA is the new decoding scheme which Tidal in particular brings into your home---sometimes as a better sound if the stars are aligned.
This Mytek DAC is relatively affordable and does many things very well, including a low cost entry into all things MQA.
I will buy one as one of my internet systems is due for an update.
Thanks Art.
Nice review.

mrfn85's picture

I'm currently using a Metrum Acoustics Octave NOS dac. Is this the Mytek dac a better step up?

acuvox's picture

I love this test signal: "a crosspicking pattern in which two downstrokes are played in rapid succession, followed by a similarly rapid upstroke; the first note in each pair of downstrokes is played as a rest stroke—the plectrum comes to rest, however briefly, against the adjacent string as the note is played—giving that note a distinctive attack."

Most audio specifications are obsessed with frequency and spectrum, which is the defining characteristic of vowels or their musical equivalents, tones. Frequency spectrum implies a continuous, repetitive waveform idealized as superposition of sinusoids. (Fourier math only works if you integrate time from negative infinity to positive infinity, have infinite resolution and keep the complex phase space information intact)

Music, like speech, devotes 95% of the time and energy to vowels/tones; but the signalling information content of the other 5% is at least as important. These sounds are the consonants: how the tones start, stop and transition. Accurate reproduction of the musical expression means getting the waveforms and timing of the consonants correct, even when they are a fraction of a millisecond.

It is in this relatively un-explored area that many audio debates fall: analog vs. digital, SS vs. Tube and metal vs. fabric domes, high order vs. low order crossovers. Anti-aliasing makes it nearly impossible to follow musical consonants to the limits of hearing resolution digitally (around 3 microseconds). This is where over-sampling and ultra-low jitter come in, plus any other mathemagic discovered at Mytek, dcs, etc.

OTOH, CD aficionados have trained their hearing to pre-ringing and other digital artifacts that are "impossible to hear" according to the prevalent machine model of hearing, which has been distorting audiological research for 150 years since Helmholtz declared the cilia acted like tuning forks.

For that matter, every knob, function and plug-in that changes the sound of the signal inherently introduces temporal distortion. All processing, whether analog or digital, has to conflate more than one point in time of the original microphone signal and changes the waveforms of consonants. This is temporal distortion.

Audiophiles learned to by-pass tone controls, and yet practically all recordings use equalization, dynamic modification or delay operations (reverb and echo). All of these distort the musical consonants.

In fact, the act of mixing two microphone signals together or splitting one signal into left and right (panning) distorts the consonants and any natural reverb present in the recording; so mixing and mastering are distortion.

Kudos for escaping this vicious circle! Have to check out that recording.