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- Written by Erich Wetzel Erich Wetzel
- Category: Full-Length Equipment Reviews Full-Length Equipment Reviews
- Created: 15 July 2019 15 July 2019
In the late 1980s and early ’90s, Michal Jurewicz worked as a technical engineer at the Hit Factory and at Skyline Recording Studios, which were then two of New York City’s major studios (Skyline closed in 2012). During his time there, Jurewicz, a native of Warsaw, Poland, saw a need for high-quality digital conversion in the recording of music, and in 1992 established Mytek to design and build the required hardware. Early designs of his were used to record albums by David Bowie, Mariah Carey, Lou Reed, and others. Mytek is based in Brooklyn, New York; with Jurewicz as lead designer, it continues to serve the professional recording industry, and since 2011 has also catered to the consumer hi-fi market.
Mytek’s range includes the class-D Brooklyn Amp power amplifier ($2495; all prices USD), and five digital-to-analog converters that range from the Clef ($299) to the Manhattan DAC II ($5995). In addition to D/A conversion, some of these models offer headphone outputs, preamplifier circuits for line-level and phono inputs, and network streaming. The Brooklyn DAC+ falls in the middle of the line, at $2195, and serves as a DAC, a headphone amplifier, and a line-level or phono preamplifier, and is designed to be the centerpiece of a contemporary audio system.
True to Mytek’s roots in pro audio, the Brooklyn DAC+ is small, measuring only 8.5”W x 1.74”H x 8.5”D and weighing just 4 pounds. Solid and well built, it’s made in Mytek’s factory in Pruszków, Poland, and its connectors and controls have an excellent feel to them. It’s attractive, with a dimpled, 0.24”-thick faceplate of aluminum, available in black or the silver of my review sample. On this are two 1/4” headphone jacks, four unlabeled pushbuttons, a multicolor OLED display, a large volume/selector dial (the volume control can be bypassed for fixed output), and a backlit Mytek logo that the user can set to various colors and intensities. The bottom, side, and rear panels comprise a single folded sheet of dark-gray steel that’s secured with machine screws whose Phillips heads are left exposed. The top plate is emblazoned “BROOKLYN DAC+” near the front, while most of the rest of its surface is perforated with well over 100 small ventilation holes in a pattern that forms the Mytek logo.
The connections on the rear are comprehensive: stereo pairs of balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) analog outputs; a line input (RCA) that doubles as a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono input; an AES/EBU digital input (XLR); two S/PDIF coaxial 75-ohm inputs; Mytek’s “proprietary” USB 2.0 input; a TosLink optical input; a BNC word-clock input and output; a phono ground post; an IEC mains power inlet for the internal power supply; and a jack for DC/battery input if you use a third-party external power supply.
The AES/EBU and S/PDIF inputs accept up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM and DSD64. The USB input extends the resolution options to 32/384 PCM and DSD256, and is the DAC’s only input able to natively decode MQA datastreams. Professional features include the option to output any of the standard digital formats via USB to a computer, as well as the USB input being configured to allow multiple Brooklyn DAC+s to be connected in parallel for multichannel operation. The comprehensive, 24-page manual strongly suggests using the DAC+’s internal Mytek FemtoClock to take advantage of its specified jitter of 0.82 picosecond, though the word-clock input and output permit use of a single clock in order to sync multiple Brooklyns, if needed. The headphone outputs can deliver 500mA to a fully balanced pair of headphones via a special adapter that connects into both 1/4” outputs, or up to 6W each to two pairs of unbalanced ’phones.
The original Brooklyn DAC was released a couple years ago, and was reviewed by Vade Forrester for sister site SoundStage! Ultra. The “+” designation indicates a number of upgrades: for the D/A processing, an ESS Technology ES9028Pro Sabre chipset replaces ESS’s older ES9018 chipset; the attenuator circuit has been improved; the analog signal paths are now dual-mono; and there are improvements in the performance of the headphone output, phono stage, and analog input. The dynamic range of the “high-current, high-slew rate ultra-low-distortion, balanced” output is specified as 130dB. The Brooklyn DAC+ uses little power, considering all the processing going on inside. Mytek indicates that it burns about 24W at full tilt on a 230V line -- indeed, in use, my review sample got warm to the touch, but it won’t heat my listening room this winter. Still, those ventilation holes aren’t just for style -- I don’t advise covering them by stacking another component atop the Brooklyn.
Buyers with Windows computers connecting to the Brooklyn DAC+ via USB 2.0 will need to download the proper drivers from Mytek. Mac and Linux users can just plug it in and play with no additional effort. All users will need to periodically check for firmware updates, and install them using the Mytek Control Panel, available for Windows and MacOS on Mytek’s support page. This gives the user full control over the DAC+’s settings. I tend to keep my iMac music server running most of the time, putting it to sleep only between listening sessions. On my iMac, Control Panel periodically didn’t like this, and wouldn’t reconnect to the Brooklyn DAC+ until I did a full reboot of the computer. This didn’t affect the Mytek’s general use or sound, only Control Panel. I updated the firmware once during the review period -- it was as simple as downloading the proper update, making sure that Control Panel found the DAC, and running the update from Control Panel. The update took a few minutes to install, after which the Brooklyn DAC+ restarted without a problem.
Setting up and installing the Brooklyn DAC+ in my system was simple. I pulled out my Benchmark Media Systems DAC2 HGC and replaced it with the Mytek, using exactly the same connections. My Apple iMac computer sent to the Mytek digital signals, streamed from Tidal or played by iTunes, via a Nordost Blue Heaven USB link. Via Dynamique Audio Shadow balanced (XLR) interconnects, the Brooklyn DAC+’s balanced analog output was sent to my Audio Research D300 power amplifier, which drove my new KEF R11 loudspeakers (they replace my KEF R900s) through Transparent Audio MusicWave Ultra speaker cables. Into the DAC+’s front-panel phone jack I plugged my NAD Viso HP70 headphones and ran them in passive mode.
All of that was simple, and as soon as it was done I could easily have begun playing music. But before doing any listening, I wanted to try the Brooklyn DAC+’s myriad options. I enjoy playing with all the adjustable features available on some current DACs. For the review period, I set up the Brooklyn DAC+ to: mute the main outputs if headphones were connected; enable the MQA decoder (this setting locks the PCM filtering to “minimum phase”); use the volume control’s digital rather than its analog attenuator; center the balance; use IIR filtering in accordance with the signal rate for DSD playback; choose my preferred color and brightness for the Mytek logo and display; set the time to cycle from the detailed information screen (which displays the digital signal input detail, signal-level graphs, peak and average signal, and some feature selectors) to the basic screen; display auto off; and, finally, respond to the included Apple remote control instead of to a generic RC-5 controller.
The Brooklyn DAC+ offers 11 filters: seven for PCM signals, four for DSD. The PCM filters are: fast and slow rolloff, minimum phase; hybrid fast rolloff, minimum phase; fast and slow rolloff, linear phase; apodizing, fast rolloff, linear phase; and brickwall. DSD filters: Auto, which changes depending on the incoming DSD rate (Mytek highly recommends using this), as well as low, medium, and high IIR filters that respectively roll off at 47, 60, and 70kHz. Fed an MQA signal, the DAC+ defaults to a minimum-phase filter, and none of the 11 filters just listed are then available. For PCM listening I used the fast- and slow-rolloff, minimum-phase filters, which sounded the most natural to me.
During my time with the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, “Blood on the Rooftops,” from Genesis’s 1976 album Wind & Wuthering (16-bit/44.1kHz AIFF, Atco), came up on random playback. I was impressed by the Brooklyn’s ability to gradually reveal the size of the soundstage, beginning with Steve Hackett’s closely miked acoustic guitar centered between the speakers, the apparent space then growing to accommodate Phil Collins’s subtle and melancholy singing, and eventually extending past the outer side panels of my KEF R11s as the entire band joins in for fortissimo passages. The reverb added to Collins’s voice in the more forceful choruses pushed him to the rear of the stage and gave a convincing impression of depth. It was easy to spatially locate specific aspects of this track, such as the strings of Hackett’s guitar in the intro, though that was partially because the close miking of the instrument made it seem larger than life. Indeed, each string pluck hung in a space all its own. The Brooklyn DAC+’s sound was mildly laid-back, Hackett sounding as if he was playing his guitar just behind the plane described by the speakers’ front baffles, and Collins’s voice seemingly dozens of feet behind that when the whole band was going strong. This generally quiet recording felt very intimate.
I was looking for more of this “almost-there” feeling of intimacy when, playing new releases on Tidal, I came across a single by Nina Kinert, “Original Sun on a Grand Harp” (16/44.1 FLAC, Ninkina), a late-2018 remake of “Original Sun on a Grand Piano,” from her album Romantic, released early that year, with a concert harp replacing the original’s concert grand. The intensity of this performance immediately struck me. Her voice and Stina Hellberg Agback’s harp were recorded in what sounds like a fairly large, reflective -- i.e., lively -- venue, and the Brooklyn DAC+ transported me there, my own room seeming to expand until it was big enough to provide a reverberation time long enough to reproduce the reflected sounds of voice and harp. Sibilants were rendered smoothly, with no hint of aggression or sharpness, and while Kinert’s mouth sounds were very much audible during playback, they didn’t overwhelm or detract from her silky-smooth voice. The sound of Agbeck’s harp surrounded and supported Kinert’s voice with copious bass and pleasant, extended airiness, and the Mytek let me enjoy the performance without overtly focusing on transients, sibilance, and microdetail. The Brooklyn DAC+ seemed to transport Kinert and Agbeck into my room -- at the end of the session, I worried that I might have to throw them out.
Figuring some good industrial electronica might show what the Mytek could do with heavier, power-sucking, crazy-loud content, I played “A Million,” from VNV Nation’s Noire (16/44.1 FLAC, Anachron Sounds/Tidal). As singers Collins and Kinert just had, now Ronan Harris seemed to stand there in my listening room, his voice entirely detached from my tall KEF floorstanders. Next came the bass line, and did it ever hit hard. Driving midbass beats were articulate and virile, with hi-hats and other percussion sounds well presented without glare or sizzle. For all its musicality, the Brooklyn DAC+ wasn’t as precise in stereo imaging or as eager in attacks and decays as I prefer with electronica. Bass slam was present, but the Mytek offered just a little less of the urgency that can make electronica so compelling. That said, there are elements of this track that I felt more than heard through the Mytek, the Brooklyn DAC+ presenting a more relaxed version of VNV’s sound than I’m used to hearing.
Tidal has released quite a few MQA titles under its Masters moniker. The Brooklyn DAC+ automatically detects and natively decodes MQA signals, and its display lets you know it’s doing so by lighting up a green or blue dot next to the MQA logo, green signifying generic MQA signal processing, and blue that the incoming signal is an MQA Studio file that, per the manual, “has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner.” From an entertaining 2018 collection of keyboard works by J.S. Bach performed by Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, I selected the Andante from the Trio Sonata for Organ No.4 in E Minor, BWV 528, in a transcription by August Stradal (24/96 MQA, Deutsche Grammophon/Tidal). The sound was enticing -- Ólafsson’s every note had a fleshed-out solidity, and, like the voices I’d heard earlier, gave a wonderful sensation of presence in my listening room. However, I found the uniformity of the sound a bit strange. I missed the tinniness of high notes, and the lumbering vibrations in the left-hand notes as waves of energy wandered up and down his instrument’s longest, deepest-pitched strings. This let me focus better on the music itself, but I found myself wondering where some of the performance’s “noise” and low-level detail had gone. The Mytek reproduced a couple of other tracks from this collection in similar fashion, so I believe that what I heard was at least partially due to the album’s engineering, and that the Brooklyn DAC+ was allowing me to hear that.
With its DAC stage bypassed, the Brooklyn DAC+ can also function as only a preamplifier through the use of its single-ended RCA inputs. Having already run my computer into the Brooklyn’s digital USB input, I tested its analog input using my Benchmark DAC2 HGC as a source, and found its sound less engaging than when I’d used it as a combination DAC-preamp plugged directly into my ARC D300 power amp. Used as a preamp only, the Mytek still produced wide soundstages on which voices and instruments were located clearly but those stages were shallower than when its DAC stage was in circuit. “Always On My Mind,” from the Pet Shop Boys’ live album Inner Sanctum (16/44.1 FLAC, Sony Japan/Tidal), was flatter from front to back. Nonetheless, bass slam remained solid, and the Mytek continued to impress me with the evenhandedness of its reproduction of the midrange and upper octaves -- nothing was glaring or too forward. My reference preamplifier, a Hegel Music Systems P20, presented deeper soundstages and a more fleshed-out personality to Neil Tennant’s voice, and overall this live recording had a more open sound than through the Mytek.
The Brooklyn DAC+’s headphone output mimicked its sound through my other electronics and speakers. Collins’s voice in Genesis’s “Blood on the Rooftops” again sounded distant while being nicely fleshed out, while Hackett’s guitar was sublimely intimate and present. Nina Kinert may as well have been whispering in my ear -- I heard her every sibilant and nuance as she softly spoke-sang. VNV Nation’s “A Million” was less impactful than through my speakers, in a way that reminded me of a radio station’s compression of dynamic range. Bass bloom through headphones was similar to what I’d heard through speakers, again leaning more toward rounded fullness than impact and slam. Finally, Ólafsson’s piano suffered from the same absence of action sounds -- moving keys and levers, hammers striking strings -- that I’d heard through my KEF towers, though this was offset by impressive sensations of space and tonal density. In short, the sound of the Brooklyn DAC+’s headphone output was very satisfying, especially in its similarity to the Mytek’s sound through my other electronics and speakers.
I compared the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ with my reference DAC, a Benchmark Media Systems DAC2 HGC ($1995, discontinued). The two models are nearly identical in size, appearance, and feature set. Both have analog inputs, a multitude of digital inputs, two headphone outputs, and the ability to process high-resolution PCM and DSD signals. Of the two, however, only the Mytek offers a variety of PCM and DSD filters, native MQA decoding, the option of reassigning the analog input as a phono input, and greater overall customization.
Sonically, the Benchmark is a totally different animal from the Mytek. The DAC2 HGC has always been a highly resolving processor, and is more analytical than the Brooklyn DAC+ -- if it’s on the recording, you’ll hear it through the Benchmark. Steve Hackett’s guitar, and the instruments of the other members of Genesis, definitely sounded more vibrant and forward through the Benchmark than through the Mytek, and the soundstage was somewhat wider but shallower. Similarly, everything about the Kinert single was brighter and harder-edged through the DAC2 HGC, and her voice was more sibilant -- and that was a bit distracting after having spent so many hours listening to the Brooklyn DAC+’s smooth overall character. The VNV Nation track was precise and vivid through the Benchmark, with bass lines that were sharper, with more slam and visceral impact. Sans MQA through the Benchmark, the Andante from the Bach trio sonata was more dynamic, with some of the piano’s mechanical sounds, and thus its life, restored, if at the expense of tonal body and harder edges in the upper octaves in comparison with the Mytek.
The Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ and Benchmark DAC2 HGC are both excellent examples of the current state of the art of digital-to-analog processors costing about $2000. The Mytek’s sound let me focus more on the broader musical performance; the Benchmark let me focus on the mechanics and details of music making.
Mytek’s Brooklyn DAC+ convincingly re-created in my listening room the sound of recording after recording, with wide, deep soundstages (when the recording contained that information), and voices reproduced with fabulous senses of presence and palpability. If you favor musicality over low-level analysis, the Brooklyn DAC+ is for you. Technical fiddlers like me will love that Mytek has stuffed an extraordinary amount of customization into the DAC+’s tiny case, offering a wide variety of filters and options that let listeners tailor the sound of this multifunction DAC to their taste. Beyond its digital prowess, however, its built-in preamplifier, analog and phono inputs, and high-quality headphone outputs make a compelling argument for the audiophile on a budget to strongly consider buying a Brooklyn DAC+ to serve as the centerpiece of a modern stereo system.
. . . Erich Wetzel
- Loudspeakers -- KEF R11
- Headphones -- NAD Viso HP70
- Preamplifier -- Hegel Music Systems P20
- Amplifier -- Audio Research D300
- Source -- Apple iMac computer running MacOS 10.11.6, iTunes, Tidal HiFi
- Digital-to-analog converter -- Benchmark Media Systems DAC2 HGC
- Speaker cables -- Transparent Audio MusicWave Ultra
- Analog interconnects -- Dynamique Audio Shadow (XLR), Transparent Audio MusicLink Super (RCA)
- Digital link -- Nordost Blue Heaven (USB)
Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ DAC-Preamplifier-Headphone Amplifier
Price: $2195 USD.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.
148 India Street, First Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Phone: (347) 384-2687