Since early Mytek Brooklyn units did not yet provide MQA possibilities due to licensing agreements and since there were user reports of issues with the first batches produced, we wanted to wait a little longer before we bought our unit (I bought the unit under review for personal use) so we could provide you with a complete review of a flawless Mytek Brooklyn, including a review of MQA possibilities.
Mytek is a rather “young” company – only around since 2011 – but ever since, they made quite a big impression. The headquarters of Mytek is located in Brooklyn, New York – hence the name for this component – and the main engineer is technical genius Michal Jurewicz. Production is done in Poland.
In the beginning they were acclaimed mostly in the pro audio world for their very high quality AD converters and master clocks. But more recently they also gained a lot in reputation amongst hifi and high end audio enthousiasts with their decent quality DAC solutions, such as the Mytek Digital Stereo 192 DSD DAC as their former “budget” reference, and the Manhattan DAC as their top-of-the-line digital-to-analog-converter. The Mytek Brooklyn is a step-up from the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC, while it shares more similarities with their flagship, the Manhattan DAC.
The looks and build quality of the Mytek Brooklyn DAC are just stunning. The Brooklyn uses the same type of beautifully crafted face plate as the Manhattan and has the same type of display, which are both much more appealing than the very basic face plate & display of the 192 Stereo DSD DAC. Plus, the Brooklyn has got some more extra “visual” features. For instance, you can change the colour of both the display and the Mytek logo, and change their brightness settings. This is convenient to match the Brooklyn with the visual style of other equipment. If these lights bother you, you can just turn them off completely, which is what I did during this review. With the Stereo 192 DSD DAC, when choosing this setting, there was always a little dot visible on the front panel which indicated the DAC was turned on. With the Brooklyn, when all lights are off, I mean they are ALL off. There is no visual indication whatsoever to see if the Mytek is running or not, apart from the music that is playing, or when you re-activate the display by hitting the remote or pressing a button on the front panel. I like this a lot. No distraction, only focus on the music!
The DAC chip used by the Mytek Brooklyn is a ESS Sabre 9018K2M converter chip, while the Stereo 192 DSD DAC had an older ESS Sabre 9016 on board. The master clock is also much better than the one found in the Stereo 192 DSD. The Brooklyn is equipped with a proprietary clock, the Mytek Femto clock Generator™, with a claimed internal jitter of only 0.82 pico seconds. The DAC offers a resolution up to 32 bit / 384kHz PCM, and native DSD up to DSD256 (= quad DSD).
The Mytek Brooklyn has got A LOT of connection possibilities. As a matter of fact, as far as we know, it is the most versatile dac on the market today. Apart from being a stand-alone dac, it also has full preamplifier capabilities, with an analog and digital volume control, two dedicated headphone outputs, an RCA line input which can also act as a dedicated phono preamp and it is the first non-Meridian component that offers native MQA decoding. There is even a choice of power supply: a standard 100 – 240 V socket, or a 12V DC input. The latter can hook up the Mytek Brooklyn to an external lineair power supply or – for best performance according to Michal from Mytek – a battery. Digital connections include: USB2 (Class 2), AES/EBU, 2x S/PDIF, SDIF3 (DSD), Toslink/ADAT and World Clock input/output.
First conclusion: this is an ideal DAC to partner with a multiple source setup, where both analog and digital aficionado’s have plenty of choice. Because this DAC has so much to offer, the Brooklyn can also become the heart of a more minimalist setup.
For this review I used my Oppo 103D as cd transport, connected to the Brooklyn with the latest love cable SPDIF cable. Power is fed to the Oppo with a custom-made love cable power cable. The Brooklyn is fed with the latest love cable power cable, and later in the reviewing process a HDPlex 100W lineair power supply was added. Standard resolution (no FLAC, only WAV/AIFF, 16 bit/44Khz) and high resolution audio files (DSF, SACD ISO files and AIF/WAV files up to 24/192) are rendered with Jriver Media Center 22 on a dedicated audio PC with PPA Studio USB V1 card, PPA Studio Red SATA cable for the SSD & PICO PSU for internal power handling, HD-PLEX 100W lineair PSU for external power handling, running Windows 10 and Fidelizer Pro. The PC is hooked up to the Mytek via an Audioquest Diamond usb cable. Vinyl playback was done with a restored/revised Thorens TD 124 with SME 3009 MKII tonearm, Clearaudio Maestro V2 cartrigde, Clearaudio headshell & Cardas arm cables. Phono cable is also love cable. The power cable of the Thorens is the stock cable. I used only the balanced (XLR) outputs of the Brooklyn, hooked up directly to my 2 modified/upgraded Fostex Laboratory Series 600 power amps which are used as mono blocks. XLR cables & speaker cables are also the latest incarnations of love cable. The monoblocks are powered via love cable reference power cables and have got a Synergistic Research black fuse on board. The Fostex monoblocks feed a pair of completely restored Kef Reference 105.3 loudspeakers connected with the latest love cable loudspeaker cables. All power is filtered via an Isotek Gemini GII extension block.
The first things I noticed on the Mytek Brooklyn were the lower noise floor, the clear presentation and the bass definition. In comparison with the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC, when listening to Marcin Wasilewski Trio “Faithful” (cd, ECM records, 2011) Marcin’s piano is portrayed on a much more silent background, being able to better follow every note, and even the bass has a better definition, although this is not the best recording to test bass qualities. The Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC already performed excellent regarding bass control and definition, the Brooklyn adds even more improvement. Also, every hit on the piano, every strike on the toms and the shimmering of the cymbals all have got a much better attack & decay, which is quite impressive. The attack is both fast and impactful, the decay seems to go on forever, every note played reverberating until it slowly fades out.
When we move on to Anouar Brahem “Thimar” (WAV, 16 bit/44 Khz, ECM, 1998), on the song “Qurb” my early observations are confirmed. Dave Holland’s bass is more defined and refined. Also on this recording, the background is more silent, more “black” than with the Stereo 192 DSD dac. A new finding: the Oud of Brahem is rendered with more resolution, I’m better able to differentiate every string played, every accent, every nuance with better dynamics and more refinement. Also on this recording, the improvement in attack & decay is obvious when the Oud is playing, giving a faster and more alive presentation of this Middle Eastern stringed instrument.
Let’s check some DSD. 2L is a reference record label in regards of “classical music” in its broadest sense. The album SPESS by Cantus & Frode Fjellheim (2L, DSD128, 2015) now has got a more clear presentation, with every voice more easily noticeable, better able to follow the pronunciation of every word. Stereo image is more open and wider, both in width as in depth, with the choir having a better place in space. Also, the acoustics of the recording space are better portrayed than on the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD dac. All these characteristics add realism to the performance, having the feeling of actually being there.
Also a noticeable improvement over the 192 stereo DSD DAC is the presentation of voices. They are represented in a much more realistic way, more alive, more fleshed out. I had the same experience with about every decent vocal recording. For instance, when playing the Muddy Waters album “Folk Singer” (MFSL, 1993) he is almost literally singing and playing guitar right here in my living room.
When listening to Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass “Speak Love” (Pablo Records, 1983 – 1987, Fantasy, Inc.), on the title track it was a real surprise to notice another quality of the Mytek Brooklyn: there was such profound reverb applied on Ella’s voice, a characteristic of this recording I was not able to hear on my former Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC. So, the Brooklyn is quite good at reproducing room acoustics and microphone effects. Also, when watching television on my Panasonic ST60 or watching a movie via my Oppo 103D this characteristic became quite apparent, which pleased me a lot.
I’ve listened to the Mytek Brooklyn a lot in the past couple of months. In my opinion, Mytek achieved a nice balance in sound characteristics. For instance, the Brooklyn is quite accurate. It can dig up the finest of details on recordings and present the musical image with a decent amount of resolution. But never does this become over-pronounced or analytical. It never detracts from the sonic presentation. Further, the Brooklyn is very neutral & balanced in the complete frequency spectrum, a characteristic also found in the 192 Stereo DSD DAC. But this neutrality never becomes dull or lifeless. Actually, these characteristics of the Mytek do the exact opposite: they draw you deeper in the music, being able to better follow what’s going on, achieving greater listening involvement, adding realism to the performance that is being reproduced.
MYTEK BROOKLIN PHONO INPUT
Instead of using the provided RCA inputs as analog line inputs, you can also use them as phono inputs to to hook up a turntable. The provided phono stage is compatible with both MM & MC cartridges. I only tested the phono stage with a moving magnet cartridge: a Clearaudio Maestro V2 cartridge.
When comparing the phono stage with my “budget reference”, the Lehman Audio Black Cube statement, the Brooklyn is clearly better. When comparing the Brooklyn phono stage with more expensive phono stages, there is no definite winner. In these price ranges a lot has got to do with taste rather than absolute truth. What does strike me, the characteristics found in the DAC are also apparent in the phono part of the Brooklyn: the phono stage is very neutral (which gives me more “absolute truth” than very expensive units that alter or color aspects of the sound, but that’s personal taste, right?). Further, the phono input portrays the same fast attack and a long decay found in the DAC part of the Brooklyn, presents voices in an equal lively and natural manner, and adds more than enough resolution to dig up inner details. To my ears, this phono stage is more than adequate in sustaining my vinyl passion and lets me enjoy every black disc I spin. When considering this phono stage is a bonus that comes at no additional cost, why bother buying another separate phono stage. Would you be more satisfied? I don’t think so. The phono stage of the Brooklyn does an excellent job.
MYTEK BROOKLYN HEADPHONE OUTPUT
In my setup the headphone output on my Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC always had a faint background noise. This is not the case with the headphone outputs of the Mytek Brooklyn. They are both dead quiet. (2 outputs are provided so you can hook up 2 headphones at once or use an adapter to hook up a pair of balanced headphones).
All of the improvements I found in the Brooklyn DAC when listening through loudspeakers are displayed equally well on my headphones: on my modified Sennheiser HD-25-1 II and in comparison with the Mytek stereo 192 DSD dac, music is reproduced on a much more silent, black background, with more headroom to the music and better separation of each instrument. In comparison with the Mytek 192 stereo DSD DAC, the musical presentation has added realism, increase in (bass) control, more tranquility and the overal music is reproduced with more detail which adds finesse & delicacy. On “Changing Places” by Tord Gustavson Trio (ECM records 2003, bought from HDTracks in WAV, 44.1 Khz/16 bit) the piano is portrayed in a much more realistic manner than on the Stereo 192 DSD DAC, with a much better attack & decay, much more definition & resolution, being able to better follow and differentiate each note that is played, with much better dynamics. This all contributes to the musical involvement. Bass is as tight & controlled as I’ve ever heard on my trusty Sennheiser. On “Going Places” when the bass does a solo, you can hear every strike and pluck, you hear every snare vibrate, and there is an increase in microdetail. I can now hear Harald Johnsen breathing every time he begins a new sentence on his instrument. The drums are reproduced with these same qualities. When the toms are played, you can better hear the skin of the instrument vibrating, and reverberating after each strike. Hits of the bass drum are more impactful & cymbals are crystal clear & silky smooth. Such a treat for my cans.
The addition of a MQA converter makes the Brooklyn even more future proof. Within a couple of years MQA is said to replace current streaming content, providing better sound quality in a smaller file size than currently available. Since we love new technologies, we had to do some testing. 2L is at the forefront of this technology and on their website they provide free samples in different formats, MQA included. I downloaded “Kyrie” from the aforementioned album SPESS and compared the DSD128 with the MQA version. The latter has got a broader stereo image, better able to differentiate each singer in space. In regards of resolution, there was a reduction of resolution in the MQA file. Due to the different separation and stereo imaging, you seem to hear everything more “clear” and detailed, thus believing the file has more resolution, which it has not.
This is merely a trick MQA pulls of, tricking our brain into perceiving sound differently. I am not sure if listening to MQA is such a marvel. It might even do more damage than good when this would become “reference” for certain listeners, whilst not being able to listen to decent quality WAV/AIF/DSD anymore, or differentiate AIF/WAV/DSD as superior. Unfortunately there are many listeners who prefer MP3 over losless files (many blind tests have proven this fact). These listeners find MP3 more pleasing, although objectively AIF/WAV/DSD is clearly superior.
I like things the way they should be, keeping my audio chain “pure”, also at the source. For instance: I don’t listen to flac since this is a compressed format, although it is lossless. The file size of a flac file is about half the file size (or even less) than the file size of an uncompressed WAV (direct copy from CD). Furthermore, a 16bit /44 KHz flac file has an average bitrate between 500 & 900 Mbps (megabit per second). An uncompressed WAV/AIF has a constant bitrate of 1411 Mbps (megabit per second). That is why mastering engineers never store their digital masters in flac, but use uncompressed wave or AIFF (generally in much higher resolutions like 24 bit/192 Khz) or DSD, before converting to 16/44, the redbook standard to fit the cd medium. So FLAC is NOT “cd quality” as it is portrayed by streaming services and the likes. This is merely a marketing technique into persuading more subscribers. When you want to rip your cd collection accurately, FLAC is not the way to do it as it does not comply to the Redbook standard for cd’s. Audiophiles claiming they want to reproduce “faithful to the source” should listen AIFF, WAV or DSD, and not to FLAC. The same applies for MQA. The originally recorded file size is shrunk into a smaller file, adding information into the file about how the file should be reproduced on a MQA capable device. This is merely tricking the brain. Not the way it should be. Not faithful to the source. But of course, this is my opinion. I can understand that for a lot of people MQA could be convenient because of the smaller file size (and claimed high quality) when using streaming services. But I’m afraid MQA is yet another marketing technique of the industry, another way to make profit.
As a side note regarding being faithful to the source: many audiofiles are not faithful to the source anyway, because they love for instance the colouration of their speakers or equipment, not being able to reproduce a recording truthful, neutral or accurate. It all depends on what kind of listener you are. It’s what you like best. And that might be just the opposite of what I’m reflecting here.
During my review period I listened a lot of music through the Brooklyn. Differences with the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD dac are easily noticeable and they are all an improvement. The Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC was a very good dac at the time it came out. I would even dare to say it was one of the best DAC’s in its price class at the time, especially considering it was one of the first dac’s to offer native DSD decoding. The Brooklyn continues the Mytek tradition, being at the forefront of technological revolution. Besides being a very high quality dac, it is the first non-Meridian component to offer MQA. If you add the preamplifier functionalities, the phono input, balanced headphone output and the availability of resolutions up to 32 bit / 384kHz PCM and native DSD up to DSD256, this DAC is world class material and can be obtained for a down to earth price.
The Mytek Brooklyn costs 1.995. euro / 1.995 $, and can be bought via direct order on Mytek’s website, or via an authorized dealer. At the moment of writing, no other DAC in this price class comes anywhere near such craftmanship, such sound quality and such versatile implementation. Therefore, a deep and respectful bow to Mr. Michal Jurewicz for a job extremely well done.