Musetec (LKS) MH-DA005 DAC

Some history: I was the OP on a four year old thread about the Chinese LKS MH-DA004 DAC. It achieved an underground buzz. The open architecture of its predecessor MH-DA003 made it the object of a lot of user mods, usually to its analog section, rolling op amps or replacing with discrete. The MH-DA004 with its new ESS chips and JFET analog section was called better then the modified older units. It has two ES9038pro DAC chips deliberately run warm, massive power supply, powered Amanero USB board, JFET section, 3 Crystek femtosecond clocks, Mundorf caps, Cardas connectors, etc., for about $1500. For this vinyl guy any reservation about ESS chips was resolved by the LKS implimentaion, but their revelation of detail was preserved, something that a listener to classic music especially appreciated. I made a list of DACs (many far more expensive) it was compared favorably to in forums. Modifications continued, now to clocks and caps. Components built to a price can be improved by costlier parts and the modifiers wrote glowingly of the SQ they achieved.

Meanwhile, during the 4 years after release of the MH-DA004, LKS (now Musetec) worked on the new MH-DA005 design, also with a pair of ES9038pro chips. This time he used more of the best components available. One torroidal transformer has silver plated copper. Also banks of super capacitors that act like batteries, solid silver hookup wire, 4 femtoclocks each costing multiples of the Crysteks, a revised Amanero board, more of the best European caps and a new partitioned case. I can't say cost NO object, but costs well beyond. A higher price, of course. Details at

The question, surely, is: How does it sound? I'm only going to answer indirectly for the moment. I thought that the MH-DA004 was to be my last DAC, or at least for a very long time. I was persuaded to part with my $$ by research, and by satisfaction with the MH-DA004. Frankly, I have been overwhelmed by the improvement; just didn't think it was possible. Fluidity, clarity, bass extension. A post to another board summed it up better than I can after listening to piano trios: "I have probably attended hundreds of classical concerts (both orchestral and chamber) in my life. I know what live sounds like in a good and bad seat and in a good and mediocre hall. All I can say is HOLY CRAP, this sounds like the real thing from a good seat in a good hall. Not an approximation of reality, but reality."


@debjit_g I was just using an expensive laptop. Lots of people wouldn't believe me that I could run Windows Server 2016 on a laptop. With Jplay.


@lordmelton i actually suspected but you just confirmed. I can see why you would prefer the n20. A laptop is not going to do much. Running Windows and jplay is just one piece of the puzzle, choosing the right h/w and power supply is another. Anyway, I think we are digression from the main thread, so back to 005 for listening impressions:-)

I just read an interesting comparison between 005 and May.


I currently have both 005 and May. The May just edges it in most areas by a small margin, with the exception of layer separation, stage width and depth where the May is significantly better.


@debjit_g Lots of people will have opinions and there will be strengths and differences. I haven't heard the May neither the Terminator but by what I've seen online these two together with the 005 are all well deserved.

Other considerations will persist however. I chose the 005 because I wanted the very best value for money SINGLE box DAC. Same decision pointed me to the Aurender N20 instead of the N30. For several reasons I need to live in my condo presently and space is limited.

I know the Termy is a single box but a big one and it really needs the DDC too.

I'd love to check out the Pass Labs 3 box pre-amp but I'd need to move the wife out.

The philosophy that has always been set in stone in this thread by @melm and all the usual suspects is listen to the May and if you think it's better buy it. If not get the 005 and pocket the extra $3k.

An extra $3k spent on the 005 makes it difficult to beat otherwise you've turned the May into a $10k DAC. Fine if you want to spend that and have the space.

That comment from the link and quoted by debjit_g, saying the May, a DAC that has not beat other DACs in the width and depth of stage, makes me think the 005 may not of been fully broken-in in that comparison. 


This post comparing the Musetec and the Holo May was by teknorob23. He had earlier written here that he preferred the Musetec to the $13,400 Mola Mola Tambaqui. And, of course, I’m certain based on a lot of reading on the subject that some will prefer the Tambaqui.

I’m beginning to think even more seriously seriously about what he and others have written that there are a number of DACs in this "class" and the choice will very much depend on preferences and associated components.

There are no winners; there are no losers.

The May verses the 005 seems to be discussed on a few threads here. I just posted this on one of those threads:

@Technorob said: “I currently have both 005 and May. The May just edges it in most areas by a small margin, with the exception of layer separation, stage width and depth where the May is significantly better.”

I will throw in my thoughts. I can definitely see Technorob’s point of view on “layer separation, stage width and depth” being different on the May, but not better. (To my old ear, the other aspects were not “just edged[s]” out by the May but  too close to call.)

It is a matter of perspective, double entendre intended. Many, if not most audiophiles, highly value layer separation, stage width and depth. The underlying frame of reference for most is probably amplified non-acoustic electronically produced music that exists only in recordings, not in real space. Big clear layering and sound stage sounds great with a lot of non-accoustic recorded music and will be preferred by many.

In my opinion, the May does, compared to the 005,  provide an unreal feel of spacial separation and distance at the same time. This is like seeing an image get bigger as you walk further away. As a real concert goer, this is a distortion, even though many will love the effect. It also gains separation by missing natural sound between instruments

I will explain. My perspective is what I hear at a live unamplified concert. If you want maximum separation of instruments and voices, you would have to be very close to the stage if not actually on it. Even then the sound would only be sharply separated and layered if you were listening with your head physically in between instruments. 

Realistic perspective is similar in both sight and sound. When you walk closer to a destination the visual details in you visual field naturally become more visible and separate. It’s the same with sound. When you walk closer to the stage, the sound field gets bigger and instruments sound further apart in space. There is some layering partly depending on your elevation, but nothing in the realm of “audiophile” layering. Sound naturally blends together in the real world. Yes, 3-d palpability exists in the real world, but not in the way many audiophiles love or imagine. 

I said this in my review:

. . . I said in the review I would report back after a few weeks. I hesitated to do that because the more I listened the more it confirmed my initial impressions stated in the review. I would not change my basic conclusions. I have very little to add. I would add this. Over time I felt I was missing musical information when I listened to the May. At times the May seemed to allow more space between instruments or musicians which at first I believed to be a good thing. I came to realize that this was because the May was omitting sound to get this effect. Much like an artist using charcoal shade to create a 3d effect. I decided to sell the May. Not because it is objectively inferior, but it does not satisfy my preference for realism which comes from concert going experience. Different strokes for different folks.