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."


There is an extreme hostility over at ASR that I don't comprehend .  I re-posted a comment here that I originally posted there. The comment was largely censored and I was excoriated.  It was at 249: 

I edited your hilarious post for just the humdingers—although it was hard to remove a single word, because the entire piece was so perfect in its unabridged form. I think it’s just hysterical that you actually question whether those of us on this forum actually listen to or appreciate music!

To answer your final question (which I suspect was meant to be rhetorical), this DAC sounds like crap, especially for its price. We know that as surely as we can tell from an EKG if someone has an irregular heart rhythm without using a stethoscope to hear it with our own ears. The measurements confirm that there are noise and distortion present, and no one with an ounce of common sense would bother going through the trouble and expense to listen to these defects to confirm.

You apparently made your choice before this data was available, and no one would judge you for that—not even if you loved the sound. But everyone on here knows you’re getting so bent out of shape only because your denial is so impenetrable that you can’t accept the truth. Where you warrant judgment is in your efforts to demean those of us on this forum who value science and data informing our purchase decisions, implying that we’re a bunch of unenlightened, cerebral rubes who have no appreciation for music.

I can think of nothing more irresponsible in this hobby than trying to gaslight others into making your own extremely costly mistake, just so you’ll feel better about it. There’s been a lot of it on this forum today, and it’s such a killjoy for those of us who are here to learn and share good information with other like-minded hobbyists.


I totally get the rational of @toddk31 of returning the DAC. I may have done the same thing if I were in his shoes.

I look at it this way. I am lucky I bought the DAC and listened before these measurements issues arose. Reason being I was in the camp that my gear has to  both measure well and also sound good to me. I likely would have returned the DAC.

However, today I have a changed my view on the measurements as a main criteria for keeping gear. The 005 has shown me that it is not the most important factor. BTW - I said this on the ASR 005 thread and people got offended, mainly because I heard differences in DACs.

I am still looking to buy a second Black 005. I have a 3rd Sonore OpticalRendu on it's way to my home from another A'gon poster who was selling it. That will be used with the 2nd 005 I want to get. I will be using 3 DACs with 3 OpticalRendu's.

Ok "The ESS Hump", apparently all ESS chips have this hump and is well known throughout the industry.

Most people agree it’s inaudible but some others claim they can hear it but give no description regarding what it sounds like.

It cannot be fixed by software or firmware, it needs capacitors installed to fix it, if it needs to be fixed at all.

IMHO it’s a solution looking for a problem. Maybe the ESS 9039 new chips which were launched just a few days ago will not have this issue, they also support MQA final unwrapping too.

@melm Since you have such a good relationship with Jinbo maybe he could find out if this hump is present in the new chips. ESS has manufacturing and research facilities in China. If they don’t then this could be very much turned into a positive if Musetec could give the option of upgrading chips, at a cost of course, for those so interested.

@dbb "EKG if someone has an irregular heart rhythm without using a stethoscope to hear it with our own ears."

I basically said on ASR... Said person with arrythmia can also run faster, jump higher and lift more weight then person without arrythmia. So what does the presence of said arrythmia mean then?

So is a heart rate of 40bpm better then 80bpm... The 40bpm is Lebron James FYI... Now the 40bpm is a 1 year old infant. Context is important but theses numbers aren’t absolutes.

Yeah ASR is a tough crowd.