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."


Thanks for your review.  Sorry, but I couldn't resist pointing to it at head-fi.  In an earlier post I remarked that, "a thread like this carries more weight than a 'review.'"  You post is but another terrific example of why.   

We look forward to your impressions of the Musetec.  No one has ever said that it is the best of all DACs.  If it can play comfortably in the same sandbox as some of the others you have, that will be plenty.  I appreciate your effort.  Anyone willing to plow through this whole thread of 21 pages, as you have, deserves the Audiogon medal of honor.  


We look forward to your impressions of the Musetec.  No one has ever said that it is the best of all DACs.  If it can play comfortably in the same sandbox as some of the others you have, that will be plenty.  I appreciate your effort.  Anyone willing to plow through this whole thread of 21 pages, as you have, deserves the Audiogon medal of honor.  



i am interested to find out too... always fun and exciting to see if there is a true giant killer out there... (same for kinki exm1 int amp i got, but alas it arrived malfunctioning, needs repair...)

if a 3 grand musetec can hold its own against 7-8-9-10 grand well established alternatives, then it is indeed a real find and a boon to music lovers like us... other purported ones i have tried (morpheus, doge, tubador, yggy, terminator, w4s...), to my ears in my system, did not compare favorably, quite good as they are in their own price class

the direct sales model (from china makers and others) obviously has its advantages for end use purchasers when all goes right...

I thought I’d share some cable experiences with the 005. Just a caution that all of this is usually very system specific. Another caution, I was a "follower" of a recently deceased cable guru on another site. He was a master of identifying all sorts of cables and terminations available from a variety of places at very reasonable prices. He was actually about to launch a line of his own when we all learned the bad news. His basic advice for digital was was to go solid core. Of course, whether the 004 or the 005 we have the advantage of not being concerned with any interaction of the signal and 5V lines.

Beginning with the 004 I replaced a Supra USB cable with a Monoprice cable. Before you laugh at its price, scroll down to see exactly how it’s made. This was certainly an improvement over the Supra in every way. Still with the 004 I then tried AudioQuest Pearl USB cable. The differences between the two were very clear. The AQ made the soundstage open up considerably, but it lacked the sparkle of the Monoprice. It was just slightly dull.

I then happened upon an ebay listing for solid core silver cables at a very reasonable price. I wrote the maker and asked if he could make up a cable for me with 2 18ga solid silver, Teflon wrapped lines for pins 2 & 3 and a copper cable for pin 4. It turned out to be remarkably inexpensive. He did and when it arrived I was stunned by the improvement it made in every way, other than it did not extend the sound stage as had the AudioQuest. What it did do was give instruments the depth, liquidity and body the other cables did not. It was my end-game cable for the 004

Enter the 005. As much as the 004 had extended the high and low extremes, the 005 did even better. I started with the ebay USB cable. It was a mixed bag depending on the recording and even, perhaps the time of day or day of week. Sometimes perfect, sometimes a bit too much in the highs. I wrote earlier about substituting really terrific Viborg power cables for the Supras I was using. In my system these cables seem to act sort of like what I would expect from a slightly better power conditioner. So the time of day issues diminished. The AudioQuest still gave me the soundstage and the high end was better than with the 004, but it still sounded a bit duller than the silver cable. However some of the advantages that the silver cable on the 004, the depth and liquidity and body of instruments, came through on the AudioQuest when used with the 005, as the 005 has these qualities in spades.

I was encouraged by what I had read to try AudioQuest Diamond USB. These are solid core silver. I picked one up used and gave it a lot of time. It didn’t work for me. Audio was thin, lacking body. My observation of what was lost was something like that described here. This is a very useful article on USB cables. Over time I began to realize that the AQ Pearl treble with the 005 was more true to real instrumental sound on more and more of my music and I’ve been happy with that choice in my system, for now. But I love to experiment with cables--so I’m not done. I could use a touch more sparkle maybe, just a touch.

Anyone else here been fooling with cables on the Musetec?