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."


@sns @charles1dad @melm

it has been fun trying this one out, the piece is a really lovely effort, and for the money, just wonderful performance, and it does let you run straight into a power amp, albeit with a very slight perceived grain at higher attenuation settings

to some of the points made

-- i agree that imaging (or the illusion of soundstage with depth etc) is very much a function of recording quality and mixing, no doubt some recordings have it in spades while others are lacking in this department

-- also agree streaming chain is super important which is why i waited and got a second opticalrendu so i could run 005 vs m1 via identical super clean usb feed, 100% apples to apples... i find that with better dacs like these, the sonic differences are subtle, how they are fed can affect how they sound

-- i can’t comment on image height per se... with my maggies and how they stand and full height ribbon tweeter, they do that very well, ’life-sized’ so to speak, if there is a difference in this specific aspect between the 005 and the m1, i could not hear it in my room

-- one can really only speculate on what drives certain sonic characteristic being heard differentially between units, obviously the produced sound is a result of everything all together, impossible to isolate specific elements (dual mono d/a or analog stages, power supply design, upsampling rates, chip vs r2r ladder and so on... certain dacs of course allow for some features like filtering, os/nos, etc to be toggled in/out, but some don’t)

-- m1 se does not have separate analog inputs, it is functionally like the 005 in it can adjust it own output level - but you cannot port a separate analog source into it/through it (as the msb can...)


Good observation and point with regard to the dual function (DAC-streamer) Bricasti M1(Tri function if one considers volume control).



I still think the 005 is a fabulous bargain even considering that streaming and preamp are not built in. I had a decent preamp already in the chain as do many others so no extra expense there. Thanks to your comments and those of others, I learned of the benefits of streaming after I bought the 005. Still, spending less than $1000 for the streamer, cables, and optical "filter" probably has gotten me most of the way. I guess my system would fall short short of the best SOTA setups out there. But I would also guess I have gotten 80 to 90 percent there for a small fraction of the cost of the best.

@jjss49 Hope I understand correctly volume control is analog based with Briscati, reason I mentioned possible replacement of preamp, of course, only for single source, that being streaming with Briscati.


@dbb 005 certainly has advantage in that initial expenditure much less, one can upgrade streaming as funds allow.


The important thing here is 005 place in dac hierarchy becoming clearer over time. I seems we are not in fact delusional, imagining sound quality that hits far above it's weight vs far more expensive dacs. Its enlightening to see these comparisons as they give us greater insight into areas of possible deficiency and/or excellence. However one determines it's price/performance value, a larger sampling of users  discovering it is one nice dac.

@sns Yes, I agree that if someone is looking for an all in one box solution then the Bricasti is an option together with the Aurender A20, Mark Levinson, Mola Mola etc.

But we all know that having at least a separate preamp will sound better. The 005 responds very well to high end preamps, which you would think the opposite would be true because high end preamps will reveal all the warts in downstream equipment.

I have auditioned the 005 with some of the best SS preamps in the World, including my own SMC-VRE-1 (out of production), Vitus Audio SL-103 ($30k) and Viola Sonata ($40k).

I have also auditioned among others Constellation, Simaudio and Solution but found the above preferable.

The 005 was never found lacking in any respect which is usually the case with a lower quality product.

It's definitely not "organic" or vinyl or tube like, it's real, warts and all. When did you ever come from a concert and say "Wow, that was really organic!", Never.

Instead it will faithfully reproduce Jagger's Souf London accent and Karen Carpenter's Drawl. Plus razor sharp electric guitar and the greatest cymbal reproduction from ant DAC I've ever heard. Listen to Cream's Toad or some Hi-Rez Jazz.

Getting back to the Bricasti, it's x8 oversampling which I believe will inhibit the use of HQ Player, which I understand to be the best CA program. Oversampling is not  a purist audio feature either. Old school believes the original signal must remain so.

Anyway many people will love the pseudo ML design and built by some ex ML employees, and of course it's American!