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  Thanks for your recommendation for the Coincident Staement Line Stage. It is one that is on my shortlist. I am going to take my Freya+ to a friends place who has a Supratek Cabernet which is also on my list.

@melm yes, I agree that USB cables matter. I can easily hear the differences in them. I have a Sablon 2020 on the way to compare to the Audioquest Diamond and Acoustic BBQ

@yyzsantabarbara  One of my main criteria in a preamp is the noise floor as My Altec A7 speakers are over 100db efficient. The PRE has the lowest noise floor that I have used so far. Incredible actually. Better than the Freya+  in all modes, better than Modwright LS 36.5 which I had prior to the Freya + The Benchmark LA4 is on my shortlist as well. What are the differences to the PRE 90 and LA4 to your ears?

@small-green-computer Thank you for your recommendation. I'll take it into consideration and thanks for the great products and services over the years!

The difference between the pe90 and LA4 are not that great when the pre90 works as intended. The following reviewer put them head-to-head.

Topping Pre90 + Ext90 Review - Pre-amp my Power-amp! (

For me, I hated the fact that the pre90 worked well with only 2 of the amps I tried and was unusable for me with 4 or 5 others. It was a volume issue. The LA4 works with any amp and there are more needed features and robustness to the implementation and feel. I really wanted to like the pre90, but it failed. 

If you like a bit of warmth, I highly recommend the CODA 07x. It is not as quiet as the pre90 or LA4 but not that far off. It has a tube-like sound that would appeal to more people. I gravitate more towards the LA4.

The Musetec 005 with the 07x works well but if your amp is warm and the speakers are warm then it maybe too much of a good thing. In such a situation I would change out one of the components to tone that warmth down. 

I say this because the 005 was the only SS DAC that worked with my RAAL SR1a headphones when used with a 2-channel amp. It was also the best DAC by a mile for such a use case. The SR1a is extremely revealing and a bit bright. In comparison, my Benchmark DAC3B was a no go with the SR1a and 2-channel amp, too bright.


I experimented with the Topping Pre90. I found volume problems when I used it with my McIntosh 152 preamp using the higher voltage balanced inputs. The loudness problem was solved when I switched to the lower voltage RCA inputs. Ultimately I preferred my Hegel preamp. The Topping sounded too thin with many recordings. The pre90’s transparency was impressive, but after much listening I preferred the texture provided by the Hegel.  I only used it with two McIntosh power amps (MC152 and MC402) and got the same results with both.

@rrboogie @sns Thanks for your recommendation for the Coincident Staement Line Stage. It is one that is on my shortlist

@sns is correct with regard to the Coincident Statement line stage. It is in my opinion a truly superb sounding component. One of the most genuinely natural sounding audio components I’ve heard. I hope that you find an opportunity to hear it for yourself.


Just a reminder about the USB in the Musetec, in that it doesn’t use the 5 volts from the USB cable. I mention this because most of the Sablon 2020 USB cables shown have a double cable configuration keeping the 5 volt, line one, wire separate from the digital lines. When used with the Musetec nothing flows through line one making the second cable unnecessary.