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."


Once again @jjss49 and @lordmelton have given us very valuable insights into the sound of the Musetec and other DACs. Any of the DACs mentioned together with care in digital signal delivery, I believe, will give the listener a real taste of what digital can do.

I would add only that some of the differences, admittedly small differences, among the several DACs considered can only be accurately understood and evaluated by reference to particular recordings and recording techniques. Consider, for example, the question of how up front or recessed might a soloist appear in relation to the speakers. Close miking would suggest, I think, that the soloist in an accurate system would be on the line between speakers, rather than recessed. Distant miking should reveal a more distant perspective.

A brief comparative review some years ago of my phono pre against another revealed that one of them had a singer up front and the other had the singer further back in the sound stage. The reviewer wrote that the buyer could make a choice based on preference. I recall saying to myself at the time that this doesn’t make sense. Only by knowing something about the recording set-up could one determine that one of the two more accurately revealed the proper spacing.

Here, as in other evaluations, I judge by classical music as there is usually some attempt to make it appear like a real event. So there can still be the close up orchestral perspective of a Mercury recording in Detroit vs. a distant perspective of a Philips recording in Amsterdam. What I seek are components that reveal these differences. The sound of a grand piano on a large concert stage will be very different than the same piano in an average room. Closeness or distance will be but one aspect of the difference. Some recordings put the piano in my room; others have it at a distance on a stage. Similarly for chamber music.

Re another issue consider, for example, the comment of the slightly leaner mid-bass giving a sense of slightly greater clarity. Some of you may know that I’ve been experimenting lately with some very interesting balanced Chinese interconnects. Well, one of these provides to the Musetec precisely what is described here. It works spectacularly well for some recordings. Whether it works well for a great variety of recordings is something that I am currently wrestling with. Applied to some other DAC it may take it too far into the entirely too lean category. I will write more about this cable adventure in time.

All of which is to say that good component reviewing can be very, very difficult. @jjss49 did some terrific work here and some very careful listening. Expressing these sonic issues in words is a tall order. My only demur would be in the lack of musical examples. The difficulty, of course, is that we don’t have a common base of music so that we can all hear what the reviewer hears. I guess I miss the old TAS days when they would chose from a small group of recordings.

@melm Absolutely true on sound stage perspective  issue.


I recently listened to system far more recessed sound stage than mine, far too many variables to determine cause. I can only say any single one of so many variables could affect sound stage to some extent, meaning, while @jjss49  did in fact hear this absolute difference in sound staging between the two dacs, changing any one particular variable or a combo of them could give one more preferred sound stage. IME 005 has pretty much spot on sound staging in my setup and for my taste. I like a bit more up front sound stage, my Klipschorns and SET amplification give me immediate, performers in room perspective, 005 heightens this sensation. I'm not into the performers in some other venue, studio perspective.


I've also experienced the leaner bass, greater clarity thing. Doesn't mean component with greater bass not as resolving or even more resolving than component with leaner bass. Possibility of changing out multi variables to attain leaner bass from component with excess bass, may turn out to have greater resolving capabilities than leaner bass component.


At this point in time, having now seen a number of 005 comparisons to other dacs, I've yet to be convinced 005 commits either sin of commission or omission. While I'm open to trying another dac, still waiting for a knock out punch. Which leaves me wondering, are we at this inflection point in dacs, where differences are mostly about small deviations in things like sound stage perspective, freq. response, tonality, etc? I'm waiting to see comparison where 005 clearly inferior in resolving, transparency.  Having yet to hear sins of commission in my setup, lack of analog like sound would be greatest sin here, I'm waiting to be convinced there are sins of omission, hope I'm not the one having to purchase the around $20k dac only to satisfy my curiosity.


I agree. How good it would be if we could get back to the old Absolute Sound reviewing philosophy. Audiophile terms such as "layered", "seperation", etc. are less useful in the abstract. The baseline ideally should be a real musical event. 

@jjss49 I am looking into a DAC upgrade and saw this thread. Your comparisons are really outstanding, even though the Weiss and Bricasti are above my pay grade so to speak but your care in how you did what you did sets a high standard for how people should contribute here. It is very helpful indeed. I get how folks can get damned defensive and pouty when they learn that something they bought and think is just the cats meow isn’t the best, its lame but just human nature I think. I spent money to buy this so now it is the best.

So you mentioned you got some new speakers? Im curious to know which ones,


I get how folks can get damned defensive and pouty when they learn that something they bought and think is just the cats meow isn’t the best, its lame but just human nature I think. I spent money to buy this so now it is the best.

Interesting take. My inference from responders is different.