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."


So what it your hypothesis here- that a lower signal to noise ratio yields a more "musical" sound? That deviations from linearity produce a more three-dimensional soundstage? Topping probably uses a lot of negative feedback in their analog output stage, which can sometimes result in a "flatter" presentation if the "euphonic" lower order distortions are preferentially suppressed. I don't understand the point of celebrating poor measurements as some sort of badge of honor. 

Last night I put my Topping D90LE (their top DAC minus MQA) in with my RAAL VM-1a tube headphone amp. The Musetec 005 is not good with the VM-1a. The Topping D90LE was fantastic with the VM-1a. I think it was even better than the Benchmark DA3B on the VM-1a. There is a tiny bit of hardness on the DAC3B and VM-1a which seems to go away with the Topping. I was using the Topping in the DAC's 'tube'  filter mode.

I also bought a second Musetec 005 and have it in storage for my future Livingroom 2-channel system. 

My Topping D90 (original with AKM chip) sounds fantastic receiving upsampled DSD256 data from HQ player. It also sounds really good receiving upsampled 768hz data, which I believe disables the internal filter of the DAC.



. I don’t understand the point of celebrating poor measurements as some sort of badge of honor.

I don’t get that impression. He actually (And wisely) compared the two DACs and said the Musetec 005 clearly was better sounding than the Topping DAC. These are audio products so listening to them is the best way to determine which one of them you’d prefer to own in your audio system.

Other listeners have described the Topping DAC sound quality in the same manner as @americanspirit . Others have enjoyed their sound. Nothing new here with the subjectivity and inevitable different outcomes/opinions.


True. This one bugs me because it does not appear to be a purposeful design strategy, such as when Nelson Pass or Ralph Karsten add a little more second order distortion, describe their rationale, and could re-design the component any way they want. Here, the designer admitted not having the requisite equipment to test the DAC or full awareness of the IMD issue with the ESS chip as a start. Associations that are supported by plausibility are more likely to be valid than those that are less plausible. I'm not calling for blinded listening tests all the time, but in this case would personally need to see objective listening tests or do them myself before believing that a component with accidental errors in measurement sounds better than one without these errors.