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."


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. 



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. 

Yes, listen for yourself and form your own conclusions. Whichever one you choose at least the decision is based on how it sounds in your audio system. Measured test bench results are less important than what you will hear with your own ears. How does this DAC sound playing your music in your audio system? Most important criteria.



No one is saying that they are pleased that a component doesn't measure well.  What a good number of people here have said is that standard measurements tell you very little about how a component will sound.  The only thing that matters is how it actually sounds.  Nothing else matters.  Period.  End of story.

This is such an old theme in audio that it seems trivial to keep repeating.  Cheap Japanese direct drive turntables measured better by standard measurements than did expensive belt drives.  And with the help of the audio press then, tons of them were sold, and they sounded awful.  Early solid state "measured" better than time-tested tubed electronics and the audio press of the day helped sell tons of these too.  They sounded awful too.  And even today, solid state measures better than tubes; digital measures better than analog, and on and on.  We have NEVER developed measurements that tell us accurately what we want to know about a high end audio component and that is: how does it sound?  IMO the most useful measurements made these days are for loudspeakers.  Yet no speaker measurement yet devised can tell me what I really want to know about a speaker and that is: will it disappear?  Yes, for all of these components we have to listen!  

At the time of the measurement discussion I wrote this.  There are some things worth emphasizing.  Per the designer of the Musetec it is relatively easy for any trained electrical engineer to produce a DAC that measures very well.  China has a lot of trained engineers, many more than we have.  In choosing parts for his DACs he listens and chooses those that add to SQ as he hears it even if they cost in measurement stats.  That's it.  The very many here who have heard and admire the Musetec have come to agree that he has a refined musical sensitivity.  Now that may be hard to come by, in China or anywhere.  But as an engineer, a real engineer, he can produce this very musical component at a relatively low price relative to other very fine sounding DACs.  That's what good engineers do.  But you say that this approach "bugs" you.  As I say in the post referred to, if you find that disturbing then perhaps this DAC is not for you.  

You say your $900 Topping sounds fantastic.  And we all know that Toppings measure well over at ASR.  Then I have to wonder what brings you here.  Giving what you write, you seem to be wasting this time writing when you can be enjoying your Topping.  You haven't though told us to what other DAC you have compared your Topping, nor anything about the system it feeds into.  So we have no context at all for your "fantastic" description.  But you go on to write that you'd evidently like to do a listening test yourself to see if what has been described, designing for sound alone, is really possible.  So perhaps you really don't believe that the Topping is the best of all possibilities for you.   So you can relieve your anxieties by trying out a better DAC.  Musetecs have done pretty well on the used market for there are so few of them there.  So you wouldn't really be risking all that much by trying.  Wait for one of the Shenzhenaudio sales.