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."



Can audio components be designed entirely by ear- exchanging capacitors in the circuit based on the sustain of a piano in one recording or the input jacks based on one singer’s voice? . . . . Maybe there is a rare unicorn with the requisite skills, absolute perfect pitch, and access to reference recordings.

Well, not a unicorn exactly. Just a trained engineer--caring more about audio design than marketing--with a fine ear, a love of music, and the requisite skills. Perfect pitch not required. He would not be the only one in the history of high-end audio.

You seem to have put together an audio system that deserves better than the Topping as your source. Sooner or later you’ll want to trade up. By your selections, I’m guessing that you look for good value. Having hung around here for a while, the Musetec must be tempting. The testimonies here and elsewhere surely suggest that it is in the category of DACs costing far more. I’ll leave it at that.

Always comes down to a very simple question. Who is one trying to please, measuring bot or oneself?


I have Merlin VSM-MM as second speakers, I purchased based on a number of listening sessions at audio shows and speaking with Bobby. Yes, Bobby generally partnered with Ars Sonum, and I did find pairing alluring. Bobby chose this pairing based on his listening preferences, measurements played role in that he understood what was required of partnering amp. Virtually any solid state, push pull tube could adequately power the Merlins, Bobby chose Ars Sonum based on subjective listening tests.


And speaking of capacitors and ability to hear differences with this particular part exchange. Merlins originally came with Hovland caps in both speaker crossover and BAM, I was perhaps first to mod VSM with Duelund VSF caps. Result was far more natural timbre, greater transparency, resolving powers. I called Bobby with great enthusiasm for mod, Bobby not too happy with me, but could detect a fair amount of curiosity in regard to mod. And so, a few months later, Bobby comes out with new iteration of VMS with Duelund VSF caps!  Point of this is, some are very familiar with certain sound qualities of systems and/or components, small changes can be extremely salient with this level of familiarity. These are not differences you're going to hear in double blind tests or short term listening with just a few recordings. Long term listening with wide variety of recordings in static setup required to detect these differences.


Musetec used above method to arrive at final sound qualities of 005, designer and/or designers used their ears and sonic preferences in voicing this dac. Assume measurements sacrificed for particular sound qualities.


Lastly, I would hope every designer of quality audio components has at least one audio system, preferable a number of them to voice those components. And the quality of that system, and the sonic preferences of designer certainly play a great role in final voicing. When preferences of designer and listener align we have sympathetic match!


Measuring bots and I not sympathetic match!

I spoke with Bobby a few times about his speakers - super nice guy. Apparently, massed choir was his passion. Which brings me to your point about voicing. I recently decided to learn some basics about audio, purchased a UMIK, and started making measurements- including simulated anechoic, on axis, off axis... My Merlin VSM-MXM have a clear 4-7db hump from about 700-1000 hz. With a lot of experimentation, I was able to create a reliable convolution filter that yields a smooth harman-like frequency response at the listening position (and emulates the BAM digitally so I could remove this). The filter - to my ears - is a real improvement - but the amount of improvement varies by music type. And one type of music actually seems to sound best (to me) without any correction: massed voices. As I hear it, goosing up the 700-1000hz region gives multiple singers a more "spread out" presentation. 

For this, and other reasons, I more skeptical than you about audio designers being able to reliably pull off the trick of voicing.











as I have already stated, the MUSETEC has been inserted in a pure class A Gryphon system ( at my trusted dealer (

it was compared for about two months with all the DACs present as a demo in the store (as mentioned, from the NAGRA HD DAC X, to the dCS Vivaldi APEX DAC) plus some Topping DACs bought for fun (DX7Pro and DX7Pro +).

I have already expressed the results of the comparison

has any of you had the opportunity to test MUSETEC on a better system?

do you know any system, better than the one we use, which operates in pure class A and which is such as to allow you to appreciate the (sometimes significant) differences between the different sources?

I am willing to welcome feedback from anyone who can test the MH-DA005 in a better system than the one we are using



just for fun ..

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