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, I owned Auralic Vega, LKS004, Okto Dac8 stereo, Musetec 005, all in house, comparative listening sessions. Based on ASR reviews, Okto one of top measuring dacs, Musetec pretty lame. And yet I heard greater resolving capabilities with 005 vs Okto, based on their measurements shouldn't have been possible.


It may also be informative to have ASR measure LKS004, highly resolving without soul IMO. We could see if LKS/Musetec capable of producing good measuring dac, would lend credence to idea 005 purposely produced for sound vs measurements.


my friend, why do you insist on wanting to see the measurements too? don't you trust your ears? no high-level DAC manufacturer provides the measurements made with the AP Audio Analyzer and do you know why? because such measures count for nothing with the sound result.

forget the technical data, rely on listening.

I repeat that an exhaustive mathematical modeling able to describe the variables that come into play in the audio reproduction process is impossible to achieve, the reason is simple: the variables involved are superior to the equations that bind them and the system is indeterminate.

| my friend, why do you insist on wanting to see the measurements too? don't you trust your ears? 

We've been through this - I do research for a living. Case reports are the lowest form of evidence - they often provide false information about causal relationships. I know enough to know that my own ears have provided both reliable and unreliable evidence depending on the type of music, equipment, mood, and time of day,

On occasion, I will consider individual listening reports - always with some skepticism - IF the person listens to music for a living and is able to intelligently describe differences in sound- that is a rare individual. For the general population, I am confident playing Vegas odds that you could not reliably distinguish the Musetec in any sort of believable controlled experiment, and that any possible differences would be removed by changing the music or other gear. 

This was never about the false idea that minute differences in distortion profiles, signal-to-noise ratio, linearity, and other measurable characteristics can somehow be amalgamated into a predictable sound signature. These characteristics - to me - provide a broad sense of the fitness of the engineering and industrial design. For an amplifier, a 2 db difference in channels or separation less than 70 db may not even be audible to most people. But - for me - these signal other problems that exclude the component from audition.
















@americanspirit  Nothing to do with not trusting my sonic preferences or listening sense, more about sheer curiosity. Perhaps some day we'll have measurement protocol that more closely aligns with our listening senses.  This will require technical innovation from those with an open mind, I wouldn't mind seeing the objective and subjective come together, I maintain hope!

@batvac2  You said: "These [quantitative] characteristics - to me - provide a broad sense of the fitness of the engineering and industrial design."

I think what you are saying, if I can restate, is your method of evaluating the quality of a piece of audio equipment, includes measured excellence, not because it will necessarily sound better, but because it gives you confidence in the quality, much like provenance to a work of art. It is not just your subjective experience alone, but the customary earmarks of quality. A fake work or art may be just as enjoyable as the original, but you want also what is generally accepted as an earmark of quality.