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."


@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.

Yes, but I think a little more because it is an engineered device rather than a painting. It has to produce an analog signal that bears resemblance to its input in terms of frequency, phase, linearity, timing... even if the source material is not ideally recorded. The "art" is in passing as much of the signal as possible, including any warts and blemishes. Still, no device can do this perfectly, and there seems to be no way - other than listening - to predict how small differences in each characteristic of reproduction and their interaction will combine to form perceived sound. So I am comfortable letting personal taste dictate the choice of component among those with the highest degree of fidelity. 




@batvac2 brings out unique qualities of high end audio, content of what we play is artistic, and the highest quality reproduction of that content is what we seek. We desire maximum engagement with the artist and his/her art. So the pursuit is inherently artistic, yet we have mitigating factors of technology, engineering, measurements. The subjective/objective conundrum remains constant.


We shouldn't fight with  competing dogmas, rather learn to live with the imperfectness of both. I'd hope we'd all admit our human senses and  measurement protocols far from perfect, room for improvement in both, just leave it at that.

My, my. How many angels are dancing on the head of this pin?

Consider two different strikes of an etching taken a few days apart. Number one has the artist’s signature on it He signed it and died the next day. He never saw the second, which was the next strike numbered consecutively, and it is indistinguishable from the first but for the signature. Both of them share the embossed stamp of the print studio guaranteeing authenticity.

The first will surely sell for more, probably much more. But is the second any less of an artistic achievement not worthy of the same admiration?