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."


Gramophone Dreams #61: The Art of Cable: AudioQuest, Canare, Kondo & the HoloAudio Serene preamplifier Page 2 |

Ok, I think we have a winner in the HoloAudio Serene. It sounds like a killer unit. A slightly warmer (or musical as they say) LA4. 

1)  HoloAudio Serene preamp |  Musetec 005 | KRELL DUO 300XD | KEF Blade Meta 2

2) Benchmark LA4 preamp | Musetec 005 | Benchmark AHB2 mono | KEF LS50 Meta + KEF KC62 Sub

I have 3 tuners and a SACD player that need a preamp to hook up to.

I wish the Musetec 005 had a 12V trigger input. I could then shut down all the gear with 1 button click in system #2,


@yyzsantabarbara The Serene review seems impossibly contradictory. More transparent than the Benchmark, but yet more engaging and musical. I would need a lot more information in order to understand what exactly their reporting. 

@dbb  I don't believe those two attributes need be contradictory. A pre can be both more transparent and engaging and musical together. A more transparent pre mated with engaging and musical system would provide more insight into those attributes vs less transparent pre. The Serene does look like nice pre based on that review.

@sns I agree it's possible. I just need more information to understand the details of how they achieved it. One question would be: how does does it handle mediocre, harsh,  or thin recordings? Would the result still be musical or fatiguing?