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."


@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?

It seems to me that the vocal excercises you outline might work to help "voice" your listening room rather than the component system.

When I go to a dealer or a show I always carry with me, in one form or another, some music files with which I am very familiar. It is easy and inevitable that I would compare what I am hearing there to what I hear at home. It requires no special aural memory to do that. I suppose we have all done that. It may, though, require some insight to separate the different room from the different components. I believe someone here has written of taking his Musetec to a dealer in order to focus more carefully on a different component of interest. IMO that is much the same, and requires similar aural memory skills, when visiting a concert. In fact, avoiding that comparison is virtually impossible--for me.

IMO the Musetec is agnostic when it comes to silver cables. It probably has much more to do with the rest of the system.

You are correct when you say that the Musetec is voiced wonderfully. I would say, accurately. I do not want a component to be "warm." That would be coloration, a distortion. The DAC should be neutral. A cello, piano or bassoon can sound warm and the neutrality of the DAC should let that warm color of the instrument through. I think this is a common misunderstanding of what a good component should accomplish.

It is all too common that components that measure very well will reproduce instruments and voices as flat and colorless. This forum, like others, then find their owners asking for recomendations for amps/preams/DACs that sound warm. One way this often happens is as a request for recommendations of solid state units that sound like tubes.

"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."

As i wrote earlier, reviews today are "simply expressing personal likes and dislikes in audiophile jargon." Forget asking for more; that’s what they do. Not to mention extolling the detail in the sound of a dentist drill. And with a song he gets a lump in his throat. Who knows? It could be Covid-19!

My own experience with long term pursuit of ever increasing levels of transparency/resolution is that vast majority of recording sound more real, like flesh and blood performers. Fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is timbre, tonality, get that part right with analog section of system first, than you can pursue greater resolution/transparency via source components. With streaming jitter is the critical factor, timing is everything if seeking analog like sound qualities.


I listen to pretty much every genre and quality of recording, very rare I have to remove recording from library due to intolerable sound quality. Some think you have to color sound to get here, I beg to differ, the more natural sound one's system produces the wider variety of recordings one can listen to. I don't consider natural a coloration, I've had both romantic and analytical systems, those were colored systems. Both made certain recordings intolerable, you know you've hit the mark when pleasurable listening sessions don't require a culling of recordings based on sound quality.