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."



When I wrote my last post I thought that the reputations of the Schiit and Rogue preamps were sufficiently well established that I failed to say the following. Remember that my personal judgments are, as best as I can, against live unamplified music. The inexpensive Schiit preamp with tubes was a very clear improvement over the fine transistor one. It was then that I discovered that I MUST have a balance control, which has gone out of favor on many excellent preamps. So I went to the far more expensive Rogue--I needed balanced outputs as well. It proved to be an even greater improvement than was the first change. A testament perhaps to the value of the Rogue’s extremely strong power supply (LPS, of course) in delivering sound quality. I am very happy with the Rogue listening to all recorded music. That should answer question 2.

No doubt you are focusing on the THD number. First I would refer you to all the discussion here (and elsewhere) about the uselessness of the industry type of specification next to the experience of actually listening. One of the problems with the published THD number is that harmonic distortion may take on different shapes--all hidden in the industry-standard number. Generally in units with tubes, the major factor here is that the THD is principally in the second harmonic.

It has long been a controversy in audio. Does the slight bit of second harmonic that is ordinarily introduced by tubes "distort" the sound so as to make it less like the real thing, live music? Or does it restore an element of the sound that is ordinarily diminished slightly in the recording and reproducing process with the result of sounding more like the real thing? And so one can choose solid state or tubes conforming to your answers here, and I chose a tube preamp that is know for having that fine attribute of tubes, but mildly so. I believe that answers your first question. We touched upon a similar issue a while back when discussing feedback in solid state components.

To answer the third question directly. I don’t spend much time on the kind of comparison you ask about. But for a short while when I was experimenting with streaming I was receiving Tidal and Amazon Music at the same time and testing the streams with MusicScope. A series of Shostakovitch symphonic recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Nelsons was the being released. Tidal had them at 16/44 and Amazon had them at 24/48. While the differences were subtle, they were sufficiently distinct.


my questions weren't provocative, just sincere curiosity.

I asked you because before choosing the preamp I performed several tests using the components made available to me by various passionate friends like us.

the most trivial was the comparison between DA005 + MC152 vs DA005 + M8sPRe + MC152 and obviously there was no comparison.

the second was between Lumin U2 MINI + DA005 + MC152 vs DA005 + M8sPRe + MC152 and also in this case the level of details, the three-dimensionality, the dynamic range were in favor of the configuration with preamplifier (the LEEDH control was active)

the third was between DA005 + C22 mkV + MC152 vs DA005 + M8sPRe + MC152
and it is in this case (with the tube preamp) that I no longer distinguished the difference in listening to the same track at 16 bit 44 kHz and 24 bit 192 kHz

@americanspirit If you're still looking for a preamp, you might want to try a Hegel P20. I use it with the 005 and the McIntosh MC152. I found it was better than the McIntosh C47, more dynamic, detailed, and timbrely accurate.


thanks for the advice, I had considered buying the Hegel P30A but then the choice fell on the Musical Fidelity M8sPRE.

@americanspirit  I have a P30 which I use with a McIntosh MC402.  It's  very nice, especially with natural timbre. I hear the P30A won't be in the US until November or December. How does the M8sPre sound with the Mac?