Mytek Brooklyn DAC / Preamp Review
The Mytek Brooklyn is an incredibly versatile audio component. In fact, I can't think of another HiFi component that packs as much capability and technology into a single chassis (OK, the new $5,995 Mytek Manhattan II does but in a chassis roughly twice the size and four times the weight).). In most of the world, a plethora of features is a good thing. In the world of audiophiles, this can be seen as a bad thing. Many audiophiles still have in their heads the idea that they can use a straight wire with gain for preampfification. Such thinking is frequently called "purist." I suppose someone who still rides a horse to work could be called a purist as well. That's a club of which I don't want to be a member. I'm a card-carrying, knuckle-dragging audiophile that's skeptical of products that claim to do it all, but I also have an open mind and recognize solid technology when I see it. The Mytek Brooklyn is definitely a jack of all trades and a master of most. I held off on saying master of all trades because I didn't use the Brooklyn as a headphone amp or a phono preamplifier. All the other technologies and features of the Brooklyn were worked over very well throughout this review period. Overall, I really like the Brooklyn and believe, in many cases, it could be the best component in its class for under $2,000.
Your boy back in the building, Brooklyn we back on the map.
- Jay-Z "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
Mytek has come a long way since the release of its prior product in this class, the Stereo 192 DSD DAC. That product was really good, but never quite did it for me. What exactly is "it?" It's just something you know when listening to a product. Some products do it for us, some product don't. Based on action in the CA forum, the Stereo 192 did "it" for many members of the CA Community. The Mytek Stereo 192 thread has been viewed nearly 610,000 times, contains 3966 posts, and has been linked-to from other sites no less than 50 times. The 192, while it made many people happy, just wasn't the DAC for me.
Mytek's newest release, in this class, is the Brooklyn. To the unlearned listener, the 192 may seem very similar to the Brooklyn. Based on my testing, the Brooklyn is on a completely different level than the 192. Let's start with the capabilities of the Brooklyn. It's a USB DAC, analog preamplifier, phono preamplifier, and headphone amplifier. That's just the start. Digging deeper into the details, the Brooklyn supports PCM audio up through 32 bit / 384 kHz, and DSD audio up through DSD256. That's just on its USB class 2 input (driverless for macOS and Linux). Unlike nearly all other HiFi components, the Brooklyn supports DSD through AES/EBU, coaxial S/PDIF, TosLink, and SDIF3 (users selectable to S/PDIF). While I've had the Brooklyn, it has frequently been my go-to DAC for testing other computer audio items. When I needed to test DoP, native DSD, or DSD256 upsamping from HQPlayer to a Network Audio Adapter, I added the Brooklyn to my audio chain and knew immediately if something worked.
Speaking of knowing when something works, the Brooklyn's front panel display is very nice. The information available on this display can be invaluable, especially when something other than the Brooklyn doesn't work. For example, when another manufacturer says it can output native DSD256 via USB, I can easily connect that component to the Brooklyn and read DSD256. It's nice verification that things are firing on all cylinders. the Brooklyn has a bit depth display (16, 20, 24, 32). How many other DACs let the listener know about bit depth? Not many. I know many audiophiles who think they are sending a certain sample rate / bit depth of audio to their systems, when in reality their systems are resampling long before the music makes it to the DACs. This is an unfortunate reality in some systems. Back in the days of CD players, this wasn't an issue. Today, we've moved beyond CDs for sound quality but also beyond the simplicity CDs.
Using the Brooklyn reminded me of the days, circa 2009, when I used a Lynx Studio AES16 audio card to output high resolution music over AES to my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC. This AES16 audio card supported word clock in and out. I would've loved to have the Brooklyn back then, to externally clock my Lynx card using the Brooklyn's word clock out feature. Sure, I could also clock the Brooklyn from the Lynx card, it has word cock input as well, but I'm willing to bet the farm that the Brooklyn's clock is a touch better than the AES16 PCI card's clock. In today's world, this word clock feature is more often used to sync multiple Brooklyn DACs in a multichannel configuration.
One area of HiFi that receives a bit of attention, though not nearly as much as something like the PCM versus DSD debate, is volume control. Controlling the output level is a critical part of audio performance and has a great effect on the final sound quality. Like the PCM / DSD debate, volume control has its supporters in both the analog corner and digital corner. Most components support either digital volume control or analog volume control, but not both.
The Mytek Brooklyn supports both digital and analog volume control, as well as a relay bypass mode for outputting an unattenuated signal to a different preamp or other audio device used to control volume. The Brooklyn's versatility in this area is absolutely awesome. It's actually a great thing for those of us who like to keep components for a long period of time. For example, in my system now I prefer the Brooklyn using its 32 bit digital volume control. I don't attenuate the signal very much, so loss of bits isn't an issue. If or when I change my system and need to reduce the volume level substantially for normal listening, I may prefer the analog attenuation offered in the Brooklyn. In addition, when I want to compare a few components in an A/B type test, I like to use a different preamplifier. I used the Constellation Audio PreAmp 1.0 during this review, and ran both the Brooklyn and Audio Alchemy DDP-1 through it for testing (in addition to testing each component driving Constellation Inspiration power amps directly). When going through the Constellation preamp, I set the Brooklyn to bypass mode, removing any hint of volume control circuitry or algorithm.
Now it's time to discuss the elephant in the room, MQA. OK, not a bad elephant, but an elephant about which everyone has an opinion. The Mytek Brooklyn was the first DAC in the world, after Meridian's of course, to support decoding MQA audio. Mytek's Michal (pronounced Mee-how) Jurewicz worked very closely with MQA's Bob Stuart on the Brooklyn's MQA implementation. I've seen several MQA demonstrations over the last couple years, and many have been with a Mytek Brooklyn. I know people would like to read a dissertation on the efficacy of MQA, but that's for another day and time. This is a review of the Mytek Brooklyn. Yes, it supports MQA. It was one of the first to support MQA. MQA audio illuminates the blue / green MQA logo on the Brooklyn's front panel. The demo tracks I have sounded wonderful. What more do you want to know? Oh wait, not a good question for the CA Community :~)
Note: Bob and Michal are also cooperating on the world’s first Pro ADC for labels and artists converting their recordings to MQA. Michal, and his company Mytek, has been designing/manufacturing ADCs in the Pro field since 1992. They are used by many famous studios on numerous classic albums of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Mariah Carey, James Taylor, B52’s and more. See: (PDF Link)
Since I received the Brooklyn, Mytek has issued a number of firmware updates. The Brooklyn can be updated easily, by connecting a USB cable directly to the unit and using the Mytek Control Panel application for Windows or Mac. I'm told support of 48 kHz base DSD is coming in an update in the near future. This isn't that critical to me, but I noticed when using HQPlayer to upsample audio to DSD256, that base rate 44.1 kHz material worked great, as did 48 kHz material when upsampled to 11.2896 MHz (44.1 x 256 = 11289.6). Staying a multiple of 48 kHz would mean DSD 256 at 12.288 MHz (48 x 256 = 12288). Again, not a big deal. It will be nice to try it at a later date.
Note: Some of us love to try different power supplies with components whenever possible. The Mytek Brooklyn supports both its internal power supply and 12V DC input from an external supply.
Like a mama you birth me, Brooklyn you nursed me.
Schooled me with hard knocks, better than Berkeley.
- Jay-Z "Hello Brooklyn 2.0."
When I first received the Mytek Brooklyn, it sat unused on my desk for a couple months. I wanted to wait for the official MQA enabled firmware, before digging into the product. Once MQA was enabled, I put the Brooklyn in my system and I felt lukewarm to the unit. Perhaps I had a bad day or something else was going on. I unplugged it and set it aside for another day. In the meantime I reviewed several other DACs and listened to countless other components. This only served to broaden my experience with the sound a DAC can impart to a system. Recently I plugged the Brooklyn back into my system and said it was do or die time. I wasn't removing it again. either I liked it or I didn't, but I was set on writing the review. Needless to say, the Brooklyn has grown on me and now I love it. I use the term "grown on me" in the best sense. Maybe the DAC is broken in or my ears are broken in. Either way, I love the Brooklyn.
My wife recently turned me on to a television show called Mr. Robot. In the show there is plenty of geek talk about Linux, firewalls, terminal commands, Raspberry Pi, hacking, etc... It's right up my alley. At the end of the first episode, a Neil Diamond song named "If You Go Away" is played. I'd never heard the song before, but I had to slide down to my listening room right after the show to stream it from Tidal to the Brooklyn. I'm not a big fan of Neil Diamond, but playing this track through the Brooklyn turned me into an interested party. Right from the start there is a crystal clear bell in the left channel, juxtaposed to Neil's unmistakable deep voice. His vocal throughout the track has a soothing sound that captivated me each time I listened. While Neil sings, the acoustic guitar, strings, and other instruments can be heard backing him. All in their own sonic spaces. Not intruding or melding with the vocal, but rather delineated as they separate sounds (just like they should sound). I walk away from this track thinking, what an incredibly rich tone and emotional delivery. The Brooklyn had nothing to do with either, as it shouldn't.
Oh Yesterday (Wisdom Teeth) by The April Maze from the album Recycled Soul, has become one of my new favorites. The entire album is great, but this track is special. The deep textured sound of Sivan Agam's cello strings as the track opens, is followed up the sound of her smooth, sultry, unprocessed voice. Right from the opening seconds of the track, I was hooked. Through the Mytek Brooklyn, this song is a real sonic experience full of rich textures, spacious sounds, realistic and airy percussion, and a soulful vocal. Who'd have thought a track with the words "wisdom teeth" in the title could be so enjoyable? In listening to this track over and over, I can't help but be enthralled by the cello as it meanders in the background throughout the song. The sound reminds me of the strings backing The Beatles throughout Eleanor Rigby on the album Revolver.
I'm a fan of big band music, and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band is right in my wheelhouse. the track Sing Sang Sung from the album Swingin' for the Fences, is a stalwart in my playlists. Great music, great musicians, great sound quality. It's the trifecta about which audiophiles have always dreamed. Pressurizing the room right from the start, the drums are big and bold. The horn section enters, no less bold shortly thereafter. An elegant soprano sax enters the track, seemingly floating through the air. All of this sounds big and loud, but incredibly realistic. Attention kids, this is what real instruments sound like. The soundstage of this track through the Mytek Brooklyn is smack in the middle of the speakers both right to left and front to back. There is a nice sense of height though, especially when the soprano sax comes in toward the middle of the track. Height can be elusive in an audio system and it's great to hear this from the $1,995 Brooklyn.
In addition to listening through the Brooklyn extensively, I also compared the unit to the Audio Alchemy DDP-1. Both products retail for just shy of $2,000 and compete head to head in the DAC / preamp market. The results I heard in my system surprised me a bit and I'm happy to relay these findings here in an effort to help people decide which component may better suit one's needs. Listening to "Lost on the River #20" by Rhiannon Giddens from the Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes album, the difference between the Brooklyn and DDP-1 can be heard by even the least savvy listener. It's not a matter of which unit is better, but which unit one prefers. The Brooklyn sounds much more relaxed and three dimensional than the DDP-1. The DDP-1 sounds right in your face and out front, and seems to play everything in this style (when compared to the Brooklyn). The Brooklyn was more laid back but could jump out in my face when the music called for it. This Rhiannon Giddens track through the DDP-1 was all very forward, whereas the Brooklyn was mostly laid back with some of the track pushing forward to the middle of my speakers then even closer toward the listening position. Most evident in this track are the differences in reproduction of Rhiannon's voice. The DDP-1 places it in one's lap. The Brooklyn places it on a continuum from one's lap to the back wall behind the loudspeakers, depending on the passage of music. When the vocal gets dynamic it tends to leap out of the soundstage through the Brooklyn. I have no way of knowing how it's supposed to sound. Unless your T-Bone Burnett who produced the album, as seen in the highly recommended Showtime documentary, I don't think you know how it's supposed to sound either. In a vacuum, I don't remember the DDP-1 being such a forward sounding DAC. Right or wrong, this is how I heard differences between the two components.
The Mytek Brooklyn is a jack of all trades, master of most. It may really excel as a phono preamp, but that's beyond the scope of this review. I really fell in love with the features of the Brooklyn that I used daily. Mytek has found a way to support "everything" and do it very well. Sure there's no free lunch. Must adding one feature be detrimental to another feature or overall performance? I can't say with 100% certainty, but with the Brooklyn it really doesn't seem this way. From endless sample rate support to MQA to both digital and analog volume control, the Mytek Brooklyn has what most people need, even if they don't know they need it yet. Through firmware updates, Mytek continues to improve the Brooklyn and offer more features. Nothing is future proof, but I believe the Mytek Brooklyn is one of the most future resistant HiFi components available today. Easily recommended and C.A.S.H. Listed.
- Product - Mytek HiFi Brooklyn DAC ($1,995)
- Product Page - Link
- Where To Buy - Mytek Store
- User Manual - PDF
- Product Brochure - PDF
- Source: Aurender N10, Roon
- DAC: Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 2, Audio Alchemy DDP-1
- D-to-D Converter: Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB, Sonore microRendu
- Amplifiers: Constellation Audio Mono 1.0 / Monoblock Power Amplifiers
- Preamplifier: Constellation Audio PreAmp 1.0
- Loudspeakers: TAD Labs CR1 Compact Reference
- Remote Control Software: JRemote, Roon Remote
- Remote Control Hardware: iPad Air 2
- Playback Software: Roon, JRiver Media Center
- Network Attached Storage (NAS): Synology DS1812+, CAPS v4 Cortes Server
- Audio Cables: Wire World Platinum Eclipse 7 Interconnects (XLR & RCA), Wire World Platinum Eclipse 7 Speaker Cables, Wire World Platinum Starlight 7 Digital Cables,
- USB Cables: Wire World Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0, AudioQuest Diamond USB 2.0, Nordost Purple Flare USB 2.0
- Power Cables: ALO Audio AC6 Power Cables
- Ethernet Cables: AudioQuest Vodka Ethernet Cables throughout system
- Network: Cisco SG200-26 Switch, Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet Isolator, Apple AirPort Extreme, Calix 716GE-I Optical Network Terminal, ZyXEL C1100Z modem / router, CenturyLink 1 Gbps download / upload
Edited by The Computer Audiophile1