We are used to miniaturization today, the Japanese got very good at it many years ago so we tend to take for granted what are tremendous engineering feats. Nonetheless the feature count on the Mytek Brooklyn does take the proverbial biscuit. For a start it's both an analogue and a digital preamplifier with single ended and balanced outputs, it’s a high spec digital to analogue converter with the ability to decode DSD natively up to DSD256, 32/384 PCM and MQA. As if that weren’t enough it’s also a phono stage. In many respects it's similar to another compact DAC/preamp of the same sort of the proportions, the Benchmark. Unlike that well regarded converter the Mytek uses a screen to display all the feature options, which gives it considerably greater potential compared to the switches on a Benchmark. Both however require close inspection to see what’s going on.
The feature choices are different as well, on Mytek the analogue input can be a line or an MM/MC phono stage, for output you can choose between main, headphones or both. It has stereo input level meters as well as peak and an average level indicators, the volume control can either be analogue or digital, or alternatively it can be bypassed for use with a preamp, albeit the output voltage is higher than most line sources. As well as the MQA decoder there are three different PCM filters and as many again for DSD, these are for high frequency cut off point rather than methods of dealing with the cut off used for PCM. Naturally there are display on, off and brightness settings as well as choices of colour for the pin hole logo on the left hand side. The styling owes a lot to a favourite DAC of mine the Resolution Audio Cantata, that has similar sculpting on its casework and larger pin holes for the display, but there’s no problem in taking cues from a classic. The best styling tip was stolen wholesale from Apple and takes the form of an Apple remote, a beautiful aluminium device that you have to pair up with the Mytek.
Everything all the time
The back panel is inevitably crammed with connections that include all the familiar digital varieties including AES/EBU, optical and coaxial SPDIF, the latter also working with DSD when split studio style into two channels. Less common are in- and outputs for an external word clock on BNC connectors, an earth point for turntables and a 12V DC input for battery or external power supplies. That this thing has an onboard power supply is a remarkable state of affairs and surely indicates the use of switched mode technology, there’s no way that there’s a mains transformer in the 4cm high box. Outputs are balanced and single ended and connector quality is high all round, not high end but better than many at this price.
It doesn’t sound too much like a switch mode device however, not taken alone at least. When you put it up against similarly priced DACs with linear PSUs they tend to have a richer and more relaxed sound but then again they don’t offer anything like the feature count. Nor do they have the high frequency resolution offered by the Brooklyn, which is unusually well extended and open. It’s not the cleanest in the business and you need a relaxed or forgiving system to really enjoy it but there’s something about the way it reaches for the stars that’s very appealing. I suspect that a decent linear PSU, or just a plain old 12 volt battery, might be beneficial to this side of the performance.
It is fast however, notes stop and start with no sense of blur as can be the case with converters even at this end of the price spectrum, and this makes it quite compelling with percussive music like the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble’s Mr Machine album (Studio !K7). This, playing through a Naim NAP300 DR power amp and PMC Fact8 speakers is a lot of fun. Trying the various filter options for PCM I preferred the fast roll-off setting, but the differences between this and both minimum phase and slow roll-off varied between music types so it’s worth experimenting if you have catholic tastes.
With DSD the Mytek has a cool and precise presentation, again revealing a lot of what’s going on at high frequencies. This not only adds ‘air’ and space to the sound but also defines notes further down the scale, just like a super tweeter. It’s a crisp sound that is very revealing but a little lacking in analogue warmth, but that doesn’t undermine imaging in the slightest. The depth and scale of soundstages is consistently good, especially with acoustic pieces in big rooms or electronica where lots of reverb has been used. With the visceral sounds of Led Zeppelin’s ‘In My Time of Dying’ the Mytek delivered a storming performance, provoking full on air guitar abandon and reminding me of the time long, long ago when I used to listen to Physical Graffiti while sitting between a pair of Leak sandwich speakers under a desk! This DAC certainly doesn’t stand in the way of the emotional message nor the dynamics of a great piece of music.
Using a turntable with the Brooklyn proved to be an enjoyable experience too, it has plenty of gain with MC cartridges and lots of high frequency energy as per digital performance. This is probably because the analogue signals go through an ADC so have the same signal path as digital signals. One trick that appears to have been missed is the absence of a digital output from analogue inputs, given the level metering and phono stage this would have made it a useful tool for archiving vinyl to digital files (there is a matching ADC in the range it seems). That Mytek have managed to squeeze a variable gain phono stage in here at all is impressive enough however.
I also tried a few MQA files and found that there was very little difference between them and original versions, which means that the MQA compression system does not appear to do any harm to high resolution music files. The real benefit of this technology is with streaming services such as Tidal, here it means that it’s possible to stream hi-res straight from the cloud. Before MQA such services were limited to CD’s 44.1kHz sample rate, now they can deliver 96kHz to your system out of fresh air, well fresh cable at least.
The Mytek Brooklyn is a tremendously ambitious piece of kit, it does so many things that it will keep inveterate tweakers happy for months if not years. The fact that it can be upgraded with relative ease using an external power supply is also a bonus. The treble could be sweeter but the feature count per cubic centimetre of chassis is unlikely to be beaten, the Brooklyn is a remarkable piece of kit however you look at it.
Type: Solid-state PCM, MQA, and DSD-capable digital-to-analogue converter preamplifier with line and phono inputs
Digital Inputs: AES/EBU, 2 coaxial, Toslink, USB 2.0
Analogue inputs: RCA single ended line or MM/MC phono
Analogue Outputs: Stereo single-ended RCA, balanced XLR, fixed or variable level
Headphone outputs: x2 500mA, 6W
DAC Resolution: PCM up to 384kHz / 32-bit, DSD up to DSD256 with variable filtering
Word clock in/outputs
Mytek Femtoclock generator
Dimensions (HxWxD): 44 x 216 x 216mm
T +1 347 384 2687