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Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Review (DAC)

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 194 83.6%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 23 9.9%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 3 1.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 12 5.2%

  • Total voters
    232

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 ES9038 based stereo DAC. It was kindly purchased new and drop shipped to me. It costs US $3,299.
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Review USB Balanced RCA ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.jpg


At 12 Kg/26 pounds, this is one of the heaviest DACs I have tested. Fit and finish is excellent as you can see in the above picture. That carries to the chunky metal remote:

Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Review back panel stereo USB Balanced RCA ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.jpg


When I plugged the unit in, Windows did not load the class driver for it which means it is not class compliant. I could not find a driver online but a flash drive as shown above comes with an ASIO driver. The internal USB interface is the common but old Amanero. Driver installed but the ASIO driver would not function. The remote was not functional either. I saw a screw driver in the box which I assume is to open its back to put in batteries. What a pain.

When I powered the unit, it started to count down tell me to wait! I glanced at the main board and it seems to have a bunch of supercaps or batteries in that that it must be charging. Anyway, I waited the two minutes for it to get ready.

Musetec MH-DA005 Measurements
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Balanced XLR ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


I couldn't believe these results. Company spec is 10x lower distortion:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 advertising USB Balanced RCA ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png

I changed inputs and measured RCA output:

Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Balanced RCA ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


Going with this, performance is unacceptable at any price level these days let alone wht MH-DA005 costs:
Best stereo high-end dac review 2022.png


I suspected the output stage may be saturating so ran a sweep:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements THD vs level  Balanced XLR ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


That is it. We are now very close to rated spec (110 dB vs 114 dB spec) but we can only get there at 1.5 volt output. This is bad.

News gets worse with IMD two-tones:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements IMD Balanced XLR ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


So we not only have output saturation we saw before, but mother of all "ESS DAC IMD hump!" At lower outputs performance drops to that of a $9 phone dongle!

Not all news is bad. Dynamic range for example is excellent:

Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Dynamic Range Balanced XLR ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


Linearity is perfect:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Linearity Balanced XLR ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


Just when you settle in, here comes the jitter test:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Jitter Balanced RCA ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


There is a DPLL bandwidth setting but that could help internally generated noise sources above. But even if they do, none of the settings should be this bad.

Without the remote working, I could not change filters. Fortunately the default one is what you expect:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Filter Balanced RCA ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


Multitone test shows rising distortion with frequency which is again disappointing:
Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements Multitone Balanced XLR ES9038 Pro x2 DAC.png


This in turn shows up in THD+N vs frequency:

Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005 Measurements distortion vs frequency  Balanced XLR ES9038 P...png


Conclusions
So easy to fall in the trap of going by looks, price and written specs (as opposed to proper measurements). While doing a few things right, there is a lot wrong with design of MH-DA005. They have an excellent core as far as DAC chip is concerned, but they poorly implement the companion circuits. Instead of focusing to get the basics right, focus seems to be elsewhere (battery bank and such). A shame since the packaging is very nice.

I cannot recommend the Musetec Audio (LKS Audio) MH-DA005. If someone thinks this sample is broken, then get the company to produce the above measurements and I will happy to revisit.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Zoomer

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"be unique" strikes yet again, IMHO...

I agree.

With a solved technology like a DAC, the price alone should set of warning lights. When a piece of kit comes for at least 10x the price of a perfectly performing alternative, I can think of only 2 scenarios: incompetence or snake oil vendor.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Are they trying to achieve some "tube sound" with distortion rising with frequency?
Not intentionally or they would not spec such low distortion numbers.
 

Rja4000

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Such a shame ... they have invested a lot into components without measurable success.
Maybe they need some AP unit or at least decent soundcard?
View attachment 207326
Reminds me of a certain cable manufacturer who is seeking for ultimate "theoretical perfection"... and creates a broken product at a crazy high price.
 

xaviescacs

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Such a shame ... they have invested a lot into components without measurable success.
Maybe they need some AP unit or at least decent soundcard?
View attachment 207326
Silver plated cables, audiophile caps, femtoclocks (usb reclocking?), low noise, distortion in HF that people often confound with detail... The specs is the only thing is wrong here xD
 

tonycollinet

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@amirm Small correction needed on the 25kg/26lb weight. (Not sure what direction - hopefully 26lb is correct :eek: )

Thanks for the revew as always. Further confirmation that "Audiophile" looks/weight/price rarely translate into SOTA (or even vaguely competent) sound.

And where does that weight come from. Sure it has some chunky metalwork and a transformer, but 26lb FFS?? That's almost as much as my (aluminium) mountain bike. What have they done? Filled that black box with platinum? At least that might justify the price :D
 
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