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

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 195 83.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 25 10.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

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

    Votes: 11 4.7%

  • Total voters
    234

Turcoda

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Thanks for measuring this. I will state that I owned this product for 1 month in total before I returned it. Yes it sounded good, but it is not worth $3k. In fact, when I went back to my D1Se (700$), I barely noticed a difference. I actually prefer the midrange of the D1se. Its possible I have potato ears and that my unit was a 1 off defective unit, but overall I was NOT impressed.

Why did I return it? It had a million and one problems with the USB implementation. I'm not sure if they messed something up with the Amanero board or something software/firmware related is getting in the way, but it kept messing up and required multiple reboots per day. After a while of being turned on it would accumulate large amounts of lag/delay and made playing games unbearable. I'd also frequently hear artifacts after having it powered on for a while. I also tried the VMV D2, which i think is probably not far quality wise than this. I returned it for being overly smooth. My next DAC is going to be the Dac3.

I don't care to be judged for having cheap taste. I'm always auditioning stuff and I have a special place in my heart for things that measure amazingly well, as well as for things that just sound amazing overall. Sadly this is neither. Last month I sold my 4k$ Raal amp to buy an 800$ schiit amp and I'm much happier with the choice. I barely hear a difference. I'm a reformed money-flushing audiophile. I now firmly believe more money doesn't always get you better. This is one of those cases.
 

Billy Budapest

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I think there's a lot of psychology in this. As long as megabucks gear exists, supported by subjective reviews, there's a reluctance to accept that anything costing a tiny fraction of that can really be that good, no matter what the measurements say. Some think that there's also an "impress your mates" factor too, but just how many audiophiles have audiophile mates to impress (mates who aren't audiophiles won't even notice; it's not like flash cars, or certain watch brands, where everyone knows what they are)?
 

doitttt

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Feb 8, 2021
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mustec must, in the toolbox again, and make something that works, lks0005 mk2
when looking at reviews if taking msb dac which costs 90000dollars
the magazines that test are, with highend equipment
from laptop, to good dac, with flac files, so not much difference
the msb dac or good dac
 
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Musec

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Jan 26, 2020
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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.
View attachment 207311

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:

View attachment 207312

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
View attachment 207314

I couldn't believe these results. Company spec is 10x lower distortion:
View attachment 207315
I changed inputs and measured RCA output:

View attachment 207316

Going with this, performance is unacceptable at any price level these days let alone wht MH-DA005 costs:
View attachment 207317

I suspected the output stage may be saturating so ran a sweep:
View attachment 207318

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:
View attachment 207319

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:

View attachment 207320

Linearity is perfect:
View attachment 207321

Just when you settle in, here comes the jitter test:
View attachment 207322

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:
View attachment 207323

Multitone test shows rising distortion with frequency which is again disappointing:
View attachment 207324

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

View attachment 207325

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.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
I have been listening to this DAC for over a year with great pleasure. Clearly a class better than its predecessor LKS MH-DA003 and it easily beat more expensive DACs that I've listened to in recent years. Provided this test sample has manufacturing defects, I highly doubt the measurements. The integrity of this DAC is unprecedented what anyone can experience at my home. It is in any case a good lesson that you can not go blind on these measurements and just listen to a DAC at home for a few weeks .
 

Purité Audio

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I have been listening to this DAC for over a year with great pleasure. Clearly a class better than its predecessor LKS MH-DA003 and it easily beat more expensive DACs that I've listened to in recent years. Provided this test sample has manufacturing defects, I highly doubt the measurements. The integrity of this DAC is unprecedented what anyone can experience at my home. It is in any case a good lesson that you can not go blind on these measurements and just listen to a DAC at home for a few weeks .
Now that you have discovered what a valuable resource ASR is, you can choose your next dac on facilities and measurement and never again feel the need to apologise for it.
Keith
 

Turcoda

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When i switched back to my D1se after having used the 005 for a month, I didn't notice any appreciable differences. The 005 was slightly smoother, but that's all that I recall. I think at first I suspected the soundstage was a tad larger, but I think I imagined it. I don't think I'm missing anything by using the D1se right now. I don't think the 005 is worth 4-5x the price of the D1se. One thing that wasn't mentioned was that even though both the 005 and D1se have an output of 4.0 vrms, the max volume of the 005 setting (0.0db) was quite a bit louder than the max volume of the D1se (level 99). I suspect something weird voodoo magic is happening with that. Everyone should take care to properly volume match when doing A/B comparisons.
 
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muslhead

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snark warning.

Another poorly measured device that deniers blame on it being a bad sample. Couldnt be anything else of course.
I have never seen such luck before. If we could bottle ASR's luck of drawing bad samples and go to Vegas .... we all could be gazillionaires.
All that statistics i took in college have been disproven. I am in awe.
 

Deaf

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I have never been able to hear a test measurement and I will never buy something based only on someone's test measurements. Listening to any component is the ONLY way to know how it sounds. As for burn in, it makes a difference to me, as I have proved on over 100 pieces of gear over the years. I have had inexpensive gear that sounded better than high price stuff and I have heard a couple of million, yes million, dollar systems, one owned by a Dagogo reviewer, but I would never think that a piece for $100 is SOTA. Remember, not one of us owns a system that is exactly the same, room included, as any one else does, so every system sound different.
 

tw99

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I have never been able to hear a test measurement and I will never buy something based only on someone's test measurements. Listening to any component is the ONLY way to know how it sounds. As for burn in, it makes a difference to me, as I have proved on over 100 pieces of gear over the years. I have had inexpensive gear that sounded better than high price stuff and I have heard a couple of million, yes million, dollar systems, one owned by a Dagogo reviewer, but I would never think that a piece for $100 is SOTA. Remember, not one of us owns a system that is exactly the same, room included, as any one else does, so every system sound different.

Let me guess, you own one of these ?
 

Lupin

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Crazy how this is so expensive with such poor overall performance... I don't get what companies are doing these days thinking they can get away with this stuff..
They don't think.. they ARE getting away with it. (sadly)
Mainly due subjectivists on places like Head-Fi who make each other crazy with all kind off ridiculous statements and influence newcomers into the audiophile scene to think/do the same thing.
 

MacCali

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Dude.. he has EARS
The ears are fairly deceptive, not talking about this specific product. It’s not a form of deception, it’s merely what you have heard all of your life. Especially prior to joining ASR or maybe stereophiles measurements you had no clue what you were listening to. Also can’t always depend on manufacturer specs.

I fully believe in measurements but can consistently see that even extremely well measuring products don’t sound good, yet some sound amazing which would seem odd. Shouldn’t they all be great? I think the answer may lay in the presentation.

Also as stated by Amir, the dac 100% needs top notch performance. He gave rough estimates of what needs to be good or more which needs to be as close to state of the art and what you can get away with

In addition, at least when it comes to an amplifier, I have and still listen to an amp which measures less than -40 db and I have an amp which measures in the low to high 90’s at low volume with everything connected to this amp state of art and recommended by Amir and subjectively the crap amp doesn’t sound bad in comparison.

No way am I saying that the poorly measuring amps or equipment are better or can even match state of the art. Just simply that it’s not as bad as you would assume. Also couldn’t provide a definitive answer to how much worse or how much better a state of the art amp is

This is also why I feel a lot of manufacturers have got away selling high end priced crap with mid grade measurements cause if the worst isn’t that bad you should be able to understand that something with a sinad of -80 would sound good to a lot of people.

So this creates an understanding why someone would say that this piece of equipment sounds good when it measures mediocre and also a way for a subjective person to attack the objective point. The difference between 80 and 100 db sinad on an amp is even much less noticeable, even though clearly there is one. It goes both ways

Back to my previous comment distortion noise etc has always been present in everything you have always listened to before objectivity became prevalent.
 

respice finem

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Crazy how this is so expensive with such poor overall performance... I don't get what companies are doing these days thinking they can get away with this stuff..
Because, still more often than not, they do get away, alas.
Not everybody reads reviews on ASR and similar sites. But it's generally slowly getting better.
 
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