This D‑A converter boasts a range of useful features — as well as impressive performance.
A few months ago I reviewed Mytek’s latest D‑A converter, the Liberty DAC, which impressed me with its elegance and quality (see SOS August 2018: https://sosm.ag/mytek‑liberty‑dac). So when the company asked if I’d like to try out the next model up in their range, I was only too pleased to.
Although looking virtually identical to the original Brooklyn DAC, the new Brooklyn DAC+ model has been completely redesigned, and features the latest D‑A converter hardware with selectable reconstruction filtering options, improved clocking, restyled analogue circuitry, and a new, powerful headphone amplifier.
Unusually, the unit offers two remote volume control options, using either analogue or digital 1dB‑per‑step attenuators (there’s also an attenuator bypass mode). The unit can also be used with balanced headphones via a special adaptor cable. Other highlights include a certified hardware MQA decoder, the ability to accept DSD audio (in the DOP format), a configurable analogue preamp section, which can accept the output from a turntable pickup cartridge if desired, and the ability to be remotely controlled either via the supplied Apple aluminium remote control, or any RC5‑compatible universal remote.
Physically, the Brooklyn DAC+ is a little larger than the Liberty, its case complying with the 1U, half‑rack format. Powering is via a built‑in universal mains supply with a standard IEC connector (accepting 100‑240 Volts AC), but there’s also a 5.5mm coaxial socket which accepts an external 12V DC supply for portable applications (or for those who prefer battery power).
Like the Liberty, the Brooklyn DAC+ enjoys comprehensive digital audio connectivity, with two coaxial S/PDIF inputs (doubling‑up as separate left/right SDIF inputs for a hardware DSD source), optical S/PDIF (Toslink), AES3, and USB 2.0. There’s also word‑clock (in and out) on BNC connectors to allow synchronisation in multi‑channel applications. All the standard PCM formats can be accommodated up to 32‑bit/384kHz, plus the three most common DSD formats (DSD64, 128, and 256). As mentioned above, it also supports the MQA ‘master quality’ file format (see SOS August 2016 for more information: https://sosm.ag/mqa‑format). For computer‑sourced and streaming files over USB 2.0, Mytek have developed a low‑latency interface with ASIO and WASAPI drivers for Windows, and Audio Class‑2 compliance for Mac OS X and Linux. Drivers and a bespoke control app can be downloaded from Mytek’s web site.
The analogue outputs are provided on both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA phono connectors at the rear, the latter being 6dB lower in level. The two quarter‑inch headphone sockets at the front can be used simultaneously and these are arranged to have opposite polarities — the left socket works in ‘absolute polarity’ (ie the signals are the right way up!), while the right socket carries inverted signals. This allows an optional adaptor cable (with two TRS plugs and a four‑pin female XLR connector) to combine these outputs to drive a single pair of balanced headphones, if desired. The headphone amp is rated at 6W and is capable of delivering over 500mA of current with a ±12V range in balanced mode.
Setting the Brooklyn DAC+ apart from the less expensive Liberty is the inclusion of a single pair of rear‑panel analogue inputs on RCA phono sockets. These can be configured in the operating menu either for normal hi‑fi‑style line‑level input signals, or to work as an RIAA‑equalised phono preamp, with options for either moving‑magnet (MM) or moving‑coil (MC) pickup cartridges. A grounding screw‑terminal is also provided on the rear panel. The final connection is a 3.5mm four‑pole socket for 12V Triggering, with provision to both accept and generate control voltages to switch other connected hi‑fi equipment.
The thick front panel is available in black or silver and is machined with an attractive scalloped effect which scatters light in an unusual way. An OLED display in the centre is flanked by pairs of buttons on either side, plus a rotary encoder/switch and the two headphone sockets. The volume control serves as an on/standby switch, as well as for navigating the menus in conjunction with the other buttons.
Like the Liberty, the comprehensive menu configures things like the remote control format, the colour and brightness of the logo and OLED screen, DSD and PCM reconstruction filter shapes, converter headroom, analogue/digital volume control, volume control bypass, and output polarity. There are also options to audition the mono sum or stereo difference, as well as to apply Mid‑Sides decoding, turn the MQA decoder on/off, configure the internal/external clocking options, determine the output signal routing (line, headphone, both, or auto), as well as input source selection and analogue input formatting. Despite this considerable versatility, the operation is very logical and straightforward, although most things can also be configured and controlled via the optional computer application over the USB connection.
As with the Liberty, I found the Brooklyn DAC+ easy to set up and use, and its performance was impressive. The headphone amp is very capable indeed, easily bringing out the best of all my headphones. Sadly, I don’t have any which can easily be configured for balanced operation, although I can appreciate the potential benefits of this approach. The ability to hook up a turntable is an appealing one, and I tested it very successfully with the output from a Dynavector moving‑coil cartridge. Products of this calibre will never be cheap, but Mytek have a product here which meets the needs of both hi‑fi enthusiasts and well‑heeled professionals who want a monitor controller with a difference.
As you’d hope and expect of a converter in this price bracket, the technical performance is very good. Running my standard Audio Precision tests, I found the maximum output level via the balanced outs to be +22dBu, and a logical +16dBu at the unbalanced outputs. The THD figure measured 0.0006 percent, and signal‑to‑noise ratio was 116dB (both relative to 0dBFS). Crosstalk at 20kHz was better than a very impressive ‑100dB or so for both channels, and the low‑frequency ‑3dB point was around 6Hz (9Hz was ‑1dB). Measuring the AES17 dynamic range delivered a figure of 118.9dB A‑weighted, which (although 3dB below the very best I’ve measured) is very good. To put it in context, this figure matches those I’ve measured from the Crookwood M1 mastering console, Focusrite RedNet interfaces, and only fractionally below the Grace M905 and RME ADI‑2DAC — so it’s definitely high‑end performance.
An input trim function is available, and this is configurable and remembered for each individual input. If the digital volume control is enabled this provides up to 12dB of attenuation, while the analogue control option allows ±12dB. The analogue line input provides unity gain by default, with a nominal maximum input of +16dBu (+6dBV), although reducing the input trim control will extend that range. Conversely, the minimum analogue line input capable of delivering the full output level is ‑4dBu (‑6dBV).
Switching the analogue input to the MM pickup mode required an input of 1mV for an output level of ‑10dBV at the unbalanced outputs (49dB gain), while the MC mode required around 160uV (66dB gain). Again, the ±12dB input trim feature makes it easy to accommodate various different pickup sensitivities, as well as to match the levels when switching between different sources.
- Mastering-quality D-A conversion with PCM, DSD, and MQA capability.
- Powerful headphone amplifier with balanced drive facility.
- Elegant configuration menu system, controllable via a software app.
- Preamp facility with an analogue input configurable for line, MM or MC formats.
- Supplied with an Apple remote, but also usable with standard RC5 remotes.
- More expensive than some other very high-quality converters.
The Brooklyn DAC+ is a versatile and very capable D-A converter. It accommodates all of the standard PCM and DSD formats as well as MQA files, and includes flexible analogue and digital preamp facilities, including an RIAA input mode, as well as USB connectivity. In addition, its very powerful headphone amplifier is capable of driving balanced headphones.