Four years after the L.K.S DA004: the Musetec DA005 DAC
Jan 24, 2021 at 5:55 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 581


100+ Head-Fier
Feb 3, 2007
On March 22 2017 PitBul34 started on this forum a new thread, dedicated to the remarkable dual ES9038pro d/a converter L.K.S. MH-DA004. The converter became very successful in and outside the Head-fi community, and the thread, under the moniker 'Van Damme's double impact?' became a busy centre of all kinds of modifications to further optimize the sound of this innovative machine.
Now there is the Musetec MH-DA005. It deserves its own story in its own thread!
Jan 25, 2021 at 10:04 AM Post #2 of 581
I have owned the L.K.S. DA004 dac for more than three years. It was an easy buy, because in 2017 there were many positive comments about this dac to be found in several audio forums. I was always impressed by its prowess in resolving fine detail, way better than my previous NAD M51. This capacity for accuracy was still considerably enhanced by adding a Mutec 3+ usb between my pc and this dac. I doubted that from there the sound quality could get substantially better still. And then, several months ago, L.K.S changed its name into Musetec and released the MH-DA005, stating that it wasn’t just an optimized version of the L.K.S MH-DA004, but an entirely new machine for about twice the price. Photo's and specs were promising, and suggested a high-end design and build quality. This news piqued my curiosity, but I could not check the sound quality in any way, because there were no reviews and auditioning was not possible. I finally ordered one on the basis of one convincing description that confirmed this dac was audibly in another class. And he was right. On all aspects of sound quality the DA005 wins hands down from its older brother, including the Mutec.
This thread aims to collect more, preferably comparative, reviews about the 005 and thereby to get a feel for its place between the other top-end dacs on todays market.
Jan 25, 2021 at 10:14 AM Post #3 of 581
A summary of my listening impressions:

After replacing my (unmodified) DA004 by the 005 I let it do what the 004 did: decoding digital audio from my streamer and TV (+ streaming services).
Setup as follows:
(1) Intel NUC6CAYH (Celeron J3455) with Audirvana, streaming Qobuz and my own cd-rips and HR files from a built-in SSD.
Between NUC usb out and AES input of the 004 I had a Mutec 3+USB. I sold the Mutec, and the NUC now goes into Amanero usb of 005 via a new iFi iPurifier 3.
(2) Between the extremely jittery Toslink out of the TV and 004 I had the excellent iFi S/PDIF iPurifier 2. I kept this brilliant no-brainer for the 005.
Further downstream:
– nCore 400 power amp + Canton Vento 590 II,
– Spritzer KGSSHV + Stax SR-007.

Defining moments in the first days with the 005:
– In the opening scene of The Wolfs Call (a 2019 French thriller with submarines, on Amazon Prime Video) a jetfighter flies in a straight line from left to right through the image. My jaw dropped because of the precise localization of the plane in the sound image, and especially the way this precision was maintained long after the jet had passed my right speaker! Exceptional stereo quality.
– With the 004 I found it hard to find the right measure of toe-in of the speakers. I had to compromise between unpleasantly strident highs when the speakers were aimed directly at me, and significant loss of treble when I reduced the toe-in angle. With 005 this problem is gone: I aimed the speakers right at the listening spot and was rewarded with the right amount of clear and delicate treble. No sharpness at all.

As I wrote before: transparency always was a very strong point of 004. I dared not hope 005 would be better on this point. Well, it is. A lot. The 005 gives stunning detail. The tone is full and 'weighty', and reminds me of vinyl (I have a refurbished Dual 621 with Ortofon OM40 + Fritz Gyger stylus). Bass is bigger and stronder, while much more defined and articulate. Everything sounds clearly better on the 005. I was really worried to pay a lot of money for what might turn out to be only a slightly audible update of the already capable DA004. It was not. In the last five years or so my rig gave me better and better sound, but I never believed it was 'high-end'. I do now. I believe the Musetec DA005 is an end-game DAC. I would very much like to see it compared with competitors.
Jan 25, 2021 at 6:20 PM Post #4 of 581
Jacklin, I fully expect you'll only find this dac gets better over time just as I have.

And so, I've been running 005 for perhaps a month alongside Auralic Vega, LKS 004 and Okto Dac 8 stereo (w streaming, have yet to listen in depth, review will come in time).

First some context. Over thirty years as audiophile, churned a fair amount of equipment over these years, modder (have experience with many boutique capacitors, resistors, discrete voltage regulators, etc. System used for following 005 review is limited to my custom built 300B monoblock amps, Coincident Statement pre, Klipschorns (extreme mods,only bass cabinet is original), steaming setup too complex to list here, Roon with no DSP, Synology NAS for cd rips. Dedicated AC lines, power conditioning, dedicated room with carefully planned acoustic treatments, all i's dotted and t's crossed in regard to entire system. If interested details can be found in Audiogon virtual systems under sns.

I now have well over 50 hours serious listening, well over 400 hours burn on 005. Right off, first listen, perhaps 100 hours burn, I could tell 005 was special. While 004 resolution and transparency are pretty special, 005 takes it even further. What was a black background became a limitless sense of sound emanating out of the ether, this kind of quiet needs to be heard to be believed. The other aspect of sound that stood out initially was an amazing sense of breath from performers, a much greater sense of live performers in my room. Replicating this sense of living, breathing entities in audio systems requires an athletic power supply, one that can produce those nuanced micro dynamics that give performers breath. Superior macro dynamic performance was exposed by much less compression during transients, greater sense of ease, lack of strain, allows one to relax more into the music. Much less congestion during crescendos and complex passage added greatly to this sense of ease And so, those particular aspects of sq were what I focused on intially.

Over time, as I began to focus on other aspects, I heard at least equal to or best transparency ever in my system, no sense of looking through a window. This aspect of sq is something I've found SET amplifiers to excel at, an immediacy, performers being transported to room, rather than being transported to recording venue, quality . A more expansive sound stage with greater precision, along with more dimensional imaging brings about a greater sense of holographic life size performers in room. Tonality or tonal balance can only be described as neutral, dark recordings sound dark, bright sound bright. Allied to this is reach of bass and high frequencies, both extend out further than I recall, especially in bass. Excellent power supply also allows greater impact and articulation in bass. 300B SET amps are often characterized as having looser, rounder quality bass, my 300B monoblocks now compete with my Coincident Turbo 845 as heard partnering with other dacs in this department. I expect even more impactful bass when I get around to listening sessions with 005 and 845 amp.

And so we now get to the purportedly achilles heel of sabre chip dacs; namely timbre. Initially, while impressed with improvement over other dacs, I still found 005 to be slightly on digital side of analog/digital divide. Over time, listening sessions divided by 100 hour increments of burn in, brought improvements here. And now over last 15 hours listening and 200 hours more burn in of 005 (along with burn in [300B amps] of newly installed Texas Components TX2575 resistors in signal path and Duelund Silver bypass capacitors in power supply) I'm now hearing what I can only describe as organic sound. Not a hint of digititus, really very analog like sound. And I do know what analog sounds like having grown up with it, been through Regas, modded Thorens, a couple of upgraded VPI setups, all belt drive. Now fully restored Technics SP10 MkII with 100 lbs custom plinth, etc. Point of this equipment description is that I'm not imagining analog like, organic timbre, this level of harmonic development out of an upsampling capable Sabre chip dac is possible!

My take is the 005 is the real deal, deserving of being in upper echelon of dacs. I'd like to see reviews of this dac in context of dacs like Aqua Formula, Holo May, Totaldac, Mola Mola and others I'm failing to mention. Ultimately, I don't care about schemes, whether it be R2R, FPGA, NOS, AKM or Sabre chips. Its all about sound quality, how you get there is beside the point. In the end, it comes down to a single person, perhaps a committee of people voicing audio components. You have to hope these people have similar sound preferences to your own for maximum enjoyment in your system. Having said that, I expect the 005 will excel with a variety of setups, whether solid state or tubes. Many assume tube setups are warm, I can assure you this isn't the case here, been there done that, I highly doubt the 005 needs the buffering effect of tubes. The 005 is simply a highly resolving, natural sounding dac! Assuming one's setup has the resolution necessary to hear this dacs full potential, any anomalies will be due to other pieces in system.
Jan 26, 2021 at 8:52 AM Post #6 of 581
Wow! Two hundred-something pages on the D004, and just one page on the D005? I wonder if LKS/Musetec simply priced themselves out of a larger market share with the D005.

Greatly appreciate the comments so far!
I am a very happy buyer so far (just one week!). I suspect strongly you can't get value like this for anything like this price, even if it is twice as much as I paid for a 004. My rig is less involved than the one sn109 brings to the table, but my Stax SR007 is totally transparent, and I am very impressed by what I hear. And most of that extra 005 quality is perfectly audible on the loudspeakers too! I notice I am now more inclined to listen to the speakers instead of the phones than I did. I used to pick the Stax for fear of missing out detail. No need for that any more.
Jan 26, 2021 at 9:58 AM Post #7 of 581
Wow! Two hundred-something pages on the D004, and just one page on the D005? I wonder if LKS/Musetec simply priced themselves out of a larger market share with the D005.

Greatly appreciate the comments so far!
A couple things here. I'm with you, when I began to research a single review or even feedback on 005. It became a big risk to purchase without a single feedback! I suspect this may still be the only review/impression thread on 005 in the US. Why is this? I already mentioned risk, jacklin and I being only purchasers, still a big risk for most. 005 is also a relatively new model, let more time go by, may hear more. Also, virtually no marketing done by Mutec, I believe they are small company, unless part of a larger conglomerate, three dacs only products. Mutec would be smart to release review samples to professional reviewers. Negative bias towards made in Chinese products, we do live in an era of hostility towards world trade. This is a funny one to me as virtually every electronic device made or sold in every country on earth is chock full of Chinese made parts. I've seen any number of studies that expose Honda vehicles have the greatest American content. This includes parts and labor. And you may be correct, perhaps the 005 seems excessively priced for Chinese audio product, Chinese audio perceived as cheap and/or midfi. I predict we are in early days of more expensive Chinese products coming to US and Europe, Hollo May has been highly praised in mainstream press, I bet they're selling pretty good. I wouldn't doubt Kitsune has something to do with marketing that dac. Apos and Shenzhen Audio need to get on the ball.

Jacklin and I are relatively nobody's in audio world, are we going to lead 005 to mass sales? I can only suggest people hear this dac and judge for themselves. Our veracity will be proven out. As for me, I've purchased much equipment during my audio life, I've heard much at audio shows, local audiophile's homes. This dac is in the top echelon of my favorite equipment purchases over my thirty plus years in audio. I will also soon be able to place 005 within context of a new hot dac, the Okto 8 dac multichannel is in Kalman Rubinson of Stereophile fame, Atkinson just posted a review of stereo version, compared very nicely to $10,0000 plus Weiss dac. Also top measurements at both Sterephile and audiosciencereview forum, highest signal to noise ratio they ever measured last time I checked. Add to that a well documented three month and more wait list (nearly sixteen week wait for me), demand is ginned up on this dac. Again, this is aprox. $1500 dac, perhaps this is top price people are willing to pay for dacs from relatively unknown companies? Anyway, I will soon put my Okto Dac8 in main rig, some context for 005 sound quality will become more clear. Still, I'm only one relatively unknown person, I'm not perceived as any authority in audio world. It will take multiple reviewers in multiple forums for 005 to gain traction in market.
Jan 26, 2021 at 11:07 AM Post #8 of 581
Great reviews!
Jan 26, 2021 at 3:01 PM Post #10 of 581
sns109, as you said .. you need a good amp to maximize the benefit of this high-res DAC,
I am curious which 300B are you using ? Tak, WE, elrog .... ? TIA
To say I am interested in a Okto Stereo 8 review would be an understatement, especially if it were a comparison with 005. A Denafrips Terminator in the mix would be nice too, as would a few others I can think of. A dream of course.
Jan 26, 2021 at 3:42 PM Post #11 of 581
Jan 26, 2021 at 5:26 PM Post #12 of 581
sns109, as you said .. you need a good amp to maximize the benefit of this high-res DAC,
I am curious which 300B are you using ? Tak, WE, elrog .... ? TIA
I'm using Shuguang Black Treasures. Upgrade here has been of utmost importance for some time. Researched all to great extent, would purchase Elrogs if reliability wasn't issue. Two iterations, reportedly many issues, now they have Mk III, recently saw someone selling a single on ebay due to other mkIII going bad. Not good! Mostly, its come down to Psvane Acme and the new Linlai Elite, waiting for some reviews for Linlai. Recently saw comparison between Acme and Elite over at positive feedback (I believe), based on review I'd choose Elite. Recently I purchased LInlai Elite mesh plate 101D for Coincident Statement pre, shoot out with present Psvane WE101D, Elite build quality much better, sound quality, a step up for sure. Greater resolving power and more natural timbre. At this point very impressed by Linlai company, Srajan over at 6moons has in depth review with Rachel at Grant Fidelity, seems like some valuable employees at Psvane have migrated to Linlai. Srajan will also soon be reviewing Linlai Elite 2a3, 300 and (I believe 845).

Not unhappy with Black Treasures, really nice tubes for the money!
Jan 26, 2021 at 5:47 PM Post #13 of 581
As for Okto, lending out to nephew this week, he will compare to Auralic Altair dac section. He has really nice Stax setup, can't recall which model, also relatively large electrostatic amp, twice the size of Stax amp he had at same time, don't know the brand, pretty impressive size and heft! He may be member here in which case I'll have him post his impressions.

As for Denafrips, the Terminator was on short list to purchase until 2019. 2019 auditioning various solid state amps for summer replacement of space heater Turbo 845, this prior to getting 300B and Prima Luna Dialogue Four. I had Denafrips Hyperion and Musical Fidelity M2si in at same time, Hyperion was perhaps one of the most underwhelming pieces of equipment I've ever heard, small soundstage, very dark tonality, lack of resolution, etc. Sounded like an amp with absolutely no burn in, asked previous owner, he stated many hours, more burn in for days, same exact sound. I don't want to cast aspersions on Terminator, it may be amazing for all I know. I just can't seriously consider it based on Hyperion sound, I can't trust the people doing the voicing. As far as it being broken, guy I sold it to had no complaints. And just for context, that little Musical Fidelity piece is five star within context of $1k integrated amp, sweet and musical, just not as resolving as I'm used to.
Jan 29, 2021 at 8:52 AM Post #14 of 581
The 005 is here now for two weeks, so it's time for a small update. I have been listening to a lot of music and movies. The Musetec has been working every day for around six hours, plus the same number just 'burning in'. I must say I am not comfortable with the concept of 'burn-in', because I suspect its perceived effects may be influenced by expectation bias. And my ears may not be so golden. I have for instance no talent at all for hearing differences between cables. On the other hand, I always hear differences between dacs, sometimes substantial. And I don't believe 'bits are just bits', whatever Audio Science Review tries to teach me. The iFi iPurifiers (usb and spdif) and especially Mutec MC3+ usb have convinced me of their worth (Audioquest Jitterbug did not).
I consider a dac the most important part of a modern hifi-rig, just like pick-up cartridges in the old days. They decode the sound from its source and define it.
The Musetec DA005 is the best dac I ever heard by far (though I must admit I had not heard any multi-thousand euro dac before). The sound images from the 005 feel so complete that I cannot believe it leaves anything out. This plays on four levels:
detail: there is no vagueness at all. Tiniest details can be followed exactly. Especially on headphones the lowest level information is satifyingly clear. Who sings or plays what, and where exactly? A choir is a collection of individual voices, and not a grey mushy wall of sound. Room ambiance is simply there.
timbre: The sound is full and 'weighty'; bass is heavier as well as better defined.
image: my loudspeakers have become acoustically invisible. I can still see them standing there and I know they are playing, but they aren't perceptibly connected to the sound cloud between and beyond them. The precise stereo image is much wider then the 2,5 meters between them.
dynamics: The sound is lively and natural, because smaller and larger peaks seem to be all 'there'. There is less compression than I remember.

For many months after its release no review of the 005 was published. Now sns109 and I have done our bit. Any Okto Stereo 8 reviews out there?

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