By Lam Seng Fatt
Since I had heard so much about Mytek DACs, but never had the chance to hear them, I jumped at the opportunity to review a Mytek Stereo 192-DSD DAC when I was offered one recently.
The Mytek 192-DSD DAC is a compact component that can handle PCM files up to 32bit 192kHz and DSD files up to 256DSD (5.6 MHz). It uses an ESS Sabre chipset in 8 mono to 2 stereo configuration and is one the few DACs (I am not sure if it is the only one) that still features a Firewire 400/800 input. It has two USB inputs – one which is USB1.1 for legacy components and the USB2.0 for the hi-res and DSD files which are streamed asynchronously.
Navigating the settings takes some getting used to, but after a while you will get the hang of it. To get it to play DSD, you have to download an ASIO driver to your laptop which enables it to send DSD files on DoP (DSD over PCM) format to the DAC via USB 2.0.
I quickly set it up in my resident system, replacing the the Wyred4Sound DAC2 which had been doing the digital to analogue conversion duty. According to its website, Mytek Digital has been building mastering grade converters for the New York City Recording Industry since 1992, the early years of digital. Mytek converters were used in many major releases of the last two decades such as David Bowie, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, B 52’s, Madonna, and many others. “Mytek converters are reknowned for accuracy and transparency, accurate smooth top end, defined midrange and tight bass,” Mytek’s website claims. So, are the claims true?
After several days of listening with a variety of music from sources like CDs, ripped CDs, hi-res files (from 24/88.2 to 24/192) and DSD 2.8 and 5.6 files from Opus, I came to the conclusion that at least some of the claims are true – at least according to my ears.
The Mytek sounds very accurate with a fair amount of transparency and wide soundstage. It also sounds very detailed – more so than the Wyred4Sound but less so than the Bryston BDA2 – and its soundstage, though wider than others, is not as wide as the Wyred4Sound, Its tonal balance is quite neutral, but there is a noticeable tilt to the bass. The bass is tight and strong, but not in an overpowering manner. It’s just that you will notice that the bass is more prominent than the other frequencies.
These qualities remained quite constant regardless of format and resolution of the music files. PCM and DSD files had the same sonic qualities imposed on them by the Mytek. In other words, despite the sonic differences due to the different formats, the Mytek’s character was stamped on the music. Detailed and slightly bassy sound was the Mytek way of delivering the goods.
There are a few observations I would like to mention. The Mytek offers upsampling of PCM files to 24/192 before conversion. I tried this a few times while using the resident headphones – the Sennheiser HD600 (the Mytek also offers a headphone amp function) – and I felt that upsampling made Cassandra Wilson’s chesty and gruff voice sound smooth. So it is better not to upsample and after discovering this, I listened to PCM files with the upsampling off.
Mytek also offers two PCM filters – Sharp and Slow. ‘Sharp’ is the usual brickwall type used in all CD players. So I tried ‘Slow’ and found that the sound became smooth with rounded-off leading edges of music. The sound was on the bland side and some slam was missing. I switched on the ‘Sharp’ filter and left it at that for the rest of the review.
As for DSD filters, it offers 50k/60k/70k filters. From experience, I have found that the 60k filter works best and I enabled the 60k DSD filter and left it at that for the rest of the review.
The Mytek also offers a choice of Analogue or Digital stepped volume control with Bypass for the purest signal path. When used as a preamp (the Mytek can also be used as a preamp), I found the Analogue volume control to sound better and when used as a DAC, I set it on Bypass. As a preamp, it could not match the qualities of my Lamm LL2 Deluxe preamp which sounded way better. This experience proves again that a standalone preamp always sounds better than the preamp feature of a DAC.
As a headphone amp, the Mytek provided an accurate and detailed sound more suited for monitoring than enjoying music. That is not a bad thing, as it simply reveals Mytek’s pedigree as a studio-oriented marque.
In conclusion, the Mytek is a good buy at its price level. It sits at the price level between the budget king of DACs – the TEAC UD-501 – and the higher level DACs like the Bryston, Wyred4Sound, Benchmark and Ayre.
The Mytek 192-DSD DAC is available at Wave in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya. It is priced at RM5,200.