Mytek’s Brooklyn DAC adds the kitchen sink to MQA decoding


UPDATE July 2016: The Mytek Brooklyn has been reviewed here.

Mytek’s introduction of its Stereo192-DSD DAC in 2011 made a splash at that year’s Rocky Mountain Audio Festival because it was the first DAC to bring DSD decoding under the US$2k threshold. That was the headline. Buried in the small print was news of a bullet-proof bundle that featured Firewire, USB, S/PDIF, Toslink digital inputs, an analogue input, a most decent headphone amplifier, balanced XLR and single-ended outputs as well as a choice of analogue- or digital-domain volume attenuation, all controlled via a slim Apple wand.

In spite of its need for custom USB drivers and its more utilitarian looks, Mytek’s StereoDSD-192 DAC proved to be quite the package for the asking price of US$1395 (reviewed here).

Five years later, again at RMAF, Mytek showed off a refresh of their entry-level model. This one had a more memorable moniker, named after the company’s Stateside HQ location: Brooklyn. The headline this time was MQA decoding; Mytek’s Brooklyn would be the first consumer-grade DAC in the world (beyond those made by Meridian) to un-pack/decode MQA.


At the Mytek booth in Denver, Michael Lavorgna of AudioStream/Stereophile and I witnessed a demo of MQA-encoded hi-res audio streamed from Tidal over the Marriott hotel’s wireless network and then decoded by the Brooklyn converter.

MQA’s sorcery is that it can fold hi-res audio into a Redbook-sized wrapper, no increase in bandwidth required, and any MQA-equipped DAC – like the Mytek Brooklyn – can unwrap the entire MQA-encoded file. DACs lacking MQA certification can read and decode the Redbook portion only; the result of which is, according to MQA creator Bob Stuart, “better than CD-Quality”. Interesting, no?

As per its predecessor, there’s more to the Brooklyn than the headline.

Better concealing Mytek’s pro-audio roots is a new sculpted faceplate, inherited from the company’s more costly/deluxe Manhattan DAC (which isn’t MQA capable).

Next up is a reworked display (unfortunately not fully captured by my camera’s over eager shutter speed). This one’s colour and shows more info at a glance than the StereoDSD-192 could even dream of.

On the back panel, the Firewire input has gone bye-bye and the USB input is now (mercifully) driverless. That’s good news for anyone looking to feed the Brooklyn with a Linux-based music server/streamer. New to back panel connectivity is AES/EBU.

However, making a bigger splash for this vinyl lover is the Brooklyn’s in-built phono stage. The analogue input can be re-configured from its line-level default to accommodate MM and MC cartridges.


If that’s not enough, there’s: S/PDIF and Toslink digital inputs; a headphone amplifier that offers “high-current (500mA, 6 Watts) for hard-to-drive headphones” that can go balanced a la Pono Player; balanced XLR and single-ended outputs as well as a choice of analogue- or digital-domain volume attenuation; remote control again comes via an Apple wand hijack (or the supplied remote).

Internal decoding is once again handled by an ESS Sabre chip but to the Brooklyn Mytek have added “Mytek’s proprietary Femtoclock GeneratorTM minimizes internal jitter, to below 1 picosecond.”

Furthermore, the Brooklyn can accept external 12V DC power or battery and its warranty is two years. Black and silver finishes are available.

Price? US$1995. The Brooklyn nets you a LOT of DAC/pre-amplifier/phono-pre-amplifier for your money.

Why pen a post now and not back in October 2015? 1) The Mytek Brooklyn is now in production and ready to ship and 2) Michal Jurewicz and his team will be demonstrating the Brooklyn and its MQA-decoding capabilities at CES 2016 this week.

There’ll be more to come on this unit fo’ sho.

Further information: Mytek Digital


Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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  1. Looks like some great functionality there and seems like a promising DAC. I guess it’s a case of each to their own, but I find the facia really ugly. I wonder how it compares to the Benchmark DAC2 HGC.
    PS – Any chance you have an Ayre Codex review coming soon?

  2. > MQA’s sorcery is that it can fold hi-res audio into a Redbook-sized wrapper, no increase in bandwidth required

    I feel like, while your statement is not inaccurate, it’s important to note that you are comparing a compressed file format to raw uncompressed Redbook — not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. In the case of an online streaming service like Tidal, since they currently compress their streams using the lossless FLAC format, switching instead to MQA would result in a pretty significant increase in bandwidth usage.

    • I’m not sure that’s correct either, Dan; the (hi-res) MQA stream I saw at RMAF was pretty much the same size as a Tidal Redbook stream. I’ll hit up my Tidal contact for clarification when I see him at CES.

      • Yes, please do. I’d love to be wrong in this case. From what I’ve read, an MQA stream is compressed down to roughly 1.5 Mbps, which is just slightly larger than a raw Redbook stream at 1.411 Mbps. Compression for FLAC can vary, but can be as little as half this size.

      • Some sample MQA files have now been made available for download. A blogger at Computer Audiophile offers some analysis and comparisons with regular FLAC files:

        In this case, the MQA-encoded FLAC file weighs in at 16 MB, while the Redbook FLAC comes in at only 6.2 MB (2.5x smaller). (Interestingly, the author manages to optimize the hires original recording down into a 120kHz/18bit FLAC file which weighs only 13 MB.)

        If the above findings are comparable to what will be offered in the future by streaming services like Tidal, then the notion that the switch to MQA will require “no increase in bandwidth”, and that the format packages hi-res audio essentially for free, is way off.

  3. John, I’m not sure it can go balanced headphone out. All the gen I can glean says Mytek’s Brooklyn DAC can drive two pairs of headphones while allowing each to have its own individual level settings a la Manhattan. Can you clarify because if that is the case, I’m on the case. Cheers

    • Pretty sure both headphone outs can be tapped for balanced output, much like the Pono Player and Ayre Codex.

  4. Hi John.
    Great review of the Brooklyn DAC. I’m interested in MQA and potentially this DAC. When you heard MQA via Tidal where you impressed by what you heard?

    • Not a review Dave, hence the deliberate absence of listening impressions. At shows there’s no baseline from which to judge SQ.

  5. I’ll give you that, John, depending on the compression settings used by Tidal, the difference might not be as drastic as demonstrated above.

    I just don’t see how the bandwidth usage could be the same for both formats. As I understand it, ALL MQA content (download or streaming) is packaged as 44.1/24 or 48/24 PCM. This means that before compression, MQA will be at minimum 50% larger than Redbook. If the MQA file contains hi-res information, then the relative difference in file size between the two can only grow larger after compression — the nature of the low-level noise added to the file in the “origami” process means that it will not compress as efficiently as Redbook.

    Again, I would be happy to be wrong about all of this — but for me, the math doesn’t add up. I supposed we’ll have to wait for an official launch from Tidal to see for sure.

    • Where Misky’s logic runs aground is that one cannot judge file size differences between two formats based upon a single data point.

      • Hi John, sorry to keep this going — just one last comment from me, I promise. Michael Lavorgna posted a screen shot to his website today, of an iPhone streaming MQA from Tidal using the Lightning DS app: The bitrate of the MQA stream is indicated as being 1.782 Mbps. By definition, the regular 44.1/16 FLAC stream of the same track is guaranteed to be smaller than this, and with lossless compression it will most probably be less than half as large. I don’t have the Lightning DS app to experiment with, but anyone using it today could play back the track mentioned by Lavorgna to find its bitrate in regular FLAC format.

        To me, my suspicions are confirmed: hi-res MQA streaming bandwidth is not comparable to losslessly compressed CD-quality audio streaming bandwidth, but is instead significantly larger. This means that for everyone who does not use an MQA decoder, this is a waste of bandwidth and they are better off sticking to 44.1/16 FLAC.

        • Think about this: is the 1.782Mbps the UNPACKED bitrate or the TRANSMISSION bitrate? I suspect it’s the former, not the latter.

          I’m talking to Bob Stuart tonight about another matter so I’ll see if I can find out more. However, this might also be a Tidal thing too. Personally, I’m reserving judgement until I’ve lived with MQA on Tidal for a while and I get to see any uptick data usage (not sure how I’ll measure it) across a whole range of albums and NOT a coupla slices in time.

  6. Thanks for the reply John. That’s a shame they didn’t send it, it’s been getting some generally good user opinions on the CA forum, and the functionality range is pretty impressive. I’d love to hear your thoughts if or when you do get your hands on one…..