I have to stop and reflect on the way we listen to music today versus how I did growing up. It used to be a trip to the now defunct Tower Records or whatever local record store was in my town at the time. We browsed the racks looking for either the latest release from our favorite band or the coolest looking cover. Now the entire world of music is available at the click of a button. The ritual of listening has evolved as well. From the unwrapping of the plastic of the record, cassette, and eventually CDs, to sitting and listening, flipping the record, rewinding the best song over and over again… you get the idea. At the core of it, access and the act of listening was not as easy. Not as convenient. Now we listen more and more on our phones and computers to everything from reasonably high-quality files to absolutely "crap-res" files. Between the ones and zeros, and your ears is a digital to analog converter. For those of us lucky enough to have nice converters in our studios, we have the pleasure of listening to high-res files through high-end converters on nice monitors and/or headphones. It's our job, but let's face it; as music fans, it's a luxury.
Most of the planet has no idea what they're missing and perhaps they do not care. I do. I have shared before the story of my kids hearing music through a good converter on nice headphones. It was a new level of immersion and connection with the music. Yeah sure, I still catch them listening on their phones or the Alexa, but they get a hearty and deserved shaming for it. They can swear, eat all the dessert, and steal my seat on the couch, but God forbid they listen to a 128 Kbps MP3 on an iPhone – it's just not okay.
So, what do we do? There are still great solutions for playback on your computer that may be an extra step but will greatly improve your listening experience. The Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is one such device. This new version of the Brooklyn DAC has a completely rebuilt analog section that includes an updated Sabre Pro chipset, a cleaner, discrete analog attenuator circuit (with improved analog input performance and phono stage transparency), and an upgraded headphone amp that offers advanced detail and definition delivered through a dual mono analog path.
Here are the nuts and bolts; the Brooklyn DAC + handles conversion up to 384 kHz, 32-bit PCM, native DSD up to DSD256, DXD, and 130 dB Dynamic Range. The unit also includes a built-in hardware MQA Hi-Res Decoder. I was not familiar with this process and those that want to learn more about it should check out www.mqa.co.uk/customer/how-it-works for more info. The back panel sports several digital input connections: a USB 2.0, an AES/EBU, two S/PDIF (or DSD L/R), a TOSLINK/ADAT, and a BNC word clock. All digital inputs can be routed to a computer via USB2 or S/PDIF. The unit allows for connection of external digital sources such as CD players and digitizing ADCs. The clock is a Mytek FemtoClock Generator with a rated 0.82 picosecond internal jitter. With word clock input and output the Brooklyn DAC+ allows for stacking multiple units for multi-channel operation. It has dual headphone jacks and a 6 watt/ 500 mA headphone amp, that works well with even hard-to-drive headphones. The volume knob is a 1 dB per step analog attenuator with a separate control for main out and headphones, and has a true relay bypass. Finally, the analog preamp section accepts line level or phono M/M, M/C input, (via unbalanced RCA jacks) and is relay controlled. The unit comes with an Apple TV remote that can be set up to work with the Brooklyn DAC+ and can also be configured to work with any RC5 compatible remote. Firmware is upgradable via a USB control panel.
I first used the Brooklyn DAC+ for playback of CDs with my Tascam CDRW-5000 CD player. My current set up does not suck by any means, but I always enjoy plugging new things in and taking them for a spin. My Rega Research amp is just an input selector with volume and does not have a headphone jack – so I appreciated being able to listen to discs with the "cans" on as well as on speakers. For headphone duties I used my Audeze LCD-3 headphones [Tape Op #119]. But man, who listens to CDs anymore? I have a wall of them in my house that I tell myself I use for reference purposes, but with almost everything being available now via some streaming service or another, it's getting harder and harder to justify their claim to all that physical space. So, when I am not listening to vinyl with a cup of coffee and some time to read liner notes, I listen to files off my computer or via Spotify.
You can do your wireless streaming as you see fit, and it is convenient to forgo plugging your phone or computer into the DAC. In both cases (direct and wireless) the Brooklyn DAC+ delivered a superior product to the ears. The whole experience is simply more full spectrum. Better low end, and a noticeable and appreciatively smoother top end. Also, I have mentioned this in other reviews regarding high-end converters: listening fatigue sets in much later with good conversion. Your brain does not have to work as hard to reassemble all those zeros and ones into music, not to mention the zeros and ones that are not there due to compression codecs on low-res files.
Because I could, I connected my Rega Research Planar 3 turntable to the Brooklyn DAC+ in order to utilize its analog preamp section. It sounded as good or maybe even better than my Rega Research preamp, and with the added bonus of being able to monitor vinyl records on headphones, I really enjoyed this listening session. On the analog side, the Brooklyn provided a rich listening experience that was multi-dimensional and full spectrum. I like being immersed in sound and the Brooklyn DAC+ delivered.
Listening to music on my computer via USB and using ADAM Audio's T5 and T7 [#128] monitors as well as headphones was also a real treat. Without the Brooklyn, the music just sounded flat. There was less detail and a noticeable difference in the presentation of the low end. With the Brooklyn there was new depth, with more of a spatial quality to the music. Even listening to MP3s, files from Spotify, and Apple AAC codec files, it seemed like I was hearing the songs closer to the way they were meant to be heard. There is no better way to make this assessment than to listen to something you've worked on yourself. So that's what I did. I found things I mixed on Spotify and listened to them with and without the Brooklyn DAC+ as compared to my high-quality WAVs of the same songs. It is undeniable that with an apples to apples comparison on something I mixed and know well, the Mytek was the organic apple with sugars converted by a cold snap versus the same variety conventionally grown. If you can taste the difference and want to spend more for a better tasting and healthier piece of fruit, the choice is clear. Snobbery? Totally. If you are even considering a high-end DAC, you are already tweaked enough to be there. Trouble is, once you taste something like this, it's hard to go back. You'd be settling.
But what about the studio? Yes, the Brooklyn DAC+ is a great studio control room monitor rig. Accessing the screens for changing conversion/sample rates is easy once you get the hang of it, and with all the available connections you should have no issue integrating the Brooklyn DAC+ into your existing rig. It's always a bit of a pain to redo your monitoring (or any piece of the studio backbone), but with a couple cable swaps and menu tweaks, I was up and listening to sessions. I am spoiled by the Crane Song Avocet II [#103] that I use for monitoring duties, so the bar is extremely high for comparison sake. The Brooklyn DAC+ is in the category of very high-end. The sound of the unit in the studio environment is very good, true to source and easy to listen to for long sessions. You can use headphones with and without the mains on, and there is plenty of headroom. I would report the same takeaways as I did with home listening: clear and extended on both the top and bottom of the spectrum with a transparent and focused midrange. All the detail needed for making mix choices was there, maybe leaning slightly towards the hi-fi. Paired with the Focal Trio 6BEs [#114] in my studio, the Brooklyn DAC+ was appreciated. It does not have several functions that many monitor controllers have (like multiple speaker selection, etc.) but there is a system wide phase switch, and as a standalone converter or for users that do not have need for extra functionality, it is up there with the best of them in terms of audio quality.
Can music be enjoyed with up sampling of over 300 kHz? Of course it can. Will it be the difference between a hit and a flop? Of course it won't. Vinyl aside, we are not going back in any sort of meaningful way to old formats of mass distributed music. Digital is here to stay, and high quality/resolution digital files are becoming more available and accessible to the mainstream listener. For those looking for an elevated listening experience the Brooklyn DAC+ is a feature rich and great sounding unit that should be considered. We have come a long way with the quality of codecs and file compression, but for a guy who still really connects with and enjoys the ritual of putting a record on, the Brooklyn DAC+ is a welcome tool and winner.