Mytek Manhattan DAC
Inputs: Firewire 400/800 (192k/DSD), USB2.0 (384k/DSD256), USB 1.1 (96k), DSD DOP256 SDIF DSD input, optional SACD optical input, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, Toslink (all up to 192k), 2x analog RCA, Wordclock In and Out. Optional MC/MM Phono Preamplifier Module
Outputs: unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR pairs, 2x 1/4" headphone jack
Dimensions: 2.6" x 17" x 11.5"
Weight: 18 lbs
Availability: Online and through Authorized Dealers
Price: $5495.00, currently available for $4995 directly from Mytek
Mytek shook up the DSD DAC market with their Stereo192-DSD DAC back in 2011 at RMAF. At that time, there were just a handful of much more expensive DSD capable DACs and most people wondered if this DSD thing was going to catch on. It did. I favorably reviewed the Stereo192-DSD DAC (see review) which I still use daily. Mytek's new consumer offering is the Manhattan and it represents Mytek's "finest achievement" according to the company. Let's see.
If you'd like to know about Mytek the company, DSD, and their DACs before we get started on the Manhattan, check out our Q&A with Michal Jurewicz of Mytek. It's definitely worth a read.
Let's start on the outside. The Manhattan, as you see, is covered on three sides with scalloped aluminum. The look is similar to the Resolution Audio Cantata which I've always liked. The top panel sports the Mytek logo, a large M surrounded and defined by ventilation holes in the chassis which sits atop rubber feet or the included down-facing spikes for isolation. Overall I'm diggin' the Manhattan's looks, YLMV (Your Looks May vary), but if I were to pick nits, I'd point out that the control buttons do not perfectly match the faceplate.
The Manhattan is a DAC, preamplifier, and headphone amp delivering up to 32/384 PCM and DSD256 over USB 2.0 utilizing an ESS Sabre DAC chipset in an 8 mono to 2 double-balanced stereo configuration. Mytek claims a dynamic range of 130dB. Inside there's also a Crystek CVHD-950 ultra-low phase noise oscillator (i.e. clock) which Mytek claims delivers Femto accuracy with jitter below 1ps. There are separate "over sized" linear power supplies for the analog and digital sections and the headphone amp is a high current 1.6 amp dual output dual-mono design with 0.25 Ohm impedance which should drive most headphones without issue.
As you can see, there are a host of additional digital and analog inputs including an optional forthcoming MC/MM phono input making the Manhattan a full-function preamp. The outputs include single-ended RCAs and balanced XLRs and two front-mounted 1/4" headphone jacks. Also up front are a number of camouflaged buttons for power, menu, two assignable function buttons, and a volume/menu function knob. You've also seen the large white on black display which shows the volume level and sample rate of the file being played. The display brightness can be adjusted in 16 levels, you can turn the signal level meters off, and set the display to automatically shut off.
The Manhattan offers a number of options including analog and digital volume control, fixed output, as well as several filters for PCM (Slow - gentle cutoff with some aliasing, and Sharp - brickwall cutoff at ½ sampling rate) and DSD (Cutoff frequency - 50, 60 or 70 Kilohertz). You can also choose to upsample all PCM to 32-bit/192kHz or, with an upcoming firmware release, through internal hardware you can upsample everything to DSD256. The function buttons offer access to a number of additional features including mute, phase (inverts the signal phase), mono (sums L and R channels), L-R (subtracts one channel from the other, canceling out mono information while leaving the stereo information), and MID-SIDE (a combination of Mono (L+R) and L-R, the mid signal is the sum of L and R (mono) and the side signal is the stereo information from the L-R operation). (OK, I'm confused ;-). You can also set one of the function buttons to lower the volume by 20 dB.
The Manhattan also comes with an Apple remote and it will also work with any universal remote control using the Philips RC5 standard. The remote allows you to adjust volume and walk through both the function and menu options.
Finally the Manhattan can be set to automatically scan the inputs to determine which are connected. If there is more than one device connected, the priority is set to USB 2.0, FireWire, USB 1.1, AES/EBU, SDIF, SPDIF. On is the default setting for auto scan.
On the software side, both Mac and PC users need to download and install the Mytek drivers which are available from their website. If you already own the Stereo192-DSD DAC, you first need to remove its drivers and the Mytek control app. This process is detailed in the Software Setup Guide and is relatively straight forward but it does take some time to accomplish as I found out since I had the older Mytek drivers loaded on my MacBook.
Once I took care of the drivers, I connected the Mytek to my MacBook Pro with the Light Harmonic Lightspeed USB cable. I ran both Pure Music 2 and Audirvana. The Manhattan was connected to my Pass INT-30A with Kimber Kable Select KS 1126 Balanced ICs which drove the DeVore Fidelity The Nines.
I also asked Michal Jurewicz if he could provide some information on how the Manhattan differs from the Stereo192-DSD DAC. Here's his response:
Manhattan architecture borrows from proven award winning Stereo192-dsd-dac architecture.
Because of a much larger design budget, using higher grade parts and circuits and more of them was possible. Everything that could have been made better with a bigger budget has been redesigned and upgraded.
Both small and Manhattan DAC are designed around the Sabre DAC chipset, configured as double balanced design where 8 channel of conversions are combined into high performance stereo conversion with balanced cancellation of common mode digital interference.
Both USB and Firewire interfaces are similar to stereo192-dsd-dac with the exception of a high grade masterclock generator. The Manhattan uses a high precision Femto Clock oscillator that also allows for 384kHz and DSD256 playback and improves low level signal resolution. Stereo192dsd-dac is 192kHz and DSD128 max.
The analog section of Manhattan uses higher grade parts wherever possible. There is significantly more power decoupling capacitance on a special separate power supply board.
Instead of the one 30W power supply in Stereo192-sd-dac, Manhattan features two large 60 W supplies with special low noise custom Mytek linear transformers. There is a separate power supply for analog and digital sections each featuring a massive bank of high performance capacitors. The result is not only reduced interference between digital and analog but also rock solid massive amount of current supply for the analog section. The extra available current allows the DAC to faithfully reproduce transients, reduces distortion , especially for louder passages and signal time alignment and phase coherence. This results in tighter and deeper bass, solid soundstage imaging, better 3D space representation and more refined midrange and treble reproduction.
Manhattan DAC also features a bigger selection of 3 analog inputs in addition to all digital inputs (including DSD) emphasizing the preamp functionality of the DAC. One of the analog inputs is fully balanced, while another can be used for connecting a turntable if the optional Manhattan phono preamp card is installed. There is also an option for DSD optical transport connections for clients who own Meitner or Playback Design SACD players.
In the next firmware release Manhattan menu operation features several additional functions such as DSD256 upsampling and wordlength readout and will also be richer and more intuitive as it takes advantage of the more refined dot matrix display.
Manhattan headphone amplifier is a high performance dual mono design twice as powerful as the small DAC and has the ability to drive balanced headphones (when used with special Mytek 1/4” to XLR4 adapter which plugs in to two available jacks). There are very few amps that can drive demanding planar headphones (Abyss, Audeze, Hi Fi man) well. Mytek Manhattan does it very well.
Stereo192-dsd-dac emphasizes sound and functionality in a small well built standard metal packaging. Mytek Manhattan enclosure is a cutting edge industrial design manufactured by the leading California high end aluminum fabricator.
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While beauty is in the ear of the beholder, I have a hard time seeing how anyone would not appreciate the Manhattan's oh-so-smooth presentation. By smooth I mean what the Manhattan does well as well as what it doesn't do. Digital reproduction can sound unnaturally hard-edged and flat. While this unwanted sonic feature is becoming less the norm, the degree to which the Manhattan delivers what I'd call a non-digital sound sets it apart from a lot of other DACs.
While the Manhattan delivers a very fine-grained level of resolution and micro detail, it does not feel the least bit unnatural or forced. There's also loads of tone color, body, and weight to the presentation. The overall sound picture is portrayed in a spacious and natural manner retelling the space of the recording with great specificity and ease. This feature, the rock solid image with players laid out and very easy to follow, is something that less expensive DACs typically muddle. It's as if the sound picture gets blurred and diffuse. One of things I like about the Auralic Vega is it presents a similarly solid image, especially when run in Exact mode, but the Mytek Manhattan takes this another step toward the sound of reality.
It took a few weeks of listening before I got around to my test tracks because I was simply enjoying myself listening to mostly new music, many streaming from Tidal. Kendrick Lamar's newest, Moon Duo's Shadows of the Sun, Future Brown, THEESatisfaction, and more. Nice. When I did get around to spinning some well worn tracks including Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass "Rain", Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Love Letter", Tom Waits "Alice", Don Cherry's "Bemsha Swing", Elvis Costello "Shipbuilding", and on and on I remained struck by the Mytek's many strengths. Charlie Haden's bass on "Bemsha Swing" from Art Deco was big, full, and solid delivering its size and color very convincingly. The Manhattan is no light weight in the bass department yet it remains in firm control.
One morning while listening to the Manhattan, I went on a John Coltrane binge; Giant Steps (16/44.1 from a CD rip), Blue Train (24/192 HDtracks), and A Love Supreme (DSD, Acoustic Sounds). What a wonderful treat it was. I'm going to avoid going deep into descriptions of insignificant sonic stuff even though the Manhattan digs deep into the recording. What's more important is music simply sounds natural and engaging. What more can you ask for?
I used the Manhattan's analog and digital volume controls and I also ran it in Bypass mode, using my Pass to control volume. The verdict? I could easily see the Mytek functioning as preamp. There was no sonic penalty, even at low volumes using both the digital and analog controls. Either volume control also allows independent adjustment of the main output level and the headphone output level. Which did I prefer? The analog volume seemed to add a bit more heft to the presentation at the expense of resolution, a trade-off I was willing to make. I also walked through the different filter options for PCM and DSD and while there are subtle differences between them, and I had my favorites, there's no point in going into detail since the Manhattan's general sound comes through each filter setting.
I plugged in the NAD Viso HP50 'phones into the upper jack, the lower jack reverses polarity (absolute signal phase can be controlled on the front panel), and put on D'Angelo's Black Messiah (24/96 Bleep). All of the grooviness, funk, and fun was delivered in full. There's also a three-position gain switch (-6 dB, 0, +6 dB) on the back of the unit to match your 'phones needs. While I am not a big headphone listener, I can see listening and enjoying the Manhattan in private mode.
Perhaps the comparison some of you have been waiting for is how does the Manhattan compare to the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC? The first thing I noticed after connecting the Stereo192-DSD DAC up and hitting play is the overall sound image collapsed in size. The Manhattan throws out a bigger sound picture. The Stereo192 also sounded a bit shelved down in terms of dynamic snap compared to the Manhattan and even a tad less tonally rich. While I still enjoy the Stereo192 DAC and consider it a great value at $1495, the Manhattan certainly provides a bigger, more solid, and a more fluid and engagingly musical presentation. Win, win, win.
It's up to you, New York, New York!
Mytek has hit another one out of the park. The Manhattan is a very fine sounding DAC, preamplifier, and headphone amp that delivers as solid and real a sound image as I've heard. It also sounds very natural, inviting, and engaging while offering the ability to subtly tailor its sound to your liking through the use of upsampling, various filters, and digital and analog volume controls. Yes, the Mytek Manhattan lives up to its name.
Also in-use during the Manhattan review: Auralic Vega DAC, Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC