Mytek Digital Stereo192-DSD DAC Follow Up

A number of readers asked a very relevant question after reading my initial review of the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC—how about its preamplifier? And my response was—excellent question I will report back. In the mean time I received the Pass Labs INT-30A integrated amplifier on loan for just this purpose. The INT-30A allows you to essentially remove its buffered volume control from the circuit by simply turning the volume up to its maximum level (step 63). As Nelson Pass explained in Erick Lichte's excellent review of the INT-150A (which employs the same volume control as the INT-30A) in Stereophile, "First there is a selector switch, which is just relays, and then there's a buffer that drives the volume control. The output of that goes to the amp, and then you're done. There's not a lot there." While one needs to be careful A/B/C'ing (in this case) when dealing with a maximum level setting, this made for a very simple and effective means of comparing the Mytek's three preamplifier settings—Bypass, Analog, and Digital—with the Pass Labs INT-30A's. So on with the A,B,Cs of preamplification!

The Mytek's Digital volume control offered the leanest presentation of the three. Here, transients, attack, and resolution reign supreme and I suppose you could say this sounds like what some people consider to be the least intrusive way a preamplifier can sound. As compared to Bypass mode, there was also less air, a flatter presentation, and a bit more sibilance. While this mode was not my favorite, that really doesn't matter one bit since the beauty of the Mytek DAC, besides all of the positive things I said about it in the initial review which includes native DSD playback, is Mytek gives you choices.

In Analog mode I felt as if there was slightly more flesh on the bones. While you trade off some of the aggressive and leaner sound of Digital mode, I did not mind losing what to my ears sounds like an overly thinned-out presentation. Digital can generally be too-lean and bereft of timbral richness and harmonic complexity so I'm all for adding back what digital tends to strip away even at the expense of some loss of finer detail especially noticeable in more complex and dense music. The overall presentation was also a bit more diffuse as compared to Bypass mode were image density improved when the Pass' preamp section was in use. That said, I could imagine some recordings sounding better with Analog mode and others with Digital mode.

In bypass mode we're dealing with the Pass INT-30A's preamplifier section which struck me as providing a balance between the Mytek's Digital and Analog modes where I got the greater resolution of Digital along with the harmonic 'rightness' of Analog. Now we have to ask am I hearing the Pass INT-30A preamplifier or the lack of the Mytek's? Well both but the point that needs to be made is the ultimate answer to which mode sounds best is absolutely contingent upon the rest of your system and your idea of the ideal sound. So the "best" will vary from system to system and person to person.

What I can say with total confidence is that the Mytek's implementation of Digital and Analog preamplification is very well done and I can easily see someone being perfectly content without another preamplifier in their system. And the differences I noted between the Digital and Analog modes are really not huge and take some amount of critical listening in to hone in on. And remember the Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC offers AES/EBU, S/PDIF RCA, S/PDIF Tosilnk, USB 1.1, USB 2.0, Firewire 400 (6-pin), and unbalanced RCA (Preamp version only) inputs so you could be good to go (with the addition of a phono preamp if you desire such a thing).

Wait, There's More!
Since the Pass INT-30A includes single-ended and balanced inputs, I also employed a pair of Kimber Kable Select KS 1126 Balanced Interconnects in order to try the balanced outputs where they exist and they exist on the Mytek. Here the comparisons between single ended and balanced cables proved a bit more difficult to pinpoint as I did not hear a dramatic difference between them. This comparison took some time in between since it includes re-installing and un-installing the jumper pins in the balanced inputs on the Pass so a quick A/B was not possible. If anything I believe there was a slightly lower noise floor with the balanced cables but once again the number of variables are so great that you'll really have to try this out for yourself to come to any useful conclusions. On a practical note, balanced cables allow for much longer cable lengths as compared to single-ended cables and overall are more immune to exterior interference so if you have the ability to run balanced my feeling is why not.

the Apple Remote & Mytek functions. Image courtesy of Mytek

And There's Still More!
In the interim period between reviews, Mytek released a beta-firmware upgrade that among other things allows you to use the very nice, simple, sleek and small Apple Remote ($19) to control the StereoDSD-DAC. Michal from Mytek sent one over and once you select "Apple" under the "Remote" menu, you can control basic playback functions (Play/Pause, Forward/Back) as well as menu functions from the comfort of your listening seat. I must say that having this tiny slice of functional aluminum is a nice if somewhat rudimentary playback remote as compared to something like Apple's Remote App for your iOS device. But if you can't decide between the Digital and Analog volume control you can flip flip (and its perfectly OK to flip flop as an audiophile) without getting up from the sweet spot.

Associated Equipment

walpod's picture

I have just received mine and am very pleased with the product.

A few comments;

I have connected the Dac to my Mac Mini through a Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptor and it works perfectly!

I am using Pure Music D and Audirvana without any problems after setting up according to the instructions on the website. Amarra however is a problem and I am not using it with the Mytek. Interestingly Amarra is not mentioned by Mytek (presumably because it doesn.t play DSD)

If there are connections problems don't forget to go to the installed Mytek application - at least on the Mac it managews connectivity and sampling rate identification seamlessly. No one seems to mention this utility.

All in all a great affordable product.