Mytek Manhattan DAC

Device Type: DAC/Preamp/Headphone Amp
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
Website: mytekdigital.com/hifi

Manhattan
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.

Start Spreading The News
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.



Associated Equipment

Also in-use during the Manhattan review: Auralic Vega DAC, Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC

COMMENTS
DH's picture

I own the DSD 192 and would consider upgrading. One consideration is the quality of the preamp, which I find a bit lacking in the 192, so I run it in direct mode with a passive pre before my power amp.

Do you really think the on board pre is competitive with a high quality outboard pre?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...in every way including the preamp. While yours is a difficult question to answer unequivocally since we're talking about things like "a bit lacking" and "high quality outboard pre" which can have a range of values, I would say that seeing as you're using a passive pre, the Manhattan's pre should work well. My guess is you'd prefer the digital volume control, but that's just a guess ;-)
rompolompo's picture

Why, oh why they are still insisting on using their proprietary drivers and not properly implement a USB Audio Class 2.0 interface?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I'll see if I can reach Michal at Mytek for an answer.
mytek's picture

Dear Rompolompo

Yes, we get this question occasionally. Users would prefer not to install drivers on the Mac if they didn't have to.

However, the installation process is not particularly difficult, takes about 5 mins. We also offer firewire drivers (possible on thunderbolt computers too) and are consistently reminded by the customers about sonic superiority of the firewire streaming interface over USB. USB is a packet interface often interrupted by other devices such as mouse, keyboard , hard drives or camera.

For the moment our customers need to be prepared to install drivers either on Win and Mac. In exchange they get 2 choices of interface and superior sound performance. Since the Manhattan is designed as a stationary DAC , installing drivers becomes a part of larger setup. Once installed, they are there from then on. Most customers appreciate amazing Mytek sound quality and are willing to install drivers to get that.

The main strategic reason why we continue using drivers on OSX is that at the time when we were designing this DAC and (also prior to that) there wasn't a Class 2 solution available which could be effectively used across Mytek product line which also includes a line of multichannel professional converters. We need to be able to se one consistent solution across both consumer and professional products that works well for them.

The current driver we use is superior to Mac Core driver when it comes to professional use, it offers much lower latency and it's capable of bypassing Core Audio 24 bit wordlenght limit if the actual source was 32 bit.

90% of hifi DACs use Class 2 Xmos solution. We did not use it because XMOS did not work well for low latency recording/large channel count.

Mytek began developing our own Class 2 USB solution which will be capable of transferring 16 chan both ways with very low latency at high sample rate and 32 bit and we will use a version of this on the next hi fi product.

It would be another year before we'll be able to show it.

I hope this explains a bit of the background ,

Regards, Michal at Mytek

rompolompo's picture

Thanks for the explanation. As a Linux user, I have no choice but to look for UAC 2.0 DACs.

Regards,

Rompo

mytek's picture

Dear Rompo

You said: Thanks for the explanation. As a Linux user, I have no choice but to look for UAC 2.0 DACs.

Our firewire driver has been ported to Linux. I can provide that. Works great, for example Auraliti server uses that.

Please email me for details.

Regards, Michal

rompolompo's picture

Will do. Thanks!

2_channel_ears's picture

More on the comparison with the Aurulic? It's on my short list and seems like it's more in the league, though I do get the intrigue to compare it with the earlier model.

tubefan9's picture

One of the nice things about the mytek192 is driver-less usb1 and linux firewire. (HQPLAYER NAA ) (sidenote: any review of HQPLAYER w/ NAA in the future?)

Do the headphone outputs mute the speakers? I have trouble with my 192 controlling headphone volume separate of speakers and find I just need to turn my amp off to accomplish this on both digital & analog volume control. BTW.. Love the headphone amp in the 192

Michael Lavorgna's picture
No they don't. I muted my amp when listening to headphones.
"...any review of HQPLAYER w/ NAA in the future?"
Nothing planned at the moment but I'll look into it.

Cheers.

PDQ.Bach's picture

Michal, there are few innovators in the field of DAC design that I admire as much as Mytek, or that I consider as good value for the money. I agree 100% with Michael here.

However, I find that I cannot bear the looks of the new Manhattan enclosure. Michael calls it 'scalloped'. I call it atrocious.
My loss, I'm sure, and just another proof of my aesthetic disabilities; but I wouldn't live with a piece of equipment I cannot bear the looks of, no matter how exquisite it sounds.

Any way for an old stick-in-the-mud like myself to obtain a plain, thick, 'unscalloped' enclosure? With a boring, plain, flat surface?

Or does the 'sculpted' surface of the Manhattan enclosure serve a higher, hitherto undisclosed acoustical purpose?

fmak's picture

I agree with your comment on appearance.

For me, it is discordant with everything else and I wouldn't go out of my way to get one, unless the sound is vastly superior to other HQ units.

Mytek needs to drop the 'Pro' appearance if it wants to be in domestic audio as well.

tomguelzow's picture

Hello and thank you for this review, I have been patiently waiting for someone to review this DAC. Can anyone provide some comparisons for this product beyond the Mytek brand and the small reference to the Auric please. Of keen interest is the Meitner MA-1 and MSB Analogue DAC. Thanks, Tom

mytek's picture

We have received very positive comments about Manhattan sound quality in comparison with other DACs in this price range and higher (up to even $15K). It challenges them very nicely. Deriving its origins from transparent mastering dac design it's both extremely accurate when it comes to faithfully representing the recording and also musical and involving.

I'd suggest an audition, which is facilitated by money back guarantee either from dealers or our online shop.

Best Regards, Michal

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I reviewed the Meitner MA-2 and MSB Analog DAC back in 2013 so I cannot offer a direct comparison to the Manhattan. It may useful to read those reviews and compare what I said about these fine DACs as compared to the this review.

Sorry I could not be of more help, Tom.

mytek's picture

Thank you for the honest comments. We have hired a respected high end aluminum fabricator and their in house design team to design the enclosure. It's the same house that makes enclosures for Resolution as well as dozen other high end brands. They have extensive experience we have relied on. Their attitude was Mytek is a relative newcomer to a crowded market ( despite building pro converters since 1992 we have entered the high end audio market in 2011 with Stereo192-dsd-dac). Because of this we opted for "bold" design to clearly distinguish ourselves from all other expensive rectangular boxes.

It's true, average photo does not do the Manhattan justice. based on unscientific poll at trade shows most people find the finish beautiful and expensive looking, in reality it's not as "glitzy" as it may appear on photos, and the actual surface finish looks more expensive than the $5K price would suggest. The surface looks like an expensive hard metal, better than typical aluminum finish, with tint of an iphone (not as goldish but just the right amount).

In that sense we are fully aware that this bold design, like anything new, is still in the process of establishing itself. We are confident that Manhattan encompasses current industrial design trends and fits the zeitgeist.

For the moment the overall reaction is largely positive, and we are noting all reactions with great interest trying to gauge for the future designs.

As for our professional heritage, we are convinced it can be well leverage on the merit. Over last 20 years many platinum records were made with Mytek ADCs and DACs, we know how high resolution music is recorded and how it should sound reproduced. Not all DAC designers know that.

Thank you for the comments

Michal at Mytek

mytek's picture

Manhattan DAC features firmware upgradeable menu and functionality. In the next couple of weeks another major firmware upgrade is due. This request has been mentioned before and we can hopefully address it in some way the new firmware. We'll discuss this at Mytek tomorrow.

Regards, Michal

tomguelzow's picture

Thank you for the feedback and hopefully more to come from those who have done in-home auditions. For my part in this, the Manhattan is now in place of my Meitner MA-1 and first impressions mirror what Michael has stated - totally liquid with a profound sense of quiet between the notes. Maybe a tad too mellow, but I will reserve judgment until adequately broken in and is certainly system dependent. Also, with acknowledgment for preference, the Mytek seems to offer a window to the recording venue while the Meitner recreates it in your room. Thanks and happy listening! Tom

arsten's picture

There is a April 1, 2015 firmware listed on the Mytek website. Is this the promised update that permits upsampling to DSD 256? How does it work?

Thanks!

mytek's picture

Hi Tom,

Could you elaborate more the MA-1 comparison with more details on particular sound reproduction qualities?

We did level controlled A/B in this test as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bi2YjinYidU

We though the Manhattan challenged MA1 very nicely with our (biased) preference being Mytek, particularly in bass, curious to hear more....

tomguelzow's picture

Well in short, I sold my Meitner. I have found that I like the Manhattan better and while I feel there are way too many variables involved in a high quality set up, a few comments are:
Adjustability: Fine tuning the Filter settings and your take on up sampling are great
Dynamics: Micro and Macro are very good and develops that rare, IMHO, ability to fool you in how loud you are listening, which speaks much more to musical truth and enjoyment than exaggerated drum whacks (does not seem loud until you try to talk - tube like ) and can do that too, but still holds the body of the instrument in tact.
Soundstage: More laid back than jump out at you but, extremely good for far back stage and left to right throw - speakers disappear as a sound source. (Try Zap Mama - A Ma Zone - Ya Solo (first few seconds of track) for the demo that will make your multi-channel friends freak as sounds are clearly in the corners behind you if your system is capable)
Non measurable: Fun to listen too and will make me try anything (TIDAL rules) instead of falling back on "those recordings".

Cheers

mytek's picture

We are preparing a new major firmware upgrade that will streamline operation and "user interface". This should be released within next week or so. In the rev after that we will be adding few more functions, including up sampling to 256DSD which we are still testing. A very nice sounding M/C , M/M amplifier board will be featured at upcoming Munich Show.

Best Regards, Michal

audiodoctornj's picture

We just got a Manhattan for demo. I will be comparing it to the Meitner MA 1 and the Vega. My initial impressions are the Mytek is one fantastic dac and is a bargain for all that is delivers: state of the art dac, preamp and headphone amplifier!

Sound wise very clean detailed sound without any brightness and it is beautifully made. I seriously doubt I will be sending it back so it looks like we will now have Auralic, Meitner, Mytek, Chord, Aqua Hifi, M2, NAD and Devialet so boy do we have some cool gear.

Jacky Chan's picture

Hi audiodoctormj... how does Manhattan compared to Auralic Vega and Chord? Many thanks!!!

sthekepat's picture

Hello,
My interests in DACs are extreme transparency & detail with no added mid-bass warmth. To that end would I be better served with the esoteric D-05/D-02. I presently have the Mytec Manhattan.
Your comments will be greatly appreciated.

sthekepat's picture

The Mytek is very detailed (Macro-dynamics), but I find the inner micro detail to be missing. I have about 100 hours on it.
So gives the impression of being impressive at first.
Could someone comment on the same. The rest of my system:
Oracle 2000 CDT MK2
Mytek manhattan and P-3A Perpectual tech DACs
Music First Audio (silver reference TVC, volume control)
Boulder 2060 amplifier
Kharma 3.2 CRM FE

All cables are silver (analysis plus + siltech Si)

reverendo's picture

would love to know if anyone has compared it to the Resolution Audio Cantata. if so, what are the perceived differences?

lovecox's picture

I am thinking of buying it.

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