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Audio

Mytek Brooklyn is an audiophile dream component

The Mytek Brooklyn is more than just a digital converter, it's also a preamp for your turntable.

Mytek Digital is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., not far from where I live. Mytek has been around since 1992, and its consumer and professional audio products are conceived and at least in part designed by Mytek's founder, Michal Jurewicz. The man is one of the happiest engineers I've met, and if you ask Jurewicz a question, get ready for a long and highly informative answer! I've heard Mytek digital converters in recording studios for years, but the Brooklyn is the first Mytek I've had at home.

The Mytek Brooklyn converter

Mytek

Its feature set is awfully impressive: First there's a high-resolution digital converter that handles PCM files up to 32 bit - 384 kHz, and DSD256 and MQA files as well. The Brooklyn also has a built-in high-quality moving-coil and moving-magnet phono preamp and a high-power (up to 6 watts) headphone amp with two 6.3mm jacks, plus stereo analog RCA and balanced XLR preamp outputs. The front panel display is remarkably versatile and can keep you informed about everything that's going on inside the Brooklyn. A small remote control is included; Brooklyn's firmware is upgradable; and there's an optional battery power supply. The compact all-metal chassis measures just 8.5x8.5x1.74 inches (216x216x44mm). The Mytek Brooklyn sells for $1,995, or £1,795 / AU$3,299, and it may be called the Brooklyn, but it's made in Mytek's factory in Poland.

Mytek founder Michal Jurewicz

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Deep listening

The Brooklyn is a "revealing" component, letting you hear more deeply into the sound of your music. Subtle sounds like a vocalist's breath, musicians moving around in a studio and the ambience of the studio or concert venue were newly apparent on everything from Elliott Smith's "XO" CD up to the recently remastered in 24 bit-192 kHz high-resolution files of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." "XO" is a better-than-average-sounding CD, and it was more so on the Brooklyn, while Davis' trumpet's dynamics and phrasing were more lifelike than I've heard them sound before on LPs or in digital formats. The Brooklyn is faithful to the sound of the source master, but when it's good, the Brooklyn lets you hear just how good it really is.

I used the Brooklyn on my desktop where I streamed music from Tidal and listened with a nice selection of headphones, and also as a preamp in my main system with a Pass Labs XA100.5 power amp and TAD ME-1 speakers.

Right away, the Brooklyn smoked the Schiit Bifrost Multibit converter in dynamics, transparency and low-level quiet detailing. Though that's hardly a fair comparison, since the Bifrost sells for $599 (£520, AU$979) while the Brooklyn runs $1,995, but it's also a headphone amplifier, phono preamp and stereo preamp. The Bifrost is just a digital converter.

With MQA files streamed on Tidal over the Brooklyn sound quality varied, but it's just that so much depends on the quality of the original recording, and the MQA master's quality. With freshly mastered in 24-bit - 192 kHz MQA streams from the Grateful Dead's "Get Shown in the Light" live 1977 album the soundstage was more three-dimensional, and treble detail was airier than what I heard with MQA turned off. With Jesus and Mary Chain's new "Damage and Joy," MQA blunted some of the recording's nasty edge and opened up the sound a bit. Nice, but MQA didn't make a whit of difference with Bruno Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox."

The Mytek Brooklyn's rear panel

Mytek

I wasn't all that happy with the Brooklyn's sound as a headphone amp with my high-end Audeze and Hifiman planar magnetic headphones, but the Brooklyn sounded fine with my less revealing AudioQuest NightHawk 'phones.

To check out the Brooklyn's built-in phono preamp I hooked up a Technics SL-1200GR turntable (review in the works). The combination worked very well, and it was a thrill to hear LPs played over a digital converter! The SL-1200GR review sample sported a snazzy Ortofon 2M Black moving-magnet cartridge; the Brooklyn is compatible with moving-coil and moving magnet cartridges.

The Mytek Brooklyn is a seriously impressive component, and its combination of truly useful features and stellar sound quality will have strong appeal to audiophiles seeking a top-notch converter.