Musical Surroundings MYDAC II DAC


Equipment report
Digital-to-analog converters
Musical Surroundings MYDAC II
Musical Surroundings MYDAC II DAC

Dynamic contrast and differentiation, especially during quiet passages, rank up there with the best I’ve heard, but only when using the MYDAC II’s best input which is certainly SPDIF. TosLink and USB don’t have the same dynamic acuity or jump factor as SPDIF. The USB input should be considered more of a “convenience input” than a primary source. If you plan to use the MYDAC primarily for USB, I strongly recommend acquiring an outboard USB-to-SPDIF converter. The difference in sound quality between the MYDAC II’s built-in USB solution and the Human Audio Tabla or Empirical Audio Off-Ramp is not subtle. The MYDAC II’s USB input sounds flat, gray, and dynamically constricted when compared to the same source routed through an outboard USB converter. After several days, during which I did quite a few A/B comparisons between the internal USB and external converters, I did all my subsequent listening using the MYDAC II’s SPDIF input.

Since the frequency range, especially in the upper registers, is boosted and then returned to pre-boost levels by the MYDAC II, I was especially curious about any noticeable negative effects from this resolution-enhancement and noise-reduction scheme. I spent quite a bit of time during my listening sessions trying to hear any augmentation to the upper midrange and lower treble that could be attributed to the MODR circuitry. After many hours of listening to a wide variety of music at many different resolutions, I can state confidently that MODR had no noticeable additive sonic effects. Even on some of my ruder, upper-midrange-dominant mixes, such as the original release of the Clash’s London Calling, the MYDAC II didn’t add any steeliness or additional rasp to the sound. If anything the upper frequencies on more primitive recordings were slightly less harsh, but without any reduction in dynamic contrast.

I hesitate to call the sound emanating from the MYDAC II “sweet,” since that implies a certain loss of upper-frequency incisiveness, a subtractive coloration that is not part of the MYDAC II sound. But the MYDAC II does have the ability to mitigate harshness and aggression in the upper midrange as no other DAC I’ve heard can. Some listeners would call this a “more analog-like” sound, but unlike some analog, which has a degree of built-in compression and limiting that mitigates excessively hard leading edges, the upper midrange transients aren’t blunted or reduced through the MYDAC II. They seem to have less odd-order distortion and sound more relaxed and natural.

Could a MYDAC II Be In Your Future?
Nowadays audiophiles have more high-quality digital-to-analog converters to choose from than ever before. Most, even those priced at the entry level, can deliver a level of sonic quality that was unavailable in any digital product, regardless of price, just a few short years ago. The Musical Surroundings MYDAC II offers a unique solution to the problem of accurate digital sound reproduction by augmenting its performance through mid-and upper-frequency equalization. The result is a DAC that sounds “less digital” and reproduces upper frequencies with less of a hard, amusical edge.

The principal shortcoming of the MYDAC II is that its USB input is limited to 48/16 and can’t support any higher sample-or bit-rate. The USB input is also not nearly as good as the MYDAC II’s SPDIF input in overall sound quality. To hear the MYDAC II’s true sonic potential with computer-based music files you will need to add a high-quality USB-to-SPDIF converter.

If you’re an analog-only audiophile who has listened to a lot of DACs but never heard one that sounds right to your ears, you may want to give the MYDAC II a try. It could be the DAC that makes it possible for you to enjoy digital for the first time.


Inputs: Three digital (SPDIF up to 24-bit/192kHz, TosLink up to 24-bit/96kHz, USB up to 16-bit/48kHz)
Frequency response: 20Hz–20kHz
Output voltage: 4V
Output impedance: 100 ohms
Distortion: 0.02%
Dimensions: 9 7/8" x 2" x 9 7/8"
Weight: 3.4 lbs.
Price: $1199

Musical Suroundings
5662 Shattuck Ave.
Oakland, CA USA 94609
(510) 547-5006

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