Mytek Digital Manhattan II DAC

Master of All Trades

Equipment report
Digital-to-analog converters
Mytek Manhattan II
Mytek Digital Manhattan II DAC

During the last month I’ve put in a lot of listening time using both Tidal and Qobuz via the Manhattan II. Currently only Audirvana+ supports both Tidal and Qobuz streaming, and it functioned without issues with both the Manhattan II and PS Audio DSD jr. It’s still too early to weigh in on which streaming service (if either) is sonically superior, since there is no way to ensure they are both using the same files, even on the same album. Also, unlike an A/B of two source components using physical media, there are a lot of variables that can affect the final output before the files even reach your home network. But, I will state unequivocally that with the Manhattan II it didn’t really matter which service I used since both sounded consistently great and with some material were noticeably superior to my own 44.1 Red Book music files sourced via a Mac Mini USB connection.

Combining the Manhattan II’s headphone output, especially with the Mytek balanced adapter cable in place, with top-shelf headphones, including the Abyss Athena, HiFiMan HE-1000 V2, and Sony MDR-1Z, produced a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious headphone experience. J. Gordon Holt often got goosebumps from listening to music that moved him. While I find this a far rarer occurrence, with the Mytek Manhattan II/Abyss Athena combination even I occasionally found myself in goosebump territory.

Time to look at the phono card’s sonic capabilities. Sometimes, a phono add-in card is made available just as a convenience feature. But after spending time comparing the Manhattan II’s phono input with two highly-rated external phono amplifiers, the Vendetta Research SCP-2B and the phono section in the Vinnie Rossi LIO, I felt the Mytek phono preamplifier was certainly in the same league. Actually, I was surprised to discover that not only was the Mytek phonostage in the same league, it was also an all-star player. It delivered tighter, more precise centerfill imaging than the legendary Vendetta! Also, the Mytek phonostage was remarkably hum-free—I did not hear any noise until the Mytek’s analog volume control was boosted to -5dB (0dB is max level) and normally “loud” usually runs around -20dB.

I was certainly not expecting the Mytek phonostage to be such a high-performance option, but after several listening sessions where it took me a maybe a nanosecond to hear the difference, I had to conclude that given a choice I would prefer to listen to the Mytek’s phono section over the Vendetta. Also, I found the EQ and loading options available through the Mytek menu were extremely useful. Usually I opted for the standard RIAA curve coupled to the 100-ohm loading with my current moving-coil cartridge, the Clearaudio Victory II. But occasionally the extra “air” of the custom equalization curve proved useful, especially on some older recordings. In short, I was blindsided by the sonic quality of the Mytek Manhattan II’s phono section. To say it re-energized my passion for LP listening would be an understatement.

If you’ve socked away enough money to consider the Manhattan II, then you have the resources to obtain many fine DACs and DAC/preamps. I had been using the PS Audio DSD jr ($3999) in my system before the Manhattan II. And while in my humble opinion they both sounded superb, they did not sound identical. The Manhattan presents a slightly more forward midrange with some material I know well. In comparison the PS Audio DSD Jr delivers slightly more “tube-like” harmonics with a softer top end. In features the Manhattan has provisions for analog sources (including its excellent optional phono card) which the PS Audio does not.

Although it’s been a more than a couple of years since I had it in my system, the Mytek Manhattan II reminded me of the Weiss 202 DAC ($7737) I had back in 2010. Just as the Weiss was an ear-opener in terms of what I could expect from a digital source, the Manhattan II combined with the other components in my current system created the best sound I’ve heard from any configuration in my room.

Of course, the big question is whether the Manhattan II’s sonic capabilities overshadow those of its less expensive sibling, the Brooklyn+. While I did not have a Brooklyn+ for comparison, I did have the original Brooklyn. For the first couple of days of listening to the Manhattan II, after replacing the Brooklyn in my desktop system, I did not think it offered much sonic advantage, but then, after the unit had warmed up completely, I began to hear subtle but pervasive improvements in low-level decipherability and greater dynamic energy. Burn-in? Maybe. When I switched to headphones, the Manhattan II’s more robust and flexible headphone output was immediately obvious. Also, the Manhattan’s phono section beats the Brooklyn’s. So, yes, the Manhattan II does sonically best the Brooklyn. I suspect with the Brooklyn+ the sonic differences could be less distinct.

The more time I spend listening to high-quality streaming, the more I’m convinced that streaming sources via either a hard-wired ethernet connection or via Wi-Fi are digital music’s future. USB served its purpose, giving us all a bridge from the days of CDs and Firewire to our current technological level. But in my opinion USB’s days as the primary way we get music from a hard drive to our ears are numbered. Sure, USB will still be found on music workstations, along with AES/EBU, for mixing suites and mastering studios, but for end-users I see it fading into the background, replaced by streaming/ethernet/Wi-Fi sources.

How do my musings about our digital future weigh on my opinion of the Manhattan II? Simply that the Manhattan II was designed and configured so it can remain on the leading edge of digital innovation (consider the original Manhattan—it can be updated to current Manhattan II status), while also supplying avenues for high-quality analog sources. When you couple the Manhattan II’s digital capabilities with its excellent analog features, you have a special component that should remain viable in both mastering and recording studios as well as music-lovers’ systems for many years to come. That is value.

Specs & Pricing

Type: DAC/preamplifier/streamer (with optional card)
Inputs: USB2 Class2 (OSX, Linux driverless, all formats), AES/EBU (PCM up to 384k, up to DSD128 DOP), 3x SPDIF (PCM up to 192k, up to DSD128 DoP), TosLink, SDIF3 DSD up to DSD256, RCA Line In switchable to Phono (with optional phono card), second pair of RCA Line In, third pair XLR balanced Line In
Formats supported: PCM up to 384k, 32-bit, MQA, native DSD up to DSD256, DXD
Output: Balanced and unbalanced analog, fixed or variable output
Dimensions: 17" x 1.95" x 10.5"
Weight: 16 lbs.
Price: $5995. Options: phono-preamp card, $1495; network card, $995; balanced headphone adapter, $159

148 India Street, First Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(347) 384-2687

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