About a year ago, we reviewed the Brooklyn DAC from pro audio veteran Mytek. Though the Brooklyn was (and still is) expensive, we thought it was an excellent example of a “prosumer” device — professional features in a consumer form factor. In that review, we wondered whether the Brooklyn could have done without some of its niche professional features to scale down the price. This year, we got our answer: Mytek sent us their new Liberty, a DAC that that omits some of the Brooklyn’s features for a substantial reduction in price. The good news is that we don’t think you’ll miss the subtractions, but you will like what’s left.
The Mytek Brooklyn was already feature-dense for its size, but the Liberty is downright tiny at just over half the width and about the same height and depth. The front of the device no longer features the nice OLED display; in its place are six LEDs that change color to indicate input, sampling rate of the file being decoded, and volume level. We really liked the Brooklyn’s display, but the LEDs tell us all we need to know, and pressing the volume knob to switch digital inputs is enough interface for most purposes. Some additional options can still be accessed using Mytek’s desktop software which, although still lackluster, does the job. Among the more disappointing omissions are the lack of balanced headphone output, the ability to link the Liberty’s volume to that of Windows/macOS and, crucially, the lack of a remote control. Our one true complaint here is that, with its current firmware, the Liberty does not mute its analog outputs when headphones are connected; Mytek tells us that this crucial feature is coming in a future firmware update.
The Liberty accepts a variety of digital inputs: optical, USB, AES/EBU, and two coaxial digital. Depending on the input, the Liberty will convert PCM 32-bit/384 khz, DSD up to 256, and MQA natively, with a huge 127 dB of dynamic range possible. The Liberty works without drivers on macOS and Windows 10, but you’ll need MyTek’s software (and, on Windows, Mytek’s drivers) to unlock its full potential. Many of the Brooklyn’s configuration options are missing from the software, but most of those went unused anyway. We’re fine with the loss of some of the Brooklyn’s more pro-level connections, but the Liberty’s lack of analog inputs might be felt by vinyl aficionados.
Like the Brooklyn, the Liberty has both unbalanced and balanced analog outputs though, as a result of the Liberty’s smaller case, the XLR outputs are replaced by 1/4-inch jacks. To run balanced outputs, you’ll need TRS-to-XLR balanced cables ($10 on Amazon). The Liberty’s 1/4-inch headphone jack outputs a claimed 300 mA / 3W of power, with a nice low output impedance of 0.1 ohms. We think this set of inputs and outputs will appeal to those most likely to buy the Liberty — customers connecting it to their computer as a USB DAC, headphone amp, and near-field speaker preamp.
Perhaps the most important comparison to the Brooklyn is what Mytek did not remove: the DAC chip. The Liberty uses the latest-generation DAC chip from ESS – the Sabre 9018K2M. We tested the Liberty using its unbalanced outputs and its headphone jack — like its more expensive sibling, the Liberty sounds excellent — transparent, as it should — with none of the supposed harshness that older Sabre implementations used to have. As a preamp, the Mytek functions just fine but, as noted above, becomes a little cumbersome to use without a remote control. The Liberty’s headphone jack had no problem powering our harder-to-drive headphones but, like the Brooklyn, the slope of its power output could use some reconfiguring — volume ramps up slowly, so about 50% of the volume range was too quiet for almost every headphone we tried. We like the Liberty, and we applaud Mytek for making a minimalist, more-accessible version of their Brooklyn without sacrificing the sound quality. Though the smaller feature set might be problematic for some use cases and the Liberty’s firmware is still a work-in-progress, the Liberty delivers just about the right amount of prosumer features and sound quality for half the price.
Company and Price