Mytek Manhattan

Mytek Manhattan

During the listening sessions, Manhattan replaced our standard reference DAC (Teac Esoteric D70 in combination with the dCS Puccini U-Clock as a USB/SPDIF converter) and drove the rest of the system comprising (as usual) the tube-based preamplifier Melos Plus Series Line, the Parasound HCA3500 power amplifier and the ATC SCM-50 PSL loudspeaker. Sources used during the review included a USB 2.0 streaming, Win7, netbook, running foobar2000 as the media player and our reference CD transport (Teac Esoteric P70, via a coaxial S/PDIF line, set to 2x (88.2kHz) upsampling).
Initial setup of the device and installation of the necessary software for USB streaming did not hide any particular difficulty. Anyway, Manhattan's user manual is well-written, clear and comprehensive as regards the installation procedure and will help accordingly. Menu navigation through the various settings offered (quite a few, in fact) was also easy and obvious. The large, and easy to read display only makes these procedures easier, while the Apple Remote is stylish and fun to use.
As a standard practice, any listening test of a device with a set of adjustable features is preceded by a period of experimentation to determine how the different settings (in this case, the upsampling option, the slope of the filter and the level adjustment option) affect the sound identity of the device. In practice, the resulting differences were small and some thorough listening is required to isolate some of them but in the end, at least in my case, the best setup was one that included the upsampler and involved both the fast (high slope) filter and the analog level control. Probably, I think, it is no coincidence that all three options are identical to those preferred during the 192DSD listening test. Based on the writings of the time (and the related notes), the sound of the DAC in this mode was the most listener-friendly and pleasing to the ear. No doubt, however, that the user, having come up with an initial setting, must remain open to possible changes, depending on the program and the mood of the moment.
The first impression while listening to Manhattan was a familiar one: The converter sounds like one expects from a top-quality device, in fact, its signature is absent from the sonic signature of the system. Indeed, the latter with the Manhattan as its DAC maintained its capacity to carry a highly detailed and crystal clear soundstage but it was improved in some areas, being somewhat less aggressive and creating a more intense feeling of fullness compared to the reference DAC. The ability to create an accurate stereo image both in terms of position and size was more than obvious. Sound localization was quite focused and in the "correct" distance from the listener with a very good sense of depth while the feeling of air and the virtual movement of the individual sound sources were of the best we've heard, at least lately. The low noise of the converter plays certainly a role in the very good feeling of micro-dynamics and in the detailed description of the mix as well, including some (not too frequent) out of phase cues used to create a momentary, quirky sense of space.
Manhattan proved to be a transparent and rather rigorous device. It sounds neutral and complete, wisely balanced between what one would describe as “accurate” and "euphonic", leaning more towards the former than the later. This means that it hardly forgives a mediocre recording nor superimposes its own character, therefore you get out what you are putting in. If track is not up to some quality standards however, there are one or two things you can try, such us choosing the “Slow” filter or deactivate the upsampler. This is far from a certain solution and cannot correct the problem of a disc or a track in its source (just mask it sometimes) but I noticed that it makes the converter sound a little slower, "round" and somewhat fuzzy, attributes which may prove a positive in some (far from perfect), conditions.
Towards the lower part of the audio spectrum, Manhattan sounded quite impressive with good bass extension and balance, offering a very good feeling of size scale and of temporal description. Large orchestras were life-like rendered with excellent clarity and body presence while the rhythm section appeared swift and uncluttered. The result of all this is the listener to remain both satisfied and stimulated simultaneously, without any trace of fatigue, even at high listening levels.

Mytek Manhattan
Mytek Manhattan

Mids had an excellent sense of balance and detail without any oppressive character. "Balance" here, is the crucial term. The listener feels that the soundstage is not at all distant in favor of an atmospheric but less accurate description of the mid band. With the Manhattan in place, the system never appeared laid-back, with clearly present and nearly tangible soloists and with a very good timbre description and articulation of the choral works, all quite impressive with very good feeling of movement and sense of depth and space.
High-frequency behavior emerged as one of the greatest strengths of Manhattan. The DAC offers the listener an outstanding feeling of both extent and speed, well bodied and optimally damped percussion parts, harmonic richness, and a well-balanced feeling of brightness. In practice, this means that given a good high-resolution recording any digital hardness (which sometimes is apparent in some standard sampling recordings) simply does not exist. Overall, you got the feeling that the converter disappears from the scene leaving only the information needed (and the sound character of the rest of the system, a classic drawback with neutral equipment).
Some parts of the listening sessions were devoted to the other Manhattan's modes of operation, namely as a headphone amplifier and as a standard analog preamplifier.
In the first case, the device was used to drive the Grado RS2 headphones with very good results, both in terms of level (no problem there, as one would expect) and tonal balance. The headphone amp seemed to offer extremely low noise, and was well balanced and fast, the result being very engaging, comfortable and detailed. Given their professional background, one would expect from Mytek to include a crossfeed circuit or algorithm to improve the stereo image and to make the listening experience, even more enjoyable. This was something we missed.
With the Manhattan acting as an analog preamplifier (using the Teac Esoteric P70/D70 pair as a source and the device directly connected to the power amp through its single ended outputs), the result was much better than what I get through the reference preamp, especially in terms of noise, feeling of dynamic range and stereo imaging. With this configuration, the system probably lost a little of its character (to which I 'm accustom to, over the years -for sure), but, on the other hand, gained in its description abilities, presence, and dynamics. This leaves no doubt that Mytek's DAC can be used as a standard preamplifier if the connectivity features it offers are considered sufficient.


It appears that waiting time was worth it and our expectations were exceeded. Mytek has founded the Manhattan on a very successful device (the 192DSD) and brilliantly played the audiophile game offering some improvements but without losing control by adopting an over-engineered and/or extreme approach. The result is a full-featured device which is clearly more user-friendly than its professional-oriented forefather, with excellent audio performance and quite appealing aesthetics. Manhattan is without a doubt one of the pleasant surprises we encountered lately and one of the best conventional architecture DACs that can be found on the market at this price level!

Listening Sessions Recording

The following recordings were made with a DV-RA1000 Tascam master recorder (using 24bit/192kHz sample rate) and you can download them to have an impression of what the device under review sounded like. It is obvious that any recording of this kind could not be absolutely transparent but, according to our experience, the majority of sound attributes we listen to, during the actual listening sessions, are preserved. No need to say that you should use these samples cautiously and for informative purposes only. Do not rely on them exclusively to make any buying decisions. The file format is .flac, so expect that the zipped files could be quite large (even if the clips are about a minute or less long. You could use an ABX listening tool like the ABX plug-in for foobar2000 if you want to make some more elaborate experiments. Contact us if you have any questions.

Listening Sessions Recording TOC
Track #01 Manhattan Mytek/USB 2.0, Upsampling On, Sharp Filter, Analog Volume, 16bit/44.1kHz
Track #02 Manhattan Mytek/USB 2.0, Upsampling On, Sharp Filter, Analog Volume, 24bit/96kHz
Track #03 Manhattan Mytek/USB 2.0, Upsampling Off, Sharp Filter, Analog Volume, 16bit/44.1kHz
Track #04 Manhattan Mytek/USB 2.0, Upsampling Off, Slow Filter, Analog Volume, 16bit/44.1kHz
Track #05 Manhattan Mytek/USB 2.0, Upsampling Off, Sharp Filter, Digital Volume, 16bit/44.1kHz
Track #06 Reference DAC (dCS Puccini u-Clock/Teac Esoteric D-70)

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