For its PCM input, the Brooklyn's menu offers a minimum phase, slow roll-off and fast roll-off filter. With MQA enabled, the Brooklyn automatically defaults to the minimum phase filter. DSD has its own filter settings. These depend on the DSD sample rate and the auto option is the most convenient; in our case hi for DSD256. Further menu options control the display and logo for brightness, sleep-timer dimming and one of 16 colours. Remote control can be performed with the supplied Apple wand after the handshake is established through the matching menu selection. 


So what we have with the Brooklyn is a DAC + headphone amplifier + phono stage + analog preamplifier in one small package. This spans sources from MM/MC phono to 32/384 PCM to DSD256 to MQA. The heart of this multikulti is an 8-channel ESS Sabre 9018K2M chip said to process PCM as PCM and DSD as DSD. In PCM mode the signal encounters certain filters, then a 32-bit attenuator, then the 6-bit DAC. The DSD path is shorter but includes the attenuator*. The initial PCM filters are skipped. After we adjusted HQPlayer in the SGM 2015 to output DSD256, it was time for a first listening. The Hadouk Quartet's Le Cinquième Fruit had its premiere with Loy Ehrlich on gum bass and assorted strings, Jean Luc Di Fraya on percussion, Didier Malherbe on duduk, flutes and saxophone and Eric Löhrer on guitars. This music is high on overtones while the gum bass can wreak serious havoc in the low-frequency department. However, this album sounded a bit brittle and thin against our previous reference of the T+A DAC8 when processing PCM resampled to DSD512 in HQPlayer.
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* From a much earlier review of AURALiC's Vega, we learnt that "about DSD and the ES9018, we're dealing with a multi-stage delta-sigma chip. We think it converts 1-bit DSD to a multi-bit version but not 24/32 bits. Direct 1-bit processing of raw DSD doesn't seem possible as any DSP operation during post production, even the simplest summing or gain change, will request that the 1-bit data be converted to multi-bit. However, converting such 1-bit data to multi-bit doesn't equate to DSD/PCM conversion. We did check the final output of Sabre's chip on DSD. That signal exhibited text-book ultrasonic noise typical of DSD which meant that it hadn't been converted to PCM. In the end, we won't fret over exactly how the ES9018 processes DSD."


The difference between DSD256 and DSD512 with the German DAC had been the airiness of the aural illusion, the amount of space that surrounds a voice or instrument and the placement on the virtual stage. What we heard now was nothing like it. After a few more tracks from the same album then another, we decided to go vinyl and let the SGM-Mytek combo clock some mileage. After roughly 100 hours, we tried the Hadouk album again and the improvement was substantial. The upper frequencies were clear of thinness, the mids had nice drive and the low end was firm and properly sized. A difference between Mytek Brooklyn DSD256 and T+A DAC8 DSD256 remained but concerned only very fine detail, textures and transients. With the price differential factored in, the Mytek's handicap got bonus points.


Other albums we very much enjoyed in this first session were Amine & Hamza's Fertile Paradoxes with its oud and qanun leading hypnotic grooves through explorations between Arab and Western influences. Jazz, flamenco and classical elements combine in seeming ease with Indian and Iranian traditions. Next Yo-Yo Ma teamed up with Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer for a recording of Bach trios. Ma transcribed the original keyboard score for the cello, mandolin and bass string trio. Listening to this recording, one wonders what would have happened had JS not incarnated in 1685's Germany but just fifty years ago in the Appalachians. Would he sound like Ma's trio? Either way, the music converted from DSD256 to analog was warm and inviting. Instrumental sizing was realistic and convincing.
Intermezzi are Belgian and their Uno–Dos recording plays quite a lot in our digs. A selection of 13 guitarists like Quentin Dujardin and oud player Karim Baggili take the listener on a journey through an imaginary sonic world with strong Mediterranean influences. That journey has a meandering effect from lyricism and catchy musical quotes. Shards of Miles Davis pass by as do radio stations. This is one of our recent favorites though it was actually new in 2013. With the Brooklyn in the chain, the music could unfold in all its glory and subtleties. We won't delve deeper into the MQA discussion as we still need more time with this loaded subject. Here we just wanted to sample some MQA-encoded content. Source was Tidal's Masters selection. Other hi-res recordings hide in the rest of the Tidal catalogue. Don't ask why but searching for-hi res and/or MQA encoded recordings is utterly frustrating with Tidal. Meanwhile HQPlayer offers a few MQA filters in its PCM environment. When PCM content is resampled to DSD, the MQA wrapping is obviously lost to make PCM the default mode for MQA consumption.

However, what we tried did not result in detection of an MQA stream by the Brooklyn. After consulting with Sound Galleries, maker of our streamer, the plan was to stream MQA straight from Roon fed by Tidal. For this we created a separate Roon zone into which the Mytek got entered. Now we had two Roon zones, one for HQPlayer, one for the Mytek. When we activated the Mytek zone via the Roon client on our iPad, all we had to do was select a Master from Tidal. We chose Avishai Cohen's From Darkness. When playing this through HQPlayer, it is designated as 24/48. What would the Roon-->MQA-enabled Brooklyn show? A blue MQA logo. With this administrative task done—read: the proprietary digital signature of the file was confirmed—the unfolding of the file could start. This is done on the fly and resulted in a 24/192 file which the DAC processed as such.