For those of you not keeping score, Mytek Digital is one of the first manufacturers to support DSD file-based playback with their little Stereo 192 DAC ($1500 US). That little DAC is a fine example of affordable pro-audio gear that made big waves in audiophiledom and firmly set the computer-audio-based trend on footing of relative affordability.
That is, we were all psyched that it sounded so damn good and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The Manhattan is a different story. At $5k, not only is it more expensive, but it’s also quite good, and not in the “good for the money” kind of way. Their implementation is interesting and sonically solid.
What I saw here, though, was way niftier than all that. Yes, John Darko, feel free to make fun of me for finally noticing as this nifty feature has been teased for a while, but for those of us not in the loop, there’s an analog phono input board on the way for the Manhattan! The box already sports an analog attenuator (the user can opt to bypass it in favor of the digital attenuator, but that would be dumb), so this means — an all analog path through to the headphone amp! Ta da! As far as I know, this combo is unique — a fully discrete, full-function, reference-class DAC … with an integrated headphone amplifier … that can take a turntable as an input. I’ll say it again: ta freakin’ da. Availability is planned for the end of June. The new board should run about $1k.
Er…I’d like to add that whilst this is cool and drool worthy, the iFi Audio Retro Stereo 50 can do the same (I own one too yet!):
It is a single ended vacuum tube DAC (up to 768!)/25w per channel amp/headphone amp (derived from the main amp, not a separate piece of hardware)/phono/Bluetooth/NFC!
The amp is analogue front to back too, but if using via USB it will do the conversion, real time including DSD/DXD as is, using a Burr Brown Japan chip. Then that will be taken to the amp section and thus analogue for the rest of the journey.
I think Mytek and iFi Audio are awesome to think in this way, have versatility, and great sonics.
Just thought to let you know that the Stereo 50 is another device that is also all analogue (after DAC) similar to Manhattan.
Oh, here is a bit more about the headphone amp bit: