Mytek Brooklyn Bridge streaming DAC/network server

A DAC/preamp/headphone amp from Class A of Stereophile‘s list of Recommended Components, updated with streaming and network-server capabilities—and it still sells for less than $3000? If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. (Har, har!)

Most Americans have heard that line before, but many may not know the story behind it—I didn’t. George C. Parker, a real American person born in 1860, is famous for perpetrating audacious frauds, specifically sales of property he did not own and could not possibly have owned. He is reported to have sold the Statue of Liberty, Grant’s Tomb, the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and—most famously—the Brooklyn Bridge that last one twice a week for several years, at prices ranging from $75 to $5000. Or so some say (footnote 1).

There’s nothing fraudulent about the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge ($2995). On the contrary, this Brooklyn Bridge offers apparently good value—not to mention great sound. The Brooklyn Bridge retains all the main features of the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+—asynchronous USB; high-rez PCM and DSD-decoding; full MQA decoding; preamp functionality, with analog inputs and both digital and analog volume controls; and a very good headphone amplifier—and adds streaming and network-server capabilities, wireless and via Ethernet. As with the DAC+, there’s even a phono preamp that works with MC cartridges. The only thing it loses, as far as I can tell, is the DAC+’s AES/EBU digital input, that space being needed for the added Ethernet jack, Wi-Fi antenna, and USB Type-A port intended for connecting a hard drive or solid-state drive (SSD).

The Bridge’s enhancements provide a means of getting music from Qobuz, Tidal, Deezer, vTuner, Spotify, et al into the DAC over Ethernet or wireless using only an iPad, iPhone, or Android device—no computer or server required—while allowing convenient playback of music files stored in another room or in the cloud. Additionally (and with limitations), the Brooklyn Bridge allows similarly easy playback of music files stored on local digital storage media, without a server or dedicated computer.

Setup and use
The DAC part of the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge is identical to the Brooklyn DAC+ I reviewed in the April 2018 issue of Stereophile; there’s no need to repeat what I wrote there. This review will focus instead mainly on the added streaming and network-server capabilities, in-use, although toward the end I have some things to say about the Brooklyn Bridge’s sound.

After unboxing the Brooklyn Bridge, I screwed the wireless antenna into its rear-panel socket, attached the IEC cord, and started punching buttons. My experience with the Brooklyn DAC+ (and the Brooklyn DAC, its predecessor) had acquainted me with Mytek’s logical, intuitive settings menus; I thought I could take at least the first steps—connecting the Brooklyn Bridge to my home network via Wi-Fi—without consulting the manual. Within seconds, I located what appeared to be the correct settings—one labeled “Network” and an adjacent one labeled “WPS” (for Wi-Fi Protected Setup, a common Wi-Fi security protocol)—but pushing the “Network” button resulted in a message (“Connecting . . . “) that never went away, and when I restarted the Brooklyn Bridge, I found the “Network” tile grayed out. The “WPS” tile had disappeared.

The cause of the problem quickly became apparent: When I pushed the button activating the INFO tile, I learned that the firmware installed on the Brooklyn Bridge was version 0.10.

Before I updated the firmware, I got sidetracked by another task: making sure the Brooklyn Bridge could play music. I connected the Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 T transport I have in-house to one of the Brooklyn Bridge’s S/PDIF inputs and hooked a pair of balanced cables from the Bridge’s outputs to my preamp. I used the settings menu to bypass the volume control: I would be using my preamplifier to control the volume. Sitting in the transport’s disc tray was Disc One of Cooperstown, the excellent, fun opera by composer and Stereophile writer Sasha Matson. I pressed play and heard the stadium organ that opens the opera. Yup: The Brooklyn Bridge played music, and sounded good, too.

In a white paper on DAC design, Michal Jurewicz, Mytek’s head and chief designer, writes that a Mytek DAC “must be ‘broken in’ for several days with a music loop or white noise” before it is evaluated against other DACs. I left the music on and went out for a long lunch.

The Brooklyn Bridge with Roon
When I got back, I visited Mytek’s website, downloaded the latest firmware and the Mytek Control Panel app, and plugged the Bridge into my laptop with a USB cable. Two minutes later, the Bridge’s INFO tile indicated firmware 1.01.

Now there was a Wi-Fi tile that wasn’t there before. I pushed the proper buttons to access the Wi-Fi settings: The Bridge saw my network immediately. It took me a minute or two to scroll through the letters and numbers to enter my Wi-Fi password. Fifteen seconds later, I was wireless. As my grad school roommate used to say, now we’re cookin’ with gas heat.

I returned to my computer, which I use as a Roon remote, driving my Roon ROCK/ Intel NUC server. In Roon, the Brooklyn Bridge was still selected as the current audio device. I clicked on Dave Douglas’s new album, Devotion, streaming from Tidal, and got music. Then I tried a 24/192 file to see if the high sample rate would cause problems over the wireless connection. The hi-rez file played flawlessly (footnote 2).

In my system, though, there’s no compelling reason to run wirelessly. I plugged the cable in. Again, no problems playing music.

Just like the Brooklyn DAC+, the Brooklyn Bridge’s processing hardware is capable of high sample rates and (for PCM) bit depths. But the hardware used for streaming is limited to 192kHz and 24 bits (with PCM) and to DSD64. To test this, I sent (or tried sending) the Bridge a 352.8kHz file from Roon, over Ethernet; Roon downsampled it automatically to 176.4kHz, the highest supported rate in the 44.1kHz family. MQA files will still unfold to their full resolution (although it must be acknowledged, without going into detail, that above 96kHz, an unfolded MQA file is not equivalent to a PCM file of the same specification).

If you want to play back very high-rate files in full resolution, you’ll need to have your Roon core close to your DAC so that you can connect to it with a USB or S/PDIF cable.

The Brooklyn Bridge with streaming apps
Roon is an elegant solution and works great with the Brooklyn Bridge (as it does with most other streaming and nonstreaming DACs), but Roon must run in a separate box, either a regular, multifunction computer or a dedicated server, and Roon itself costs $119/year or $499 for a lifetime license. Part of the appeal of the Brooklyn Bridge is that you don’t need all that: You can get it to work with nothing more than a smartphone and an app that’s free or cheap. The manual makes passing mention of these capabilities, but Mytek provides a Quick Start document (included in the box and as a pdf on their website) that very briefly outlines how to set it up.

Years ago, when I acquired my PS Audio DirectStream DAC with its Bridge II network interface, Roon was still in its early days, streaming DACs were new, and the two had not yet learned to play nice with each other. I was eager to send something via Ethernet to my new networked DAC, so I downloaded an app—mConnect—that allowed me to send Tidal content directly to the DirectStream, over Ethernet, using nothing but my iPhone. It worked, but it was primitive. I was happy when Roon and the DirectStream learned to play together.

Although the actual digital converters are completely different, the streaming part of the Brooklyn Bridge is similar to PS Audio’s Bridge II in that both use streaming hardware from Korean company ConversDigital. (The main streaming-related difference is that the Brooklyn Bridge adds Wi-Fi.)

Footnote 1: Is it wrong to invoke fraud in the opening paragraph of an audio review Maybe, but they’re the ones who called it the Brooklyn Bridge. What choice did I have

Footnote 2: Later, I did have some problems with Wi-Fi. I’m not surprised, since I live in a prewar New York City apartment with thick plaster walls and lots of interference from neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks. In an environment like this, a wired connection is essential.

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