Always Start With Coffee
I've switched to drinking cold brew coffee. I used to be an Aeropress guy, but the cold brew process is a revelation to me. Bitter acidity and aftertaste are banished like so much jitter. Plus, I prefer iced coffee anyway. If you really want to get to know the flavor of your coffee beans, cold brew is the way to go. Water + coarse grind beans + steep time. This simplicity allows you to enjoy your coffee beans in their purest, most unadulterated form. In streamlining the coffee making process, one is able to zero in on the few elements in play and get them dialed in with fewer variables and distractions.
As with the cold brew process, I wanted to explore the Mytek Brooklyn AMP under basic conditions in order to minimize additive elements. In terms of the coffee, if you want to be a stickler about the analogy, I would say the amp is more akin to the water and music to the beans. However, I'd rather remove asbestos with my tongue than be tasked with comparing the taste of different waters. So, let's stick to the amp equals beans analogy. Taste the beans, taste the amp.
To that end, my primary evaluation choice was to listen with my Wyred 4 Sound - DAC-2v2SE-10th-Anniversary directly driving the amps -- no preamp. This is not to say that the end result of said simplicity will necessarily be to your liking. Some people will still prefer hot brewed coffee. Likewise, whether taking a miss on a preamp is your cup of tea (or coffee) is a matter of individual taste. But, in removing a significant variable like heat, I can focus on appreciating the actual flavor of the beans/amp, knowing I can always modify at a later stage to suit my exact preferences (i.e. almond milk and tube preamps).
As far as operating the Brooklyn, it did not come with an owner's manual. For the most part, an amp is an amp, so this didn't present any problems. There is a series of DIP switches on the back which offer some options that I was able to decipher by going online. However, I didn't have any reason to alter things, so I used the amp with its default settings.
Lookswise, the Brooklyn is a welcome relief from the typical oversized black box. It's got a uniquely dimpled, silver colored front panel. When I look at it, I alternately think golf ball or Epcot center. One of those ubiquitous blue LEDs (switchable to red which I prefer) nicely illuminates the Mytek logo on the front, indicating power. Near the conclusion of the review period the LED stopped working, although the amp continued to function. The perforation schemes dotting the casing are an imaginative take on the usual ventilation slits and add big style points. For those who normally buy their amps by the pound, this compact unit will leave a giant hole in your rack where the amp usually goes.
Tale Of The Tape - lightweight division
Name: Mytek Brooklyn AMP
Type: Class D amplifier
Country: Made in Brooklyn, USA
Weight: 6 lbs.
Power Rating: 8 ohm - 250 Wpc; 4 ohm - 300 Wpc
Warranty: 2 years
Here's an idea, place the Brooklyn inside of a giant aluminum casing with heat sink fins like a '57 Chevy. Blast all 250 watts for your friends and, when they're suitably blown away, lift the large casing to reveal this little wonder. Jaws drop and you take your bows while your significant other his/her their eyes.
The plan was to conduct an evenly matched comparison of the Brooklyn AMP to my resident Valvet - A1.2 amp (25 Wpc, solid state, Class A), driving a pair of DeVore Fidelity - Gibbon 3XLs + REL - T-7 subwoofer. Kimber Kable - 8TC connects amp to the DeVores. The aforementioned W4S DAC would assume volume control duties. When I started the review process my source was an SOtM - sMS-200ultra powered by a Wyred 4 Sound - PS-1, followed by an Uptone Audio - ISO REGEN/LPS 1.2 combo platter. But then, in a dramatic plot twist, things took a trip to bountiful. Midway through this evaluation, I found myself with an Auralic - Aries G2 digital to digital converter, two new power cords (Audience - forte f3, Synergistic Research - UEF Blue) and Audience - Ohno interconnects.
Okay, time for a new plan. See how the Brooklyn responds to changes, both minor and major as they say in the music business. Actually, I have no idea if they say that, but they probably should. So, instead of trying to keep system elements consistent across the board when comparing amps, I decided to evaluate how the Brooklyn takes to each different change and then derive an optimal source/amp/power cord/interconnect combination for comparison to the Valvet as configured in my present system.
The Valvet amp is paired with a Synergistic Research - Atmosphere, Level 1 power cable. Holy dictionary, that's a long name! It's practically a full sentence. Likewise the Wyred 4 Sound - DAC-2v2SE-10th-Anniversary. On the other hand, Chord has a fancy, cutting edge DAC and simply calls it "Dave," which makes it seem pretty ordinary for the near $12,000 asking price. I don't think it would hurt these companies' bottom lines to try coming up with more appealing names for their passionately designed and engineered products. Naming schemes like sequential numbers, the initials of the designer, or tired classifications like "SE" are not nearly as special or carefully considered as the devices themselves. To me, the technical sounding names seem more like official designations than inspired name branding. Mytek's Brooklyn and Manhattan make perfect sense for a NY based company. Personally, I'd like to see Boogie Down and Shaolin models too, but I suspect that would have limited appeal to a more genteel crowd. Thus, the Hamptons series should be next. You didn't ask, but you're welcome Mytek.
Preparing For The Showdown
Out of the box, powering the Brooklyn via the stock cable, I immediately noted the midrange. Vocals are clean and mid-bass is solid. Drums crisp, clear. Sounds exactly like what it is -- a good quality reproduction of recorded music played on a two channel stereo. What's largely missing is any sense of illusion. You're never in doubt that you're listening to a stereo. There's no suspension of disbelief, that you've been transported to a place where the music simply exists. The guiro in David Bowie - "The Man Who Sold The World" is just not convincing. I'm missing the shimmer of the keyboard atmospherics. I'm not getting the jaunty feel of the ascending the bass line in the chorus.
Signal Cable - Magic Power cable seemed a reasonably priced middle ground. Little Feat's moving trucker paean "Willin'" was pleasingly rendered. There's an appropriately large soundstage, although I noticed the female background vocals were hard to locate. Lowell George's road weary vocals sound right musically, but missing is the emotion -- the longing that's found in the subtle inflections of his delivery. Using the Mytek with the Magic Power cord, compared to my usual setup, I found the thrill was gone.
Experimenting with the Synergistic Research power cables (UEF Blue and it's twice pricier brethren, Atmosphere) yielded similar results, both to each other and to other power cords I tried. Lone Justice "Dixie Storms" showcases Maria McKee's heavenly pipes in a simple, lush arrangement of voice, piano and strings. My notes say, "Here everything sounds good, but not great. Not wet, perhaps a bit dry and sterile. Not lifelike. Not emotive. Missing that touch of aliveness."
When I knew I'd be receiving the Brooklyn, I did not read any reviews or forum chatter on the Brooklyn or Class D amps in general. I opened my mind and prepared to be smitten. Class D amps have been negatively described as etched, maybe a bit dry and lifeless with a flattened out soundstage. I don't have prior experience with Class D amps in my system, but those notions have been put forth by others. That said, the dismissive tone of some of those naysayers certainly gave me pause to question those assumptions. Besides, technology < implementation. Nevertheless, looking at my notes in retrospect, some Class D stereotypes did indeed seem to hold true with the Brooklyn. When using the SOtM chain in listening tests with the stock cable, Magic Power and Synergistic Research power cables, I got the feeling the Brooklyn was doing things in regard to detail and transparency that helped expose its limitations.
I was starting to think I might have to write that scathing, negative review some of the more cynical among us believe establishes credibility. But, to my surprise, the Audience - forte f3 power cable triggered a stunning personality transformation. Suddenly the Mytek made for some captivating listening. It turns out the Audience cable warms up the Brooklyn sound nicely. Things are smoother, producing a denser, more lush feel compared to the Valvet, which plays more down the middle with a fast, open sound and a clearly defined sense of air and space, like the Smithsonian Museum. The Audience cable seems to mitigate and soften the negative qualities I was hearing with the other power cords attached to the Brooklyn. While still lacking the ultimate resolution of the Valvet, the details I heard were now easier to appreciate and added to the musical enjoyment. The resulting increase in my listening pleasure, made it clear this is easily my best match for the Brooklyn. With the Audience on the case, the thrill was back.
Anyone notice any changes when experimenting with different power cords on the Brooklyn? Has anybody else tried the Audience - forte f3 (or any Audience power cord) with the Brooklyn or other Class D amps? Comment down below.
Considering they're providing the definitive analog link, choice of interconnects is significant in this DAC direct to amp setup. That logic notwithstanding, there is surprisingly little to report here. I have some DIY cables that proved remarkably unremarkable. It was quickly apparent the Audience - Ohno were an energy and resolution buzz kill. Perhaps they added too much Audience warmth to the overall mix when combined with the Audience power cord. In the end, both amps were lashed to the W4S DAC with my usual Kimber Kable - Hero (RCA), which are faithful to the signal they're given and not particularly spendy.
The SOtM/Uptone chain was successfully deployed to sort out which power cables and interconnects were working best with the Brooklyn. Once that process was completed, the Auralic - Aries G2 arrived on the scene and the SOtM chain was given an honorable discharge. No need for any long, drawn out comparisons. The Aries G2 simply proved to be in another league of electronic silence, providing noticeably more nuance and refinement. Galvanic isolation is the hero. In the spirit of Marie Kondo, I thanked the old devices for their service and then set them out on the curb. The Auralic became the only source used for comparing the amps.
At last, it's time to compare the optimized Mytek Brooklyn AMP to the Valvet A1.2 when placed in my newly upgraded system. Had the previously established Brooklyn + Audience power cord combination not sounded good with the Auralic, it would have sent me back to square one. Fortunately, the Brooklyn's qualities remained consistent, so it sounded rightly impressive with the Aries G2.
Main Event (round by round)
I've always been disappointed by the fidelity of Tame Impala recordings. As much as I love "New Person, Same Old Mistakes," it has never sounded good on my system. Listening with the Brooklyn is the best I've heard this track. Perhaps a benefit of the Mytek's forgiving nature. Drums and vocals, usually weak and lacking character, become the most enjoyable parts. I noticed this song mostly resides in the midrange, the heart of the Brooklyn.
Piano is consistently the most enjoyable instrument with the Mytek. When sufficiently present in the recording, piano parts invariably draw my attention and prove rewarding to follow along. Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Only A Dream" features her smokey vocals accompanied only by piano. Under the scrutiny of this spotlight, the piano performance holds up and allows you to delight in the track's simple beauty.
But, let's not get carried away. It's not like the Brooklyn dropped a piano in my living room. It's known that piano is a particularly difficult instrument to convey convincingly and the Brooklyn isn't cracking the code. Although the Mytek delivers a lively presentation, it's only in the middle portion of the keyboard. Joe Strummer's "Willesden To Cricklewood" features a lot of piano notes in the upper octaves which lacked tinkle and sparkle. The gilded harp glissandos have less glow. Mytek doesn't convey the light touch and delicacy that make this song so charming.
Tracy Chapman recorded a live version of "All That You Have Is Your Soul" at a Bridge School concert I happened to attend. The Brooklyn makes the performance easy listening, but doesn't evoke memories of the show. There's a sense of pristine clarity missing. The literal air is so well portrayed by the Valvet that I almost swear I can detect the gentle breeze that I recall during the performance. That's the sense of infinite openness and literal air around the instruments that I find lacking in the Mytek.
That same missing element shows up again in Moby's "Rushing." It's an atmospheric track and it's not given a proper sense of airiness to express that feeling. But, it's also presented from a flat soundstage, so it lacks a sense of space fore to aft as well.
In terms of dynamics, the Mytek gives you what you need. Phoenix's "Girlfriend" offers well played dynamics not only in terms of crescendos/decrescendos, but also in creating a dense/sparse soundstage as keyboards swell and drop out.
Paul Westerberg's "These Are The Days" shows off the best of the Brooklyn. Good loud/quiet contrast. Pleasing tone and vibrancy in the electric guitar. I took notice of how the song is presented as a musical tapestry rather than a collection of individual instruments in space.
Judge's Scorecard, aka TLDR
I liked that most everything I tried sounded enjoyable through the Brooklyn AMP. In this sense, it arguably bests the Valvet which is more critical of poor recordings. Consistent with its more forgiving nature, the Mytek soundstage size is seldom noticeable as being particularly spacious or shrunken. Usually it's just about right for Goldilocks. However, my listening preferences currently favor realism, resolution and transparency. With the Brooklyn, focusing on any particular instrument had its limits. It doesn't provide extreme nuance and detail without running into its shortcomings as demonstrated with its stock power cord and some of the after-market power cables I tried. A well matched power cord may help to moisten and smooth over those rough edges, but finely honed details won't suddenly appear. That the Mytek didn't hit my exact sweet spot is likely a matter of personal taste.
The gestalt of the Brooklyn lies in its midrange, while the Valvet plays instead with a great sense of ease from top to bottom. Where the Mytek presents music as seamlessly stitched together across a blank canvas, with the Valvet there is no canvas; music emerges from an invisible, three dimensional background.With the Brooklyn, I would still be listening to music, as opposed to experiencing it and being under the spell of it. For me, it's missing that last few percent of palpability and realness I crave. The almost tactile sensation that triggers my emotions more than my ears and takes me to my musical utopia.
At the end of the day, musicality sits at the top of my list of desirable sonic qualities. Part of what I consider musicality is the sense that you're hearing the musical whole and not the sum of its parts. To that end, the Brooklyn's overall presentation is well organized and coherent as a performance. It's easy to get carried away just enjoying the music. If you like a forward, musical sound, you'd do well to consider this powerful little box. When one can find such a delightful performer in a small, environmentally friendly package, anyone with space, heat and aesthetic considerations would be remiss to ignore the Mytek Brooklyn AMP. This is an amp appropriate for our times.
Mytek Brooklyn AMP ($2,495)
Brooklyn AMP Product Page
Brooklyn AMP Brochure
Brooklyn AMP Manual
Home: City of Angels
Turn-ons: generosity, the ocean, new speaker smell
Turn-offs: mean people, Republicans, Democrats
Talents: piano, trombone, drums, nunchucks, bow hunting, computer hacking
Favorite TV show: it's one that I've written for, but I can't say which as it's iconic and fraught with more NDAs than Harry and Meghan's nanny contract
Best Concert: Ol' Dirty Bastard, Woodstock (tie)
Sports Played: basketball, golf, Muay Thai, CrossFit
People I Admire: my family, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor
Ambitions: house the homeless, free the innocent
Pets: uno doggo
Guilty Pleasures: PS4, making fun of people who do goat yoga
Foods I Crave: Shake Shack, Bob's Doughnuts, my grandmother's fried chicken
Good First Date Idea: "When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV."