BRINKMANN Nyquist-II DAC/Streamer 32/384 DSD356 Roon & MQA enabled w gran base

NZ$ 26,995.00 ea (incl. GST)

Considered some of the world’s finest turntables out of Germany


Digital So Good, Only An Analog Expert Could Make It  Elegance. Precision. Heirloom Build Quality and State-of-the-Art Performance. 

German Stereoplay Magazine: "Undoubtedly, the Nyquist offers a tonal fascination and outstanding naturalness at a level that is probably unique." 

These are the hallmarks of Brinkmann Audio. Now, thirty years after the introduction of their first Digital-to-Analog Converter, Brinkmann Audio proudly introduces "Nyquist", the world's most advanced DAC. Authored by the newly expanded Brinkmann design team, "Nyquist" sets new standards in convenience, sonic excellence and lasting value.  

Although Brinkmann is justly renowned as a designer and manufacturer of State-of-the-Art analog components, the company's first DAC, "Zenith", debuted in 1986 and still enjoys a devoted cult following. For Helmut Brinkmann, the development of "Zenith" demonstrated the importance of analog circuitry and passive filter implementation in the design of high end digital components. Everything Brinkmann learned with "Zenith"-combined with three decades of subsequent engineering experience-has resulted in "Nyquist": the culmination of our vast audio design expertise.  

An entirely new design, "Nyquist" has been optimised to accommodate the latest digital formats including MQA™ (Master Quality Authenticated) streaming and playback, PCM up to 384 kHz/32 bits (including DXD)as well as DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256. Given that future formats will inevitably appear, both the Hardware and Software of "Nyquist's" Digital Module are easily user-replaceable. This field-upgradable architecture assures unprecedented longevity and enables "Nyquist" to remain on the cutting edge of digital technology. "Nyquist" virtually eliminates obsolescence, making it audio's first-and-only "Investment Quality" digital component.  

Proprietary high voltage power supply technology-unique among digital source components-delivers marked improvements in digital circuit performance as do custom filters in the digital domain. In a nod to Brinkmann's renowned "Marconi" Line Preamplifier and "Edison" Phono Stage, the "Nyquist" employs hybrid circuit topology, with tubes used in the output stage due to their instantaneous response to voltage changes.  

Because today's music connoisseurs demand the ultimate in convenience and versatility, "Nyquist" offers outstanding connectivity, including USB, SPDIF, Optical and Ethernet inputs. Balanced, Single-ended and Headphone outputs are all standard. "Nyquist" offers RoonReady™ network playback and music management and supports several streaming services while optimised, pre-selected filters have been carefully tailored for every digital format. A comprehensive remote handset offers control of volume, input selection, mute and phase.  

Thanks to our obsessive attention to each of these details, "Nyquist" achieves a level of user-friendliness unprecedented in High End Audio. Given its ease of use, matchless craftsmanship, total upgradeability and, of course, sonic superiority, "Nyquist" is simply the finest digital component available today…and tomorrow!  






The Nyquist includes MQA technology, which enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams, delivering the sound of the original master recording.  or file, and denotes provenance to ensure that the sound is identical to that MQA Studio file, which has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner. The MQA logo is a trade mark of MQA Limited. Copyright MQA Limited 2017

The Nyquist is modular in design, future upgrades can be done in the field with a simple hardware/software swap. Inside resides a hybrid circuit topology employing tubes in the output stage, leveraging their "instantaneous response to voltage changes."

Digital fInputs include USB, S/PDIF, AES, and Ethernet while outputs include Balanced, Single-ended and Headphone. Brinkmann has loaded up Nyquist with custom filters "tailored for every format."



MQA and PCM up to 384 kHz (DXD), DSD 64 and 128 via DoP (DSD over PCM), DSD 256 natively

Digital module upgradable
THD/IM distortion:  <0.01%
S/N ratio:  >100 dBA
Gain adjustment:  0...+10 dB
Output voltage:  maximum 3,5 V eff.
Output impedance:  10 ohms balanced
Headphone output:  30-600 ohms
Dimensions:  420W x 95H x 310D mm (with granite base);
Power supply 120 x 80 x 160 mm
Weight:  12 kg; granite base 12 kg / power supply 3.2 kg


BRINKMANN Nyquist DAC receives Rave Review in March 2019’ “Mono & Stereo.”

Alex Gorouvein of “Mono & Stereo” reveres the Brinkmann Audio Nyquist Mk II Streaming DAC as “a prime example of how to properly handle digital formats without sacrificing sound quality and presenting music with a natural uncolored sound that would appeal even to the most zealous analog proponent.” He highly recommends Nyquist as THE choice for those looking to upgrade their digital source or to “Take the digital plunge” without the fear of losing the warm and natural sound of analog.

For the full review, please visit:

High End 2016: Brinkmann and Vandersteen and MQA
Panagiotis Karavitis in Munich 2016

MQA is becoming a reality; the company has a new partner under Brinkmann Audio who despite being a world-class leader in turntable design has a history on digital audio as well with the “Zenith”, a DAC introduced back in 1986!

In Munich they presented the all new MQA ready, tube output Nyquist DAC, capable of 32bit/384KHz PCM and dual rate DSD, available as of Q4 2016. Paired to the in-house electronics (Brinkmann produces a complete line of quality electronics including mono power amps, pre, stereo, integrated and the fabulous Edison phono stage) all sitting on top of HRS racks while speakers were courtesy of Vandersteen, his second from top Model 5A carbon (US$29.900) along with the dedicated M7-HPA amplifiers (US$52.000).

Bob Stuart gave us a demo session comprising of various tracks in MQA, sourced mostly directly from the original masters, and I must admit, there is something to this new format. Not saying it is better than the same files in hi-res PCM or DSD; my experience is still very limited and in order to draw any conclusions I would like to do some proper A-B in my system, preferably with less than 30 folks sitting in the room. What I am saying is that it sounds a bit different, and given the huge advantage of a lower bit rate, chances are it will be the next logical step in quality streaming for the not so distant future. Still, I am not sure how it is going to do as a format; discussing a bit further with Bob, I came to understand that we are talking of a lossy compression, only that with MQA the vital 20-20KHz range remains untouched (protected is the word he used) and the lossy part of the compression happens at higher frequencies, inaudible for the human ear.

I must give credit to Brinkmann’s new Nyquist DAC
MHES 2016 - Key Kim

Year after a year Brinkmann always manages to produced outstanding sound and it was no different this time. Actually, the digital medium sounded better than ever. 

I must give credit to Brinkmann’s new Nyquist DAC. Brinkmann is mainly known as a manufacturer of State-of- the-Art analog products, not digital. However, did you know that the company’s first DAC “Zenith” debuted in 1986, 30 years ago? 

Helmut Brinkmann’s development of the Zenith demonstrated the importance of analog circuitry and passive filter implementation in digital components. Everything Brinkmann learned from Zenith, and three decades of experience has culminated in the “Nyquist”. 

The Nyquist has been optimized to accommodate the latest digital formats including MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) streaming and playback, PCM up to 384 kHz/32 bits (including DXD). The Vandersteen Audio 5A Carbon loudspeakers (US$29,900/pair) sounded impressive driven by their M7-HPA mono amplifiers (US$52k). 

As I listened I heard sound that was open, transparent and very natural with nice musicality. 

a rave review of our Nyquist Streaming DAC.
Jeff Dorgay

Tone Audio Nyquist review:
Tone Audio has just published a rave review of our Nyquist Streaming DAC. Publisher Jeff Dorgay’s first paragraph closes “…Brinkmann Nyquist has magic, in spades.” Not only does Jeff admire Nyquist’s performance and versatility, he also loves the “One-Box Simplicity” of our digital source component and deems it “…an incredible value proposition.” We agree. We also wish to point out that Tone Audio reviewed the original Nyquist. We’re sending Jeff a Mk II which, we expect, he’ll love even more.  

EXTENDED REVIEW: HiFi reviewers and enthusiasts often talk about “analog magic,” but that term is seldom if ever used when discussing digital gear. Considering the progress made in the digital arena, it’s somewhat puzzling. I submit the Brinkmann Nyquist has magic, in spades.

Joni Mitchell’s voice (and self-backing vocals) in her classic “Car on a Hill” are smooth and scrumptious. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was listening to vinyl – and that’s the point.

Some of us have been arguing about the validity of digital versus analog for about 35 years now. Granted, those first compact disc players sounded pretty harsh, but things have come a long way since then. Despite the sniping of analog aficionados, digital designers keep improving the breed, and though often fashionable to bash digital, it’s pretty damn good.

On one level, who better to make an incredible digital to analog converter than a man who makes great turntables? Helmut Brinkmann is that man. I’ve been using his Bardo turntable (with optional RoNT power supply) for over a year now and couldn’t be happier with it – deciding to purchase the review sample took all of about 30 seconds worth of listening.

Mr. Brinkmann’s DAC is equally engaging and impressive, even more, when the tubes stabilize thermally – usually about 30 minutes. Prepare to be impressed. Really impressed. The Beatle’s “Penny Lane” begins this magical mystery tour, as it’s a well-worn demo favorite. McCartney’s bass line comes through with an unmistakable strength – the pace is fantastic. The sonic picture presented is so natural, it reminds me of the Bardo/Koetsu Jade Platinum combination, which offers an equally organic experience. The music escapes the speakers with a level of depth, texture and ease not reached by the other digital hardware in my three listening rooms.

Say What?

I’ve been intrigued with mega-digital playback for over a decade now, and as much progress continues to be made in the analog world, I’m equally stunned at what the world’s finest audio engineering minds continue to extract from the 16/44.1 files that we’ve all been told are unacceptable. DSD and high res PCM files are certainly intriguing when the content lives up to the hype, but really, how many albums in DSD format do you own? 50? 100? 3?  Me too. The few hundred albums in high-resolution format reside on my NAS, still compete with about 12 thousand CDs ripped over decades, and thousands more streaming from TIDAL.

The Nyquist unfolds MQA files and is a ROON endpoint, so there is no digital scenario you are unprepared for. There’s nothing worse than a five-figure component requiring excuses. None are necessary with the Brinkmann Nyquist.

The Nyquist does a fantastic job decoding high resolution, audiophile files. If that is your quest, you will not be disappointed in the least, but if you are a music fan wanting maximum musicality out of your legacy digital collection, I suspect you’ll value the Nyquist even more.

The ins and outs

The Nyquist offers inputs for every digital source imaginable: Toslink optical, RCA/SPDIF, XLR-AES/EBU, USB, and Ethernet. With a combination of a Mac Book Pro, OPPO 205, dCS Rossini and even a Sony PlayStation, rest assured the Nyquist works well with anything you can throw at it. After auditioning a number of transport options, the bulk of my listening was done via the Ethernet connection and a 12TB QNAP NAS.

Again, thanks to the Nyquist being Roon compatible, it makes combining the digital files in your library, with anything you’d like to seek out via TIDAL (or whatever music streaming service you happen to use) a seamless experience. Thanks to the Nyquist being a single box solution, a plethora of extra cables aren’t required. Balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs are also available and have no issues driving 30 feet of interconnects so that you can place the Nyquist on a rack with the rest of your gear, or in a remote location with ease.

A wide range of inputs and outputs is one thing, but there’s more. The Nyquist is a modular DAC so that it can be easily upgraded as technologies change, and in essence, future proof. This is an excellent thing when you are spending USD $18,000 (excl sales tax) on a DAC. For my money, there are too many expensive DACs built around a fixed architechture. The Nyquist’s modular design is field-upgradable, making  it a much safer bet as a long term digital investment.

Finally, the Nyquist has a level control to help match its gain to your other sources, and it acts as a full volume control for the built-in headphone amplifier. More on that later.

The MQA issue

Some will (and have) argue that the Nyquist lacks the final few molecules of resolution that the top dogs from dCS, Gryphon, and MSB offer. That may be true, and again this is a complete matter of personal taste. None of these other DACs are rubbish in any sense, yet the Nyquist has a way of pulling you in just a little bit further, allowing your fussy audiophile gland to shut off that much quicker. It’s almost hard to describe this complete lack of fatigue that the Nyquist offers.

There is a fairly high amount of vitriol in the discussions surrounding MQA these days, so I tip my hat to Mr. Brinkmann for including MQA capability on the Nyquist. Grooving on David Byrne’s latest, (In MQA) American Utopia sounds inviting, though I have no non – MQA file to compare it to. Unlike a few DACs I’ve tried that make audible clicks, or pause when switching between resolutions, the Nyquist fluidly skates between formats effortlessly, with no audible glitches. Personally, I fear that the MQA format is misunderstood, (and that’s all the further I’ll go down this rabbit hole) so as a big TIDAL/Roon user, I’m glad I can stream MQA on the Nyquist. All of the MQA files played sounded fantastic.

Awesome 16/44.1 performance

Thanks to what amounts to a separate DSD decoding section, DSD files are not converted to PCM in the Nyquist. DSD and high-resolution PCM files are handled separately and with equally high fidelity, as you would expect with an $18,000 DAC. But again, cool as that is, the Nyquist does such an incredible job with standard CD-quality digital files, this is what will keep you in the listening chair for days on end.

CD quality files played through the Nyquist offer the same analog-like ease and presence that high-resolution files do. So much so, that it was tough to tell at times what I was listening to. I can’t think of higher praise for a DAC. Taking this approach a step further, streaming performance of low-quality 320kb/sec files sound better than they have a right to. The lack of air, dynamics, and tonal richness inherent in these files is well managed in the Nyquist.

Finishing touches

The Nyquist would stand on its own, even if it were just a premium DAC for $18k, but it’s streaming capabilities make it an incredible value proposition. Mr. Brinkmann takes this further, including a massive granite base to place under the Nyquist as well as a high-quality power cord – the kind you’d probably pay a third-party vendor at least a thousand dollars for. Brinkmann suggests plugging the Nyquist directly into the AC line, eschewing power conditioning. He’s never steered me wrong in the past, so that’s how we played it for this review; directly into the AC line with zero regrets.

Personal audio fans will appreciate that the Nyquist includes a top-notch headphone amplifier as part of the package. We’ve been reviewing a number of top headphone amplifiers; and feel the one built into the Nyquist delivers such a high level of performance you will never need an outboard headphone amplifier.

Finally, this all comes wrapped in a single box solution (other than the outboard power supply) which doesn’t require a loom of cables to go about its business. If you have room for a two-four box design that a few other manufacturers offer, no worries, however, if you want high performance only requiring a single rack space, the efficiency of the Nyquist cannot be ignored. Oh yeah, it has a transparent glass top too, so those of you that appreciate the sheer beauty of the internal design can bask in it, daily.

Keep in mind for your reference; my own bias is for overall system balance to be ever so slightly on the warm/natural/neutral side of straight-up neutral. I like as much detail as I can get without the overall presentation getting harsh, yet I crave as much warmth as possible before things become slow, or sloppy. Tracking through the original Chicago Transit Authority, the enormous sonic landscape painted is tremendous, with a smoothness to the layers of drums and percussion incredible.

So it goes with Brinkmann’s Nyquist; named after the famous digital engineer Harry Nyquist. This elegantly built DAC has a sound, unlike any other DAC I’ve heard – it’s more analog. Using a pair of new old stock Telefunken PCF803 tubes for the output stage, which Brinkmann claims “were built to last ten years in color TV applications,” should last even longer in the Nyquist. A quick search on eBay reveals these tubes to be very inexpensive, so I’d suggest buying a matched set from your Brinkmann dealer so that you are prepared. Long life be damned, we both know you’re going to lose a tube on Friday night, just when you planned on a weekend’s worth of listening. Be a good Eagle Scout, buy a spare set and rest prepared.

If after all these years, digital has still left you slightly cold, I assure you the Brinkmann Nyquist will not. It offers top digital performance for about what you’d pay for one of Mr. Brinkmann’s Bardo turntables with a top phono cartridge. But you never know, a few days listening to the Nyquist and you might not even want to be bothered spinning those black discs! It’s that engaging.

Those interested in a rich, involving experience, regardless of the numbers and especially analog folks interested in the world of easily obtained, superb-sounding hi-rez music now available via digital—the Nyquist would look and sound right at home.
Michael Fremer

CONCLUSION: Brinkmann Audio's Nyquist DAC is a thoroughly modern, full-featured, modular streaming DAC that's compatible with MQA and Roon and can decode in full resolution whatever you throw at it. Roon's compatibility with Tidal means that the possibilities of streaming music at CD resolution and higher are virtually limitless. 
The Nyquist's tubed output gives it a particular sonic personality, though it's subtly drawn to produce a rich, pleasing picture, not one that's overly warm or sloppy on bottom.
For those interested in a rich, involving experience of music, regardless of the numbers—and especially analog folks who find themselves interested in the world of easily obtained, superb-sounding hi-rez music now available via digital—the Nyquist would look and sound right at home next to a turntable

REVIEW: What? Johnny-come-lately turntable manufacturer Brinkmann Audio now makes a DAC? Are they desperate? What sampling rates does it support—162/3, 331/3, 45, and 78? I guess the vinyl resurgence is over! Why else would Brinkmann make a DAC?

If that's what you're thinking, consider that Helmut Brinkmann began designing, manufacturing, and marketing electronics well before he made the first of the turntables for which his company is best known in the US.

The Nyquist is a thoroughly (almost) modern streaming DAC and headphone amplifier in a surprisingly small case, its compactness partly due to its outboard power supply. It's named for Harry Nyquist (1889–1976), the Swedish-born American electronics engineer who wrote such papers as "Certain Factors Affecting Telegraph Speed" (1924) and its nail-biter sequel, "Certain Topics in Telegraph Transmission Theory" (1928). Also named for him is the "Nyquist frequency," which digital scolds claim as proof that CD sound is "perfect." Nyquist's theorem mathematically proves that all you need to perfectly reconstruct the original analog waveform within the audioband—ie, 20Hz–20kHz—is a sample rate of at least twice 20kHz. As the CD sampling rate of 44.1kHz is slightly more than twice that of the highest frequency audible to humans, it must therefore be perfect. When you argue that higher-resolution audio produces better sound, their usual response is, "What are you, a bat? Humans can't hear past 20kHz."

Clearly, those people have not heard the Brinkmann Nyquist—or other similarly equipped DACs—decode a high-resolution MQA file.

The Nyquist Decodes All

The Brinkmann Nyquist costs NZ$25,995. It decodes MQA and PCM signals up to 384kHz (DXD, DSD64 and DSD128 via DoP (DSD over PCM), and DSD256 natively. In short, if you've got the digits, the Nyquist can deal with them.

According to Helmut Brinkmann's untitled white paper about the Nyquist, it has "individually optimized signal paths for every format." DSD is not converted to PCM. Instead, after a "very precise re-clocking," the signal is sent to a discrete (non–IC-based) DSD DAC, followed by a "soft analog filter" that's "steep enough to reduce the noise energy to a level that will not impact the audio components which are 'Downstream' in the playback chain, but not so steep, as we take great pains to preserve the air and openness of sound for which DSD is famous."

In his white paper, Brinkmann writes that while he tested several DSD DAC chipsets, none compared to the sound of a discrete DSD DAC. Non–signal-degrading relays automatically switch between PCM and DSD.The PCM and MQA signal paths differ only in the additional signal processing required for MQA. All PCM and MQA signals are upsampled eightfold, to 352.8 or 384kHz, within a powerful, 16-core processor that also decodes MQA files. The upsampled signals are then reclocked and routed to two ES9018S Sabre DAC chips, one per channel. The eight DACs in each ES9018S are operated in parallel to produce a single, very powerful DAC. While each ES9018S chip includes a variety of features that can perform a wide range of tasks and phase-locked-loop (PLL) functionality, all of these have been switched off. For upsampling, jitter reduction, and other functions, the Nyquist has separate, more powerful processors, each with its own individually designed power supply.

The clocks, specifically designed for high-definition audio, have ultra-low levels of phase noise and are placed very close to the DAC chips, to help minimize jitter. The PCM upsampling filters are claimed to cancel pre-ringing, about which there remains a great deal of controversy, best discussed elsewhere. Brinkmann claims to have optimized its MQA algorithm parameters to further reduce time smear.

All of the digital-processing hardware and software is contained within an easily removable subassembly referred to by Brinkmann as the Nyquist's digital Module. This module alone, which also includes an Ethernet input for streamed data, includes 11 dedicated power supplies. The Nyquist also includes a special high-voltage power supply for its analog circuits, including the DAC output.

In addition to streamed software updates, this design permits in-the-field module exchanges by the user as new technology becomes available: a new hardware standard, DAC chip, DSP technology, etc. Finally, the Nyquist supports the Roon music player with which, by now, everyone reading this should be familiar.

From Brinkmann's white paper: "During the research and development period, our main reference for Nyquist's Sound Quality were Brinkmann turntables, as we feel our 'tables achieve a uniquely natural and organic analog sound. We designed Nyquist to share this 'Brinkmann DNA'."

Now, before any digital heads explode from having read that a turntable was the "main reference" for a DAC, hear this: The Nyquist's output stage comprises four long-life, new old stock (NOS) Telefunken PCF803 tubes, originally developed in the 1960s for use in color TVs. Each tube incorporates a pentode and a triode, and is also used for analog gain control. Turntables and tubes? Now feel free to explode!

Setup and Use

As with Brinkmann's optional, tubed power supply for its turntable motors, the Nyquist's main enclosure comes with a thick granite base to place it on. Combined, the Nyquist and its base measure 16.5" wide by 12.2" deep by 3.75" high. (The Nyquist's outboard power supply measures 4.75" wide by 6.3" deep by 3.2" high.) Also included is a nicely machined remote control: With its six buttons you can select the input, switch the phase (absolute polarity), mute the output, and adjust gain. It also lets you switch between the headphone and main outputs. The Nyquist comes with a hand built power cord designed and tuned by Helmut Brinkmann.

On the rear panel, which is compact and attractive in a businesslike way, are single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) analog outputs; USB, S/PDIF (coaxial), optical (TosLink), and AES/EBU (XLR) digital inputs; an RJ45 Ethernet jack; and the power-supply jack.

On the front panel, large volume and input-selection knobs flank a screen that displays the selected input, the format (PCM, DSD, MQA), the sampling frequency, the volume setting in dB, and the signal polarity. To the right of all this are the On and Mute buttons, and at far left are a ¼" headphone jack and a button to activate the headphone amp. And that's it.

The Nyquist's glass top plate lets you view much of its guts, though the digital module is enclosed within its own casework. All of the main circuitry seems to be on a single large, horizontal circuit board, with smaller vertical boards at either side; these contain the horizontally positioned tube sockets and tubes. Vents in the side panels and massive heatsinks keep the tubes running cool.

The Nyquist was easy to install and a pleasure to use, despite the usual problems of getting a computer and a digital audio component to shake hands, which took some time to sort out. Push the On button and the screen displays "Nyquist" while the circuits stabilize, after which the current settings appear. Push Mute to unmute and you're ready to listen.

The Nyquist worked seamlessly with Roon It found my network, and Roon connected easily with theMeridian Sooloos music server, as well as with the iTunes content on my MacBook Air laptop. With Roon's inclusion of Tidal streaming, the musical possibilities were unlimited. When I plugged a hard drive containing hundreds of hi-rez files into the MacBook, Roon found and played them. Roon's ability to retrieve metadata is truly impressive, but you probably knew that.

However, as is all too common in computer audio, the Nyquist's instruction manual is sketchy in terms of overall connectability and use. Although the manual tries to be Roon friendly, what's printed there isn't exactly what appeared on the Roon setup screen. If you're at all experienced with streaming, you'll figure it out.


Before reading my description of the Nyquist's sound, remember the words of a former audio writer who famously wrote that tubes do  not belong in an audio system "unless you are a tweako cultist. There is nothing in audio electronics that cannot be done better with solid-state devices than vacuum tubes." Now, forget those words.

Anxious to get the review process started, Brinkmann first sent a non-streaming Nyquist that, after a few weeks' use, developed a software glitch. Switching too quickly among the inputs, or even abruptly changing the volume, made the display's information break down and the unit freeze up. As with many microprocessor freeze-ups, pulling the plug, waiting a few minutes, and powering up again solved the problem but didn't get rid of it. The solution was a replacement unit that included streaming functionality, and with the glitch corrected.

During the exchange of review samples, I was told that, along with the inclusion of streaming, other upgrades had been made, including a major improvement in sound quality. I was happy to hear that, because the original Nyquist sounded way too tubey: murky and rolled-off on top. The second sample sounded way better.

MQA Sound

Listening to MQA files supplied to me for this review or streamed from Tidal HiFi/Master made two things clear: Those who claim they can't hear a difference between CD-resolution files and hi-rez MQA files either haven't bothered to listen, or don't want to admit that their claims of "CD sound is perfect" are just plain wrong.

MQA has been convincingly demonstrated at Consumer Electronics Shows, and most recently at an event sponsored by New York City dealer Innovative Audio, where Wilson Audio Specialties' Peter McGrath, an accomplished recording engineer, played unprocessed hi-rez files of his simply miked orchestral recordings, followed by the time-corrected MQA versions. The differences were profound, and obvious to all attending: The MQA versions had greater image solidity and three-dimensionality, and wider perceived dynamics. More like a good LP. McGrath even surmised that vinyl's superior performance to CD in the time domain may account for why, on the best LPs, dynamics appear to be wider, even if the measurements say otherwise.

As for MQA's ability to "fold" and "unfold" very large files for streaming and playback, hearing 24/96 and 24/192 files streamed through the Nyquist via Tidal was an ear-opener. Had this been CD sound in 1983, I'd still be an LP guy—but I'd also be all in with digital.

In many reviews, I've mentioned the Modern Jazz Quartet's European Concert (2 LPs, Atlantic 2-603). This 1960 live recording is one of my favorite MJQ albums, and Swedish engineer Gösta Wiholm nailed it. And there it was on Tidal as a 24/192 stream. For the first time, I heard this familiar recording free of the occasional vinyl blemishes, and not restricted by the glaze and two-dimensionality of "Red Book" CD resolution. The sound was clean, pure, spacious, and more transparent than any CD I can recall hearing in terms of verisimilitude of attacks, sustain, and generosity of decays. It was free of unnatural edge, grain, and other digital afflictions, and yet—I hate to sound like a broken record—the LP still sounded to me more real, especially in terms of image solidity, three-dimensionality, and harmonic structure.

The bell-like shimmer of Milt Jackson's vibes, John Lewis's touch on the piano—especially when he repeatedly strikes the same key, as he does in Ray Brown's "Pyramid (Blues for Junior)"—and the crisp snap of Connie Kay's snare, sounded delicate, graceful, and a bit velvety through the Nyquist, but still more convincing on vinyl. Nonetheless, the Nyquist's presentation of this streamed hi-rez file was nonfatiguing, and sonically and involving.

Rich Sound

Some observers suggest that it's the artifacts of vinyl playback, not higher resolution or analog purity, that produce these ear-pleasing qualities. If so, it's a happy byproduct of the now antique but still viable process. The production and playback of hi-rez digital files also exhibit consistent artifacts—subtle ones, compared to the in-your-face aberrations that at one time made listening to digital audio so unpleasant for many of us.

Regardless of their resolution, PCM or DSD, the most consistently audible artifact or deviation from "reality" I heard in all of the files I listened to through the Nyquist and through other DACs I've auditioned was a subtle, plasticky texture that produced a somewhat polite, smoother-than-real sound. Gone, though—at least with the best recordings—were the grain, glare, etch, and spatial flatness that made listening to digital music a must to avoid. The Nyquist's tubed output, and whatever else Brinkmann has engineered into it, made listening to older CDs less objectionable, without choking the air and impressive spatial qualities audible in the latest hi-rez digital recordings.

The Nyquist's sound was smoother and more liquid overall, and somewhat warmer in the midbass, than that of the solid-state Simaudio Moon Evloution 780D and dCS Vivaldi DACs, both of which I've reviewed. If the aim was overall listenability, perhaps at the expense of extracting the last molecule of detail, Helmut Brinkmann's fine-tuning has been deftly accomplished.

While those who like a lean, tight, clean sound might find the Nyquist too soft and warm—even those who would happily sink into its rich, relaxing reproduction of the 24/96 versions of such classic albums as Cannonball Adderley's Something Else (Blue Note BST 1595). Miles Davis's opening blats on muted trumpet in "Autumn Leaves" should be exclamatory and brash, but not painfully so, and the sound should mellow out when he lays down the melody. When Adderley enters, his breathy improv around the melody should give you a solid alto sax cushioned in reverb.

Older CD transfers get this all wrong. The most recent 24/96 transfer of this essential album's mono mix presents it better than I've ever heard it in digital. (Though when I just want to listen to the music, I'll always play the LP.) The Nyquist's rendering was flattering to this recording and to every Blue Note file I played, if not the last word in detail retrieval.

As long as Brinkmann says he used his turntables as benchmarks in voicing the Nyquist, let me ask: What do you want from your DAC: Koetsu-like richness and warmth, Lyra-like linearity and detail, or something in between?

For instance, when I played James Taylor's cover of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," from his Mud Slide Slim and Blue Horizon (LP, Warner Bros. 2561), through a Lyra Atlas SL or Ortofon A95 cartridge and the CH Precision P1 phono preamp, it didn't sound as warm and full-bodied as did the MQA version through the Nyquist. I'd never before heard Leland Sklar's bass sound so voluptuous, or Taylor's voice so mellifluous, honey-coated, and round-bodied as it did digitally, through the Nyquist.

The same was true of "My Home Is in the Delta," from Muddy Waters's Fok Singer also an MQA file. The guitar and drums are in greater relief and with better articulation of transients on a vinyl reissue (LP, Chess/Analogue Productions AAPB 1483-45) but would probably not be so when using a Koetsu or other warm-sounding cartridge.

I'm agnostic about DSD VS PCM. I have thousands of SACDs but currently no SACD player that works. The Nyquist handled well the few DSD files I had on hand, producing the smooth, spacious top end DSD enthusiasts prefer and that some detractors consider an artifact of noise shaping. The DSD-VS-PCM divide is a crack in the sidewalk compared to the Grand Canyon of analog- VS digital. I'm not jumping in!

Nor am I a headphone guy (other than on airplanes), so I can't compare the Nyquist with other headphone amps—but through my AKG K 701 'phones, which are on the analytical side, it had a pleasingly rich yet detailed sound.

Power Cord Sound

But this battleground I will step into: Swapping out power cords produced major differences in the sound. No wonder Brinkmann tuned his own power cord to supply with the Nyquist. Unfortunately, the second sample of the Nyquist didn't include Brinkmann's cord. Instead, I compared Dynamic Design's Neutron 16 power cord, specifically designed for digital audio ($7500), with the digital version of Shunyata Research's ZiTron Sigma ($2138). While the Shunyata's slightly warm sound complements solid-state DACs like the Simaudio Moon Evolution 650D and 780D DACs, the Dynamic Design's more open, crystalline sound proved the ideal match for the Nyquist. Is it worth spending $7500 on an active, shielded power cord for use with an NZS$25,995 DAC—or any DAC, for that matter? That's for you to answer.


Brinkmann Audio's Nyquist DAC is a thoroughly modern, full-featured, modular streaming DAC that's compatible with MQA and Roon and can decode in full resolution whatever you throw at it. Roon's compatibility with Tidal means that the possibilities of streaming music at CD resolution and higher are virtually limitless.

The Nyquist's tubed output gives it a particular sonic personality, though it's subtly drawn to produce a rich, pleasing picture, not one that's overly warm or sloppy on bottom.

For those interested in a rich, involving experience of music, regardless of the numbers—and especially analog folks who find themselves interested in the world of easily obtained, superb-sounding hi-rez music now available via digital—the Nyquist would look and sound right at home next to a turntable
. ....... Michael Fremer


Brinkmann Nyquist Mk II DAC, Marconi Mk II Linestage, Edison Mk II Phonostage - Irresistible
Jacob Heilbrunn

CONCLUSION: When contrasted with much more expensive equipment from CH Precision, Boulder, and Ypsilon, the Brinkmann gear doesn’t quite have their magnanimity of sound, grip, and airiness. CH Precision produces a cavernous black space that seems unrivaled. Boulder has a degree of control that is unique to it. And Ypsilon lights up the soundstage. But Brinkmann comes remarkably close and has its own set of virtues. It has a dynamism and smooth continuity that are immensely beguiling. It represents formidable German engineering allied to a profound sense of musicality that will be difficult for most listeners to resist.

Brinkmann Nyquist Mk II DAC, Marconi Mk II Linestage, Edison Mk II Phonostage

In New York, over a decade ago, I first came across the Brinkmann Balanced turntable. It was hooked up to a tube power supply—an act of dedication that inspired confidence in the company’s mission to extract the very best possible sound from vinyl records. It remains the only turntable I’ve seen that was powered by tubes. 

Helmut Brinkmann’s eponymous company is probably best known for its turntable line, but it has produced a variety of front-end equipment for several decades. Now this German company is mounting a fresh effort to make a mark in that sphere with a passel of new products, including its Nyquist DAC Mk II, Edison Mk II phonostage and Marconi Mk II linestage—all of which, incidentally, contain new old stock Telefunken PCF-803 tubes that were originally used in color television sets back in the 1960s. Brinkmann rates them as having a life expectancy of around twenty years. Brinkmann’s gregarious American representative, Anthony Chiarella, dropped off all three of the Brinkmann units at my house and listened to them for an afternoon before leaving them with me for review. 


Brinkmann Marconi Mk II


I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Brinkmann gear, but I did know that the company’s emphasis on tubes is very much a good thing. I’ve heard a lot of solid-state equipment in recent years, but have never been fully convinced that it can quite attain the ethereal regions that tubes seem to reach and deliver. There is a certain nuance and alacrity, transparency and silkiness, that tubes offer. Don’t get me wrong: Solid-state keeps getting better almost every day in every way. But as with vinyl, the case for using tubes isn’t going away. If anything, it’s getting stronger.

The hybrid Brinkmann equipment is a good case in point. No one would call it inexpensive. But my sense in listening to it was that, in an age when the prices of top-flight equipment appear to be soaring into the stratosphere and beyond, Brinkmann has a lot to offer. It’s seduction in a small package. For the first thing that you’ll notice about these new Brinkmann pieces is that they are sleek and unobtrusive. They convey a certain elegance, plus the glass tops are fun to peer through, allowing a glimpse of the internal parts. They also come with black granite bases that are supposed to function as absorbers of untoward vibrations that can muck up the sound. 

All three units run balanced. On its website, Brinkmann claims that “immunity from noise can only be achieved with balanced signal processing.” Hmmm. That would come as news to a variety of other designers. My single-ended Ypsilon gear, for example, runs pretty much dead quiet. You won’t hear any noise emanating from the loudspeaker or, for that matter, from the equipment itself. But there is no question that balanced operation, with its advantage of common-mode rejection, is supposed in theory to offer quieter performance, and I never heard any buzz or hum from the Brinkmann gear. Instead, it was free of noise.

There can be no question that Brinkmann packs a lot into its fetching units. Some of the highlights: Each has its own independent solid-state power supply that is attached to the main unit via a DIN connector. A total of four tubes are side-mounted in over-sized heat sinks and offer what Brinkmann calls virtually “zero voltage delay.” The volume control of the preamp allows you to set each of the six inputs individually. The Nyquist DAC offers a wealth of streaming opportunities so that you can take advantage of the latest and greatest in the digital world, including MQA decoding and PCM up to 384kHz/32 bits (including DXD), as well as DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256—I find, incidentally, that when streaming music I tend to ramble around more musically, whereas with CDs and a fortiori with LPs, I am more focused on the piece at hand. For all its technological wizardry, the Nyquist employs tubes in its output stage. And—drum roll, please—there is also the obverse of digital, the Edison phonostage. It offers continuous gain from 49dB to 73dB, multiple loading settings, and the option of running through a step-up transformer for low-output moving-coil cartridges (or bypassing it), not to mention a mono switch. The ability to play mono records in full fidelity, which I did, is definitely a nice feature, as is the ability to fine-tune the volume setting to your heart’s delight, which I also did via a large knob on the front panel.

Listening kicked off in the digital realm with a variety of CDs and the welcome opportunity to test the Nyquist’s streaming capabilities. On both fronts, the Brinkmann DAC acquitted itself very well, indeed. It was immediately obvious that it errs on the side of a sumptuous and velvety sound. Upholstered, if you will. I ran it and the Brinkmann Marconi Mk II preamp into the Ypsilon Hyperion and D’Agostino Relentless amplifiers, each of which demonstrated different features of this front-end equipment. The Relentless is simply a blockbuster of an amp, allowing you to test dynamics to the limit. The Hyperion likes to probe into the furthest recesses of a panoramic soundstage.

On Leonard Cohen’s final album You Want It Darker, the Nyquist and Marconi created a wide and deep soundstage that allowed you to track each accompanying instrument carefully. The bass was deep, but always carefully delineated. 

Brinkmann Nyquist Mk II DAC, Marconi Mk II Linestage, Edison Mk II Phonostage

The dominant impression that the Brinkmann equipment conveyed was of a sumptuous but never bloated sound. Dynamics were superb. On Mavis Staples’ album One True Vine [ANTI-Records], the drums and bass boasted real kick. Throughout, the Brinkmann gear handled the bass region extremely well, revealing nuances that other equipment sometimes skate over. On a Leonard Bernstein recording of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 with the Vienna Philharmonic, I was bowled over by the texture of the doublebasses at the start of the first movement. Whether listening to solo piano or trumpet, it became obvious that this Teutonic gear wants to woo you, not bludgeon you over the head, with its swagger. Highs were slightly on the darker side, but this helped create a burnished sound.

This came home to me most vividly in listening to the Edison phonostage, which brings us to the heart of the Brinkmann enterprise, namely, vinyl. I listened to the Edison both through the Brinkmann and Ypsilon Silver PST-100 preamps. I found it most useful to isolate its sound by using the familiar Ypsilon. This afforded me the opportunity to hear exactly what it was—and was not—doing as it amplified the tiny signal from my Continuum Caliburn turntable and Swedish Analog Technologies reference CF1 tonearm via the Lyra Atlas SL and Miyajima Infinity mono cartridges.

The phonostage is quite flexible, allowing you to switch the transformers in and out of the circuit to boost the signal from moving-coil cartridges before the amplification stage. On stereo records I found the transformer to be indispensable. On mono records not so much. Many of the mono records from my jazz collection simply sounded incredible on the Brinkmann. Take the album Li’l Ol’ Groovemaker….Basie! The drums were set back far in the rear of the soundstage while the brass choirs came screaming out with what seemed like unprecedented ferocity in my system on cuts like “Nasty Magnus.” Basie apparently told Quincy Jones after the first run-through, “You ought to have written four of these, Quincy! That’s wailin’!” Indeed. Sonny Payne’s drums had visceral impact as the orchestra blasted out a series of crescendos. 

Brinkmann Edison Mk II


Then there was the marvelous 1954 Norgran LP The Artistry of Buddy DeFranco. The interplay between DeFranco and the pianist Sonny Clark, who died in 1963 at the age of 31 and cut a number of solo albums for Blue Note including the classic Cool Struttin’, on songs such as “You Go To My Head” had a visceral palpability to it. The Edison finely rendered Clarke’s assured piano playing while capturing DeFranco’s lambent tone. It was simplicity itself to follow their exchange of musical ideas. The sound was so spectacular that it prompted me to whip out a bunch of other mono albums. It’s always salutary to return to mono records, which have their own weighty sound that can often elude later, supposedly superior stereo recordings. I’ve found that this is so particularly in the bass region. I thus much enjoyed listening to Red Garland’s Prestige album All Kinds of Weather, which features the legendary Paul Chambers on bass. The Edison provided a rock-solid rendition of this trio, the best I’ve hitherto heard. 

In waxing eloquent over mono recordings that I’ve accumulated over the years, I hardly mean to scant stereo. The sheer artistry that the Edison conveyed on the Philips recording The Delectable Elly Ameling was a combination of the sublime and the beautiful. On Mozart’s wonderful motet Exsultate, Jubilate, which he composed in 1773, the Edison tracked every syllable, every quaver, every trill that Ameling enunciated during her ravishing performance. It nailed the antiphonal effects between Ameling and the oboe as she sang “Hallelujah.” Once more, there wasn’t a trace of sibilance or harshness. Instead, the Brinkmann delivered a posh, upholstered sound that was quite delectable. Actually, I should say breathtaking. On the Bach “Floesst, mein Heiland, floesst dein Namen,” the interchanges between Ameling, two oboes, and chorus reach an exalted level. Listening to such works made me think of the eighteenth century German writer Friedrich Schiller’s famous distinction between naïve and sentimental poetry—the former being the natural state that we aspire to but can no longer achieve. In sonic terms, Brinkmann, you could say, tries to bridge the gap.

When contrasted with much more expensive equipment from CH Precision, Boulder, and Ypsilon, the Brinkmann gear doesn’t quite have their magnanimity of sound, grip, and airiness. CH Precision produces a cavernous black space that seems unrivaled. Boulder has a degree of control that is unique to it. And Ypsilon lights up the soundstage. But Brinkmann comes remarkably close and has its own set of virtues. It has a dynamism and smooth continuity that are immensely beguiling. It represents formidable German engineering allied to a profound sense of musicality that will be difficult for most listeners to resist.

BRINKMANN was One of the Five Best-Sounding Systems at High End 2012 in Munich

Munich 5This year, Germany’s annual High End show was held May 3-6 at the Munich Order Center, a beautiful, modern event facility that’s well suited to the display of high-end audio gear. Jeff Fritz and I were there for all four days -- our report, on SoundStage, covers most of the highlights, but missing from it are my five picks for the best-sounding systems at the show. I spotlight them here.

German electronics manufacturer Brinkmann Audio shared a spacious, brightly lit room with the US’s Vandersteen Audio, Harmonic Resolution Systems, and Shunyata Research, who respectively make loudspeakers, stands, and cables. The last link in the playback chain was Vandersteen’s Model Seven speakers, which I’ve heard sound good at other shows -- but never so good as in Munich.

Although the bass frequencies were strong and deep, and the highs well extended and very clean, what floored me was a combination of smoothness and detail in the midrange that was nothing short of spectacular. Then there was the imaging -- the best I heard at High End 2012. When Helmut Brinkmann played an LP of Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club, I sat there slack-jawed for several minutes, listening to how wide and deep the stage was, and how tangibly present the musicians and their instruments were in that space. Companies often complain about not being able to create great sound under show conditions -- this room proved that it’s possible.

Vandersteen room


Nyquist Mk II Streaming DAC receives “Reader’s Choice Golden Ear Award, 1st Place” in the DAC category of German magazine Stereoplay


Munich High End 2016: Robert Harley on Analog and Digital Sources - Most Significant Digital Products

Brinkmannn Nyquist MQA-Compatible DAC

Turning to digital sources, the press conference announcing the MQA-compatible Nyquist DAC from Brinkmann was preceded, by a matter of minutes, by the announcement by Warner Music that the label would be supporting the MQA format. The timing added a dramatic twist to the Brinkmann event. Warner is the first major label to announce support for MQA.

Although Brinkmann is known today primarily for its turntables, the company introduced its first DAC in 1986 and has been making digital sources since. In addition to decoding MQA, the Nyquist DAC is compatible with PCM up to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD128. 

The modular design includes user-replaceable cards and provides for firmware updates to accommodate future formats. The output stage is a hybrid design that combines tubes and transistors fed from very high voltage supply rails. The two-box unit offers balanced and unbalanced outputs, a headphone amplifier, and Roon-ready network playback. The Nyquist will be available in Q4 2016.

The system in which the Nyquist was demonstrated sounded fabulous—Vandersteen Model 5A Carbons driven by Vandertsteen’s own liquid-cooled power amplifiers.