Brinkmann Audio Nyquist digital to analogue converter

Digital-to-analog converters
Brinkmann Audio Nyquist

As it stands, the Nyquist is incredibly flexible, more so than many converters at this time. It can support DXD and DSD up to DSD 256 native (DSD 64 and DSD 128 through DoP), but more importantly it supports PCM files and MQA files to 384kHz sampling rates. It can stream PCM to 192kHz and MQA to 384kHz. Both DSD and PCM have their own digital pathway, with some extra processing in place for MQA.

Although we’ve categorised the Nyquist as a DAC, Brinkmann’s classification as an ‘Analogue D/A converter’ fits the device better. It’s an analogue audio player with a DAC module. The amplifier section uses valves in the output stage, but the valves themselves are not the kind you would expect. The Nyquist uses two pairs of new old stock Telefunken PCF803 valves, which were developed in the 1960s for colour TV. You won’t be tube rolling here, and this isn’t a set of ECC82s. The valves are designed for longevity in a more hostile environment than a DAC, however, so you are unlikely to need replacements any year soon, but when you do, buy them from Brinkmann itself. The circuit outputs to a set of Lundahl transformers, designed to help filter high frequencies. There is also a headphone socket that follows the whole output stage (except the transformers), switching the gain control to 10dB maximum and running through a chip for the headphone socket volume.

That ticks the boxes for longevity and build quality, what about ease of use? The DAC is designed to work as a converter in its own right, with AES/EBU, S/PDIF coaxial, TOSlink, and USB inputs. These are accessed as usual from the front panel or the remote. Then there’s the Ethernet connection, which Brinkmann recommends using with the popular and easy to use third-party MConnect app, and navigating a UPnP network with MControl. This also unlocks vTuner internet radio and Deezer. Or you can use the Nyquist as a Roon endpoint and unlock TIDAL, at which point you hand over a lot of control to Roon and the Nyquist’s integration makes this easy to navigate. Ease of use... tick!

Last comes that other aspect of quality – sound quality. And it’s here the Nyquist stands or falls. It stands. The performance of this device is so effortless, so natural, and so bloody enjoyable sounding, you are drawn ever deeper into your music, almost regardless of source or genre. This is especially true of DSD, a format I tend to pay lip service to because I have relatively few recordings that I truly enjoy. That said, I have some early Led Zeppelin DSD cuts of extraordinarly ‘iffy’ provenance, and through the Nyquist they took on a richness and full-bodied, full-throated sound that would be hard to hear anywhere else (I also have a set of Japanese CD pressings that get close). You get the feeling of John Bonham’s playing as barely-contained thunder unleashed on the unsuspecting tape machine, which is immensely satisfying. Unless you are the machine.

I was so captivated by its PCM and DSD sound that I almost forgot the Nyquist was an MQA-supporting device in its own right. The Unamas Fugue Quintet playing JS Bach, Contrapunctus 01 from The Art of Fugue (BWV-1080), recorded by 2L, had a sense of music breathing, ebbing, and flowing in the way it does in a concert hall, rather than in the recording studio. This made a powerful case for MQA, as powerful as any I’ve heard.

Perhaps the big and consistent sonic positive about the Brinkmann Nyquist is the complete absence of a mechanical or artificial sound. Some digital devices strive to recreate the digital signal in its absolute finery, others try to mask the sound of digital by imposing their own signature on the performance. The Nyquist is one of the few that does both at the same time (notable others include the Kalista in this issue, and the Nagra HD DAC, both of which make the Nyquist seem cheap).

There’s another interesting comparison to make from below, in the guise of the Chord DAVE. This one is tougher because the two products go in very different directions sonically. The Chord is the more accurate reproducer of digital sounds. You get the feeling that you are listening to a direct feed from the mixing desk when listening through the DAVE. The Nyquist doesn’t do that, instead preferring to summon up the musicians and conductors in front of you, in a kind of holographic simulation of the live event. The comparison is one of head vs. heart if you like, with the Nyquist taking the ‘heart’ route all the way. That is not to say it’s lacking in cerebral qualities, that it’s an euphonic digital warmer-upper, or that it is somehow engineering music to sound ‘nice’, but the fact remains I found listening to the Nyquist a hugely enjoyable event each and every time I listened to it. Accurate? Accurate to what? The Nyquist is musically and temporally correct and it shows. Others might be more pitch perfect across the frequency domain, but if the Nyquist rings your bell, you probably won’t care one jot.

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