Many reviews are harder to write than this one. The Brinkmann Nyquist DAC is the most inviting-sounding DAC I have heard, or at least the most inviting-sounding converter this side of the Nagra HD DAC. You plug the Nyquist in, listen to some music, and time dissolves. Before you even register what happened, a whole evening of listening just swept by, and you are eager to repeat the experience over and over again. The only thing wrong with it is it has to go back to the distributor. Damn it! Now for the more meaty bits.
Brinkmann is not known for producing the cutting edge of digital audio performance. In fact, it’s not really known as a maker of digital audio at all, although the company did produce a high-end DAC called the Zenith 30 years ago. Since then, Brinkmann has been the go-to brand for top-notch turntables, tonearms, cartridges, preamplifiers, power amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, phono stages, and power supplies. All of which are superbly built, many of which sound wonderful, and a number of which feature valves. None of which smacks of a company in line to make the one of the best, most high-tech MQA-ready digital converters around.
From an industrial design perspective, the Nyquist doesn’t just share some common aspects with the rest of the range, the product looks functionally identical to the Marconi preamp and the Edison phono stage from the brand. They all have a central blue two-deck LED screen flanked by a pair of dials and four push-buttons (three and a headphone socket in the Nyquist), with a quartet of valves built into the side heatsinks, a smoked glass top plate showing the minimalist red PCB, and an identically sized external power supply. All three come supplied with a large granite base. Headphone socket and rear panel aside, you actually have to look at the circuit to see which model you are using. That gives the Brinkmann equipment a commonality of design to which few other brands could ever aspire, and it allows the company to focus on the audio circuit instead of fancy casing. Of course, the audio world is full of ‘glass half empty’ types who will undoubtedly see this as lazy product design. These people are known professionally as ‘idiots’.
Brinkmann set out its store for the Nyquist in its white paper, describing three main goals the product had to achieve: quality, longevity, and ease of use (quality in this case means both sound and build quality). It effectively nails build quality from first principles, by following the design brief set in the Brinkmann catalogue. This is a product that is built solid, even set in amongst an audio industry that tends to over-engineer its products. Brinkmann has been making timeless designs for decades, many of which are not only still in service, but still in the catalogue, so there’s no way the Nyquist will be on the market for just a few short years.
Of course, that kind of longevity doesn’t quite work with high-end digital audio because technology changes over the years. A DAC designed today might be quaintly out of date tomorrow, and incompatible with the digital world the day after that. Brinkmann took care of that, too, by making the DAC section of the converter modular and replaceable. So when the Next Big Thing happens in digital audio, or simply that the two pairs of ESS Sabre ES9018S that form the PCM converter or components in the discrete DSD converter are discontinued or become unavailable, the Nyquist will simply adopt a different module, and if that module offers more for the end user, it will also be made available as a retrofit. Alongside this, the usual slew of firmware and software updates can be applied through the course of the Nyquist’s life.