There does seem to be a formatting limit on high-res audio via the network input though, as I was unable to play PCM beyond 192 kHz and DSD higher than standard DSD64 when using MinimServer on various Synology and QNAP NAS drives. Gapless playback is a tick box in the app settings – two in fact for ‘by App’ and ‘to Renderer’ – although no combination would successfully play albums through without a fractional pause between tracks. For some listeners that could be a deal breaker if this was the primary input source. The app suffered a few random quits over several months of use, still making it one of the more stable when set against the worst offenders here.
In core sound quality, the Brooklyn Bridge is a neutral and highly resolving digital convertor, able to extract the musical essence from a variety of digital formats. A good starting point is with CD audio, here played from a Mac mini running Audirvana Plus with CAD USB cable.
Before finishing the setup though, it’s wise to find the preferred digital interpolation filter for PCM, from a selection of seven that are hard-coded into the ESS convertor chip. By default, the Brooklyn has an MQA decoder enabled with a supplemental minimum-phase filter running in DSP. This gives the semblance of a detailed and spacious sound, at the expense of coherent musical timing. High frequencies are delayed behind mid and bass, making for an ultimately confusing and soulless listening experience.
Even after disabling the proprietary phase-distortion feature, a FRMP (fast roll-off minimum-phase) filter is still enabled. If you wish to preserve musical timing, switch to linear-phase. There’s a choice of four: fast and slow roll-off linear-phase filters (FRLP and SRLP), brickwall and what ESS calls an Apodizing filter, which in this instance is actually also linear-phase. FRLP and SRLP were the favourites; the former more incisive and fractionally more impulsive, the latter slightly more flowing and organic.
Wideband high-resolution formats are renowned for rendering bass textures with realism, but even with 16/44.1 material there’s notable depth and timbre to be found from the Brooklyn. An apt example is the five-string electric bass and acoustic piano on Minione (Universal Polska 573 980 8), Anna Marie Jopek’s beautifully sparse collaboration with Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Bassist Armando Gola’s fretless underpins the underplayed piano and Jopek’s breathy purr throughout, tripping playfully through ‘Kogo nasza miłosc obchodzi’ to delightful low-toned effect.
Halfway between standard and high-res releases are those odd fellows mixed down to 24/44.1, such as Medeski Martin & Wood’s Omnisphere (Indirecto Records), a strangely beguiling blend of the jazz chameleon outfit’s humoured funk supported by avant-garde classical collective Alarm Will Sound. The opener ‘Kid Tao Mammal’ is a kaleidoscopic journey from rocky jazz with John Medeski on echoed Wurlitzer electric piano, to an other-worldly collage of winds and strings before settling back into the offbeat funk groove for which the trio are celebrated. The Brooklyn laps up such challenges, keeping the pace where needed, revealing the scratchy timbres of slow string glissandos, the strangled mute-brass squeaks, before focusing on the crisp timing of drummer Chris Wood.
Against the original Mytek Brooklyn, the Bridge certainly benefits from the later ESS DAC chip, with a lighter and more revealing mid-band and sweeter top end. There’s more light on the upper treble, already a hallmark of the ESS sound, more vivacious overall but never tiring unless the music wants it so.
A step forward in that excitement was also found using the streamer module, versus USB connection to PC. With the Ethernet cable in place, the Bridge plays well from UPnP-enabled NAS drives on the network, sounding a little crisper and more resolving, if losing some of the low-level subtlety I heard through a decent USB connection.
Mytek doesn’t make its own upgrade power supply. However, of the third-party units I’ve tried, the Longdog Audio PSU rings the nicest changes. It brings a more rich, cinematic telling, airier and more spacious.