Tag Archives: DAC

MHDT Lab Pagoda

MHDT Laboratory Audio Devices has been producing their line of affordable NOS (non-oversampling) DACs since 2002. The Pagoda was introduced in 2014 and is a bit of a departure for MHDT Lab with its use of dual PCM1704 R-2R DAC chips. These chips are legendary (bordering on cult status) for their superb sound quality. It’s most unfortunate the PCM1704 family of chips are no longer being manufactured.

Some specs

  • 4 digital inputs (BNC, USB, RCA, Toslink)
  • 24/192 max on all inputs
  • no digital filter
  • no op-amps
  • no feedback
  • tube buffered output (GE5670 3 mica)
  • output level is 3.0v

With the current breakneck pace of DAC development the Pagoda might seem a bit long in the tooth for those who seek extremely high-res PCM and DSD rates. Obviously, this DAC is not for them. This DAC is for folks (like me) who find the NOS approach to sound more natural and engaging. Good design and implementation is key, of course, as it is with any audio component and my ears tell me the wizards at MHDT Lab know exactly what they’re doing.

With the vast majority of my music files being CD rips, getting 16/44.1 right is of utmost importance to me. Additionaly, I’ve explored the high resolution landscape in earnest over the course of several years and have acquired some nice downloads ranging from 24/44.1 to 24/384 and a smattering of DSD titles as well. I’ve found anything beyond 24/192 (or maybe even 24/96) is lost on me, as is oversampling to extremely high rates. I don’t care about DSD and care even less about MQA. Horses for courses.

While there’s been quite a bit written/shared regarding various DACs in the MHDT Lab line, the Pagoda has seen little online chatter. IMO it deserves better. The Pagoda paints a wonderfully analog sonic picture with gobs of detail, great dynamics, and no digital harshness. The sound isn’t mushy, soft, rolled-off, or “tubey” in any way. There is a certain rightness to the sound that is just remarkable regardless of bit depth/sample rate.

If you’re in the market for an affordable R-2R DAC you might want to give the Pagoda a listen.


Nice comprehensive reviews can be found at Head-Fi and TNT-Audio.


My system

This configuration came about after many years searching for my own little slice of audio nirvana. I put this together with a budget I was comfortable with and no, this is not an uber-expensive system to lust over but a high-value, high-performing, and utterly satisfying one. My favorite to date.

My listening space is a typically appointed 13′ x 18′ living room. Distance from loudspeakers to ears is about 10′.

The basics

  • Mac mini (2012, 2.6GHz i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, High Sierra)
  • Bel Canto mLink USB-S/PDIF converter
  • MHDT Lab Pagoda DAC
  • dB Audio Labs Tranquility USB DAC*
  • Decware Zen Triode SE84UFO Amplifier
  • Omega Super 3i Monitor
  • Omega DeepHemp 8 Subwoofer


  • AudioQuest Carbon USB
  • Black Cat Cable SilverStar! 75
  • Better Cables Silver Serpent RCA
  • MHDT Lab USB
  • OmegaConnect Speaker One
  • Blue Jeans 12 White (for subwoofer)

Component rack/speaker stands

  • Salamander Synergy
  • IsoAcoustics Aperta
  • Sanus Steel Series


  • Brick Wall PW8R15AUD

Music library

  • Oyen Digital MiniPro Thunderbolt SSD (flac – uncompressed)

Music player software

  • Amarra Luxe
  • Amarra sQ+
  • Audirvana Plus
  • HQPlayer

Music services

  • Deezer HiFi
  • Pandora
  • Spotify


*As an alternative to the mLink/Pagoda combination I recently added my dB Audio Labs Tranquility DAC back into the mix. The Tranquility is built around an old-school 16 bit NOS chipset (TDA1543). About 5 years ago I sent my unit back to the company for “Gold Level” modifications. The mods (there were many) added significantly more refinement to an already great sounding DAC. It’s nice to have choice.