More Power. Less Noise.
Don't you hate that feeling when you get a new pair of headphones only to find out that you don't have enough power to drive them effectively? The sound is empty and hollow, like a ghost of its former self. Well, it sounds like you need an amplifier. Headphone amplifiers are a necessity for music lovers with power-hungry headphones. Driver types like planar magnetic and electrostatic have high-power needs, and amplifiers are the only way to satisfy their hunger.
Since Mytek was conceived in a studio setting, they understand what it means to not only record sound but to help recreate it and what it takes to make an accurate hi-res representation of the original. The Mytek Liberty THX AAA Amplifier certainly doesn't lack in the power department, but unfortunately, most times in this industry more power means more noise. Mytek has a solution for this, and the Liberty Amp might be one of the cleanest headphone amplifiers to come around. How do they do it? Read on my captive audience....read on.
- Linear amplifier technology - clean output
- Works well with lots of headphones
- Great I/O
- IEM port still very sensitive
- Unfinished-looking chassis design
- Some settings adjustments necessary for your gear pairing
Mytek was founded in New York City in 1992 by Michal Jurewicz. Michal had a plethora of experience in recording studios like the famed Hit Factory and Skyline. While at Skyline, Michal developed solutions to help improve the workflow and sound quality of the new digital systems, and thus the idea for Mytek was born. From the very beginning, artists and producers praised the sound quality of Mytek’s equipment. Soon almost every NYC recording studio had a “Mytek Private Q” headphone monitoring system and those using Mytek’s first analog-to-digital converters produced recordings that didn’t suffer from the harsh sound that was so typical of the digital recordings from the 1990s.
Since then Mytek has continuously innovated; From pioneering 18, 20, 24, and now 32-bit PCM recording to being part of the “DSD Super Audio CD Project” and today helping to develop MQA mastering and playback. The success of Mytek shows that a knowledge of recording digital music goes hand in hand with "reverse engineering" that data to quality products for music listening from the simple music lover to audiophiles wanting nothing but the absolute best for their music library.
Materials & Quality
The Mytek Liberty amplifier features solid construction, with metal paneling and its logo large and in charge on the top. I'm a fan of their design choice for multiple reasons: the precision of the milling process makes for a very sleep presentation on the top of the device, but the design also doubles for effective heat dissipation. The holes also allow for the blue LEDs on the PCB to show through, letting off a nice glow in dimly lit or darker environments. It's interesting to note that the bottom panel also features this milled design, so ensuring that the device is in a well-ventilated area will be important for optimal performance and to prevent overheating.
The front panel features all the control components of the amplifier. From left to right, you'll find:
- -Quarter-inch (unbalanced) headphone jack
- -XLR (balanced) headphone jack
- -3.5mm IEM (high-sensitivity) jack
- -4.4mm (balanced) headphone jack
- -Input selector switch / power switch
- -Gain selector switch
- -Crossfeed selector switch
- -Volume knob
You'll notice the omission of a designated power button. The Input selector switch actually doubles as the power button, so to turn on the unit simply hold down the input switch to turn on and off the amplifier. Each selector switch has 4 options:
- Input: RCA 1, RCA 2, RCA 3, XLR 4
- Gain: +6dB, Normal, -6dB, -12db IEM
- Crossfeed: Norm 1, High 1, Norm 2, High 2
The back of the amplifier features your main connection points, using high-quality gold-plated connectors. You'll find three sets of left and right RCA pairs designated as inputs 1-3, left and right XLR/quarter-inch ports for split balanced input 4, a stereo RCA output, and the power connector. I'm quite impressed with the build quality of the amplifier and the connectors used - it's very premium.
It's also interesting to note that the Liberty amp uses an oversized 60W toroid power transformer, separate low noise power regulators for left and right channels, and a large bank of low impedance power supply electrolytic capacitors. All this to say that Mytek understands the necessity for the complete negation of noise and interference when it comes to the best sound reproduction.
The THX Liberty has a patented feed-forward topology that can output a maximum current of 1 ampere and voltages reaching 25Vp-p. As a result, the Liberty THX AAA™ HPA can drive any pair of headphones available today. With such power capabilities, extensive circuit protection is of the utmost importance and the THX-888 module within this device has this fully covered. Multiple protection circuits are in place to ensure that the output relays are disabled during ‘power up’ until all power supplies reach full voltage and proper stability, and during faulty conditions like overloads and short circuits.
The front face actually has a hexagonal texture on the left and right sides. I didn't notice this small detail until a couple of days after testing the unit. All in all, the front and back of the amplifier are efficiently designed, with all the necessary information clearly marked and easily selectable. My only caveat would be that although the design is functional, it's hardly inspiring. The metal plating shows screws, you can see where the parts are constructed and how they fit together; it's an industrial aesthetic. Look, it's about the performance at the end of the day, but Mytek isn't winning any awards for design here (it's also not fair that it's sitting next to two high-end streamers on my desk: the Matrix Audio Element X and Naim Uniti Atom). But that's okay, because it's about what is on the inside that really counts. And that's where the Liberty amp really shines.
Matrix Audio X-SABRE 3 Pro DAC > Mytek Liberty THX AAA Amplifier > Silver Dragon Premium Headphone Cable > Meze Audio Elite Headphones
Power. That about sums it up when it comes to the sound. Complete unbridled power. This amplifier is rated to deliver up to 6 watts at <0.1% THD. Typically speaking, the more power you can give your electronics like headphones and speakers generally equates to better performance, and this is especially true with planar magnetic drivers. The larger driver size of the Elite's helps to show off the impressive dynamic range of the Liberty amp, with the lowest lows and highest highs of the music being handled with ease at any volume level. At this power rating, the Liberty amplifier can easily and adequately drive any headphone on the market, which should make it a desired amplifier even more so because of the all-analog circuitry.
To see what the amp can do, I queued up one of my favorites from R.E.M.: The Great Beyond. From the moment of the first note, I knew there was instantly more control of the frequencies. This control was most present in the bass and low end, with the thumping of the bass guitar keeping a steady rhythmic pulse in the intro, like the beating of a heart. This thumping was tight and controlled, the lower frequencies having a weight to them that was a result of the increased power to the driver, allowing it to perform at peak efficiency. I would consider all these conic elements of the Liberty amp to enhance the overall imaging as well - each instrumental or vocal performance is given its own frequency pocket as it is panned in the mix. For instance, you can clearly hear the modulation on the synth in the verses - much more clearly than I've ever heard - as if there is less competing with it (even though it's the same mix obviously). Yes, there is probably an element of increased soundstage and imaging coming from the headphone and cable in this setup, but the control is unmistakable. It truly makes a huge difference.
KT Tunstall's Suddenly I See is another great song to show off the weight of the Liberty THX AAA HPA's sound. I prefer it over her main hit Black Horse & The Cherry Tree due to the fact that it's still rhythmic but has a more melodious arrangement - with more vocals and backing parts. There's something I really love about the mix of this song: in most cases electric guitars are brought in to beef up the chorus, expanding the soundstage to sound the "biggest" during the "catchiest" part of the song. Tunstall does the exact opposite here, instead leaving the electric guitars as a light texture during the verse. When the chorus hits, on the other hand, the acoustic guitar is made prominent, adding a wonderful amount of thickness and percussive elements to make this statement. The Liberty amplifier handles this beautifully - bringing out the low frequencies of the acoustic in a way that sounds like the mix is busting through a wall.
Graceland is one of those "perfect" albums in my book. "Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes" is an amazing a capella arrangement with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the intro. The extension in the low bass voices is impressive, with the low end fully filling out my headphones for a dynamic and playful choral feature. The other thing about Ladysmith: preciseness. Key and intonation are impeccable. And that's just the first 56 seconds. The bass is plucky when the full band comes in, and the drums are much more impactful to me through the Mytek amp. The horns are punchy and tickle the song just here and there. When Ladysmith Black Mambazo comes back in towards the repeating outro the bass voices slowly take back over as the song fades out. The Mytek gives this song depth and weight - for an album that I usually consider to be mixed well - but on the thin side of dynamics in most setups I've listened to it on. The low frequencies typically reside in the bass and kick only - with a touch from the low voices in Ladysmith. The Mytek helps to spread out this fullness to more of the album as a whole - increasing these dynamics and giving life to the work in a way I've not heard.
This amp is a perfect match for harder rock and heavy punk. Old-school Weezer is nasty, visceral, and that kick is still pulsing in my head as I'm writing this. The way they mixed the drums on this album sound even larger than the guitar tracks, and Weezer loves some distortion. Toms are beefy, and River's voice sits right in that midrange where the Mytek puts the vocals right in the middle of the action without covering them up. It's a great amplifier for rock music and more.
The Liberty amp is clean, has plenty of headroom for my headphones, and low noise floor: everything I could ask for. Keep in mind that the gain and crossfeed settings can affect the overall signature of the device, so you'll have to do some testing to see what sound best for your particular headphone or IEM pairing. Also make note that the wrong settings for your device can result in poor sound, so A/B test to get the best sound for your setup!
-The Great Beyond by REM (In Time: The Best of REM)
-Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall (Eye to the Telescope)
-Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon (Graceland)
-Across the Sea by Weezer (Pinkerton)
THX Certified Amplifier - THX Certified amplifiers use exclusive home theater technologies to reproduce every nuance to the listener along with the raw power of a surround sound cinema experience or live recording session.
- All THX Certified amplifiers have to pass over 500 THX lab tests, including quantitative performance studies and listening tests to ensure the highest quality audio reproduction.
- All THX Certified amplifiers must be capable of playing at THX Reference Level volume when used with THX Certified loudspeakers.
- All THX Certified amplifiers have fixed volume gain that is calibrated to match THX Certified loudspeaker sensitivity to maximize the system’s overall performance.
- To ensure studio-quality crystal clear audio, all THX Certified amplifiers are designed and tested to perform at very low harmonic distortion levels. As the number of amplifier channels increase, distortion becomes more audible, therefore making it more pronounced in multichannel applications.
THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier - Mytek says that listening to music through the Liberty THX AAA™ HPA allows the user to hear the content as intended by the creator. This is achieved using THX’s patented feed-forward error correction circuit topology which allows the THX AAA™ based amplifier to reach its maximum output power rating while exponentially reducing noise and distortion levels, the Liberty THX AAA™ HPA encounters a reduction in distortion by up to 40dB.
THX AAA Features
- Patented feed-forward error correction topology that nulls conventional distortion mechanisms Reduction of harmonic, intermodulation, and crossover distortion by up to 40dB, resulting in a realistic and fatigue-free listening experience.
- Enables maximum output power for greater dynamic rand and sound pressure level (SPL).
- A convenient modular solution that includes a power supply, and can operate from a single 3.6V battery Minimal bias current and highly efficient power management to optimize and extend device battery life.
- Scalability that allows incorporation into any headphone amplifier design, with the flexibility to match the required fidelity, output power, and price point.
The Mytek Liberty THX AAA Amplifier is a spec-rich all-analog amplifier, showing off THX's Achromatic Audio Amplifier - their highest performance circuit. It's an impressive design that allows the listener maximum power while minimizing the amount of noise and distortion. Compared to the competition, usually these two things go hand in hand (power and noise), but Mytek's implementation shows off just how effective the 888 circuit is. It's able to deliver sufficient power to almost any headphone, and it makes for a great recommendation for those wanting plenty of power and clean and reliable sound for their hi-fi system.
What's in the Box
- Mytek Liberty THX AAA Headphone Amplifier
- Power cord
- Manual and paperwork
Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA Unboxing Video
Video Review (Coming Soon)
- Power Max: 6W
- MTHD min: -150dB
- SNR: 147dB )A weighted)
- Inputs: 3xRCA/phono, 1xXLR / 1/4", balanced
- Preamplifier / Preamp Outputs L&R: RCA (Balanced Outputs)
- Crossfeed / Mono Function: For speaker/radio compatibility
- Volume Control: Premium 27mm analog ALPS attenuator
- Power Supply: Built-in oversized 60W linear toroid with automatic voltage switching, Dual Mono Regulators
- Automatic Gain Sensitivity: Drop for In-Ear Monitors
- Dimensions: W: 5.5" x D: 8.8" x H:1.74" = 140x225x44mm
- Weight: 4ibs, 2kg
- Warranty: 2 years