Rockna Wavedream DAC: Awesomesauce

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    This is awesome and on another level compared to any other DAC I've heard...

    ... including the Terminator, Yggdrasil, Convert-2, MSB Analog, etc. Would be curious to compare to the latest TOTL iterations of Bricasti (DS), Metrum (NOS), but the latter are more likely just to be different. The Wavedream DAC is OS using resistor ladders a la MSB. I think they use to use MSB modules, but decided to make their own. I am surprised this is awesome? Nope, not at all. There's some fancy stuff coming out from that part of Europe, and to be honest I trust the aesthetic sensibilities of of the people who live in that region.*

    I will describe the sound later. Busy right now at work. Pictures or it didn't happen. Thanks @Thenewerguy009 who made this happen.
    IMG_20191107_105106.jpg
    IMG_20191107_105131.jpg

    *Well, at least more than Chinese outfits who try to make R2R DACs.

    IMPRESSIONS START HERE: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...-wavedream-dac-awesomesauce.8493/#post-277776
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
  2. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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    Very interesting! Which version is it? There seems to be a signature model and a "standard" model. Both of these come in two variations, balanced and single ended. Here's a price list from a German retailer:

    Wavedream Edition DAC single ended 6.200 €
    Wavedream Edition DAC balanced 8.400 €
    Wavedream Edition Signature DAC single ended 9.600 €
    Wavedream Edition Signature DAC balanced 15.400 €
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Balanced for sure. Don't know if Signature or not. Measurements should say.
     
  4. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: Upscale Audio (Thread Judge Code-6 District)

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    Any chance of this coming to the SoCal meet this weekend?
     
  5. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Haven't heard this brand and product much. So googled a bit and here are what I found.

    https://www.rockna-audio.com/products/wavedream-dac
    https://www.rockna-audio.com/media/products/wavedream-dac/Wavedream-dac-user-manual.pdf

    Signature and non-signature are supposed to differ in dac modules used: rd-0 (27 bits) vs rd-1 (26 bits).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And from an internal photo above, I'm guessing balanced version uses two of those modules per channel while unbalanced one uses one per each ch.

    Looking forward to seeing more impressions soon!
     
  6. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

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    Man, that's a gorgeous layout.
     
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  7. DEATHxMACHINE

    DEATHxMACHINE Friend

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    Holy crap. It better be on a whole other level when it costs between 8 to 16 grand.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
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  8. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    This DAC has been around for some time now.

    Now people will go USB nervosa all over again on whether the Wavedream's USB implementation is any good, and if not, attempt to bypass it with a vintage transport / Lynx / Focusrite / Eitr.
     
  9. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Yeap at least 2 y i would say?! Hifi klub in Sweden had one last year and it was single ended.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I've had this DAC warming up for a few days and finally today had a little bit of time to listen. These are initial impressions.

    The first thing is tonal response. One might suspect that the Wavedream sounds like classic sound R2R DACs, like the MSBs; after all, Rockna did at one point appear to use the MSB modules. This is not so. The Wavedream has what I would term a modern "reborn" R2R sound. I figured I get this out of the way for people who are looking for that vintage sound with those dense tone colors. The most extreme examples of this sound are the various PCM1704 DACs, Wadia or AGD from a decade ago. Personally, thank goodness the Wavedream doesn't sound like this. Warmpoo and lush is nice at first, but after a while, one wants to throw it out the window.

    The most interesting I've observed about the Wavedream is how difficult it is to categorize its tonality. While the Wavedream not warmpoo like PCM1704 DACs, or mushy in upper bass like Yggdrasil, or full-bodied like the the middle-line Metrum DACs, it can hardly be categorized as a bit cool like Gungnir or X-Sabre, or slightly dry like Holo. At any point where I wanted to categorize its tonality, a different recording would be make think otherwise - and this is a good thing. If there is a comparison, I'd say the timbre and overtones are very similar to the Convert-2, but the tonality more even without the Convert-2's sub to low-mid bass emphasis. On the high-end, the Wavedream is all so smooth, without any hint excess sibilance that is often heard with many R2R designs (for some reason, some R2R DACs, even those with an overall dark tilt, exhibit excess sharpness and sibilance). And again, trying to categorize the tonality in the highs leads nowhere. It's different depending upon the track. I may think that the Wavedream exhibits excess air, yet with the another track, the air goes missing. Same goes for the mids. Maybe cool at times, yet another recording, there's just that right amount of body. Where ever the tonality goes, there is never any excess. The Wavedream isn't bassy, but it isn't lean. It's not warm, but not cool. I can't be described as full-bodied, but it's not thin. One thing is that it's certainly not bright - which should be expected (at least out of the JBL 4698Bs I'm currently running, which objectively should not sound bright, if anything slightly laid-back, which it does).
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    In terms of resolution, low-level information, I think the Wavedream might beat the pants off the Yggdrasil. Not sure yet. Part of this could be the incredible staging and spatial resolution. The Wavedream has toggle that let's us change the polarity of the signal. Those with Yggdrasil or other DACs (Theta Gen V back in the day had this) which can do this know how polarity of the signal can actually make a huge difference with soundstage, at least with DACs capable of good imaging. If you take a look at the photo above, you will note that I have the phase inverted for this particular CD that I am playing.

    The Wavedream may have the best soundstage that I have ever heard. The soundstage is deep, not quite as deep as the tube output Sonic Frontiers or EAR DACs. However, unlike these DACs, the Wavedream's stage is not diffuse or somewhat faked or nebulous when it comes to localization. The imaging and localization of instruments and players on the stage is precise and stable. The Schiit DACs soundstage is comparably slightly smaller, and lot closer up. As far as NOS, screw that. I've never heard NOS actually do soundstage (although I have to admit that I have not had a chance to hear the TOTL Metrum DACs - headphone impressions do not count when it comes to soundstage). I think the Schiit DACs may have a slight edge with front to back layering, but this could be that the stage is closer up, making relative distance between instruments greater and easier to discern. In a nutshell, I'd pick Wavedream's soundstage. It's not too placed far back (this is actually possible and somewhat disturbing) and placed just right. I've got primo seats in the concern hall.

    I'll make the final call on resolution when I move this to my higher-resolution Oris horn / Lowther + OB woofer + SET / SS biamp setup next week. The JBL 4698Bs are not on par with my second speaker system, but if I can hear difference already, I wouldn't expect any different. I just want to make sure that I'm not confusing detail with microdetail.
     
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  12. mscott58

    mscott58 Friend

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    @purr1n - Thanks for the impressions. I know it's likely passé to say, but the phrase that came to mind when reading your explanation is that the Wavedream sounds like it's kind of a clear window, with the DAC trying to get out of the way of the music. Is there a DAC equivalent to Hegeman's famous "straight wire with gain" goal for amps?
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'll give USB a shot in the next few days. I'm not one to read manufacturers' websites and parrot their shit, but the digital receiver and digital filter are implemented onto an FPGA. No idea if the SPDIF input (I'm using one of trusty CD transports) is also part of this. The drivers say Audiobyte, which I think is their brand and custom implementation.

    For what it's worth, I set the clock mode to STREAM instead of LOCAL. I believe local might turn on internal PLL. I left it on STREAM as this seemed to reflect more the sound of the CD transport that I am accustomed to.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I don't think anything sounds like wire with gain. Anyone who claims any piece of gear is wire with gain is full of shit. How many times have we heard the Head-Case guys say that Kevin Gilmore amps sounds like wire with gain? Heck, the GSX2 and the old Gilmore Lite sounded like wire with barbs. Tonality is but one aspect of sound.

    One thing that does stand (among many others) out is the Wavedream's fluid and liquid sounding nature. At times, I almost expect to hear groove record noise because of this! This most certainly is a sound, say compared to the ESS stuff, even the latest 9038 based DACs, which do exhibit more "temporal" grain. Which is correct, we really cannot say; and ultimately, it might be a matter to what we are used to or prefer - something that could even be generational. Anyway, the fluidity of the Wavedream's presentation is rather trippy. I keep expecting to hear that groove noise, or a few little pops and crackles, but I don't.

    There is something to the timbre that I can't quite put my finger on. It might be related to this liquid presentation. I will try a word or two for it eventually.
     
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    As far as dynamics, the Wavedream hits has hard as the Convert-2 in terms of amplitude or lack of compression, with the major difference being that it is far more nuanced. The Convert-2 is always head-banging, for better or worse. The Wavedream flushes out a bit in the mid and low volumes. Not only that, but the white levels at the top are actually distinguishable! If the Convert-2 is a bright modern Samsung QLED, and the Yggdrasil yesterday's Plasma, then the Wavedream is a calibrated OLED. Hearing the how the french horn goes from soft to loud in in middle section of Copeland's Buckaroo Holiday (Kunzel / Cincinnati Pops / Telarc) was such a treat. It's like viewing a slow-pan in a film for the first time without 2:3 pulldown or at a full 48fps (The Hobbit).

    In terms of transient response, the Wavedream isn't quite as zippy as the Convert-2 or X-Sabre. Speed of the lines is about on the same level as Yggdrasil. Not really surprising as I've already intimated that the sound is more rounded and less square than those two DACs. However, stops and starts are more immediate than Yggdrasil and same in nature with Convert-2 without overshoot or edge. The Wavedream outdoes the Convert-2 is terms of bass articulate and control. I don't think I've heard anything better from a R2R DAC in this aspect, and I am thinking only higher end sigma-delta DACs like the Bricasti M1 or PWD 2 (specific firmware) are as good in this regard. I don't think I've ever heard songs from Random Access Memories CD (rather bass boosted) sound so tight in the bass, exhibiting the textures so clearly from the big woofers. Note that HD650 or 8" woofer speaker users probably won't notice because their transducers will be limited in bass distortion.

    If there is one concern, and it's a small one, it might be a pervasive mellowness. Again, this could be the JBLs with their dip at 3.5kHz around where the 10" mids hand off to the buttcheek horns. I will try with the big horn speakers or the SR1a earphones and report back.
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    IMG_20191107_222405.jpg
    IMG_20191107_222458.jpg

    The details on the chassis are elegant. The dudes designed their own digital receivers and filters on a FPGA, so some credit there. Obviously some good ears voiced this DAC. The guys at Rockna have been in the game for some time evolving and improving their designs over time. They don't seem douchy and wankerish, taking about 32 million taps, presenting theoretical SNR numbers, or other BS.

    It's always fun to try stuff out like this. At one time I would have gone for stuff like this, after all, my turntable and cart probably listed for $10k, and before that, I was strongly considering the MSB Analog DAC for $8k, which isn't anywhere near as good as this, albeit a different presentation.

    You guys know how picky and hard to impress I am these days. The Rockna Wavedream is impressive. If anything, at least it's not a yet another $5k underwhelming DAC, of which there are plenty (Denafrips Terminator cough cough cough).
     
  17. Xecuter

    Xecuter Brush and floss your amp twice a day

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    I've found the Rockna to be an exceptional DAC in my two experiences with it.
    I recently had a chance to compare termi, convert 2 and Rockna with my own amp and headphones in an AB situation. I sent some impressions to @Thenewerguy009 but I wanted to have another session before writing my thoughts.
    Marv post and how similar his impressions were, has inspired me to add my thoughts to this thread.

    These impressions were done with a mixture of my EC studio and hd800sdr and with a friends speaker system. We used AES from my sft-1 SE+ transport for the comparison. The DAC was the wavedream balanced signature edition.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I'm quoting myself from Sept 29th, so people don't think I'm just parroting marv.
    "The rockna is definitely a step above the convert 2, rockna is less aggressive but is ultra nuicanced, perfect timbre and tone. Transients are quick but the leading edge is not razer sharp or emphasized. Its kind of a goldilocks DAC. Stage is better than c2 on speakers, c2 is faster and harder but less refined - some stuff on c2 kinda sizzles where rockna shimmers delicately.

    We got the termi warmed up and honestly used it for about 30 minutes before we went back to the c2 and rockna. Termi cold was just bad, after a few hours it was sounding better, it was a lot rounder, softer, has tonnes of body but ultimately sounded sluggish and thick next to rockna and c2 which were far more refined in almost every way".

    Marvs impressions are far more detailed and very much reflect how I felt about c2 vs rockna. At this point I do not want to outlay more impressions until I do another session.

    I will say that with the signature balanced edition of this DAC i found the SE to be totally gimped. That's not to say that the SE editions are bad, just that the SE out of wavedream signature balanced sounded nothing like the balanced output.

    We had some issues with one of my driver tubes shitting itself about 5 hours into the session and we were far too inebriated by that point to make any useful thoughts. I'm waiting for the guy to come back from holiday so I can go have another listen.

    The next day I went up to visit another mate attempted to compare the rockna to the msb select ii (max spec).
    system was msb select ii > Technical brain monoblocks > Paradigm 9h

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We had a lot of issues with the rockna on this day, sample rate issues, hiss, it wouldn't talk to the antipodes streamer. We did some AB with with my transport, but this guys speaker system is in a terrible room, I was far more focused on helping him fix some of the issues with his room and positioning.

    [​IMG]

    Big ass null.
    The guy with the msb select ii is keen to lend it to me in the coming months to better assess it, it is definitely a top shelf DAC (not the only time I've heard it) but I want to spend a lot more time with rockna/select ii before commenting about their differences.

    TLDR: Xec also thinks Rockna Wavedream signature balanced is awesome.

    @purr1n are you running freya or using the pre-amp in the rockna for these impressions?
     
  18. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I would be curious if you could elaborate on this. While it could be totally unrelated to the discrete resistor nature of the DAC, I feel there's a trend for discrete resistor multibit DACs to commonly sound too mellow. Though how exactly this manifests can vary in subtle ways, nor am I suggesting all discrete resistor DACs do this.

    Nonetheless, it's one reason why I generally stay away from discrete resistor DACs. On one hand, the rest of your impressions imply what I'm thinking of in terms of mellowness is not a problem here, but that you mentioned this at all pushed me to ask for clarification.
     
  19. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @purr1n / @Xecuter : Thanks for your impressions!

    This thread is encouraging. It doesn't mean I am willing to or planning to buy this. Nah, never, by no means (financially impossible for next few decades). But I love to see something that can suggest spending more does good than harm [1], which ensure me the minimum sanity of this hobby.

    [1] Honestly, I've thought after 2k, there was almost NEGATIVE correlation between price and performance in the dac world. Blame yggdrasil, convert 2, and solaris.
     
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  20. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Not sure if this is a legit contribution to this thread at this point, but there is a new, slightly more affordable balanced R2R Rockna Dac around, called the Wavelight Dac (and a server as well), which is not mentioned at Rocknas homepage yet: link (german).
     

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