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The Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC

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In this thread we can discuss anything related to the Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC. Including the pros/cons of the design compared to other DAC's. As this is very useful information for all potential clients, as well as the manufacturer. 

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I read somewhere that these Sharc chips are only utilizing a small % of their available power. So there's still many years of upgrade potential with firmware updates alone. Something that can't be said for designs that use off the shelf chip processing. Accepting only DSD 256 is not an issue because there's no content available above DSD 256. If the onboard processing in the Sharc chips is well implemented, utilizing software based upsampling before the DAC will only just add another layer of processing in the chain, which will potentially degrade performance. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 2.14.59 PM.png

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Another "pro" of this design compared to NOS DAC's designed to use software based upsampling is the plethora of digital input options. One could get great sound from any digital source with this DAC. An Apple TV for example. Just look at the A/V options one has with an Apple TV. It would be the perfect front end if one could get killer sound from it.

 

When using a NOS DAC combined with software based upsampling you are limited to using only a few different media player packages. No youtube, no Netflix, no CD players, cable boxes, etc.

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I just re read this interview of Bruno Putseys from April  2014 in which he describes how he came upon the design of his DAC and some hints about how it works.

 https://www.soundstageultra.com/index.php/features-menu/general-interest-interviews-menu/465-searching-for-the-extreme-bruno-putzeys-of-mola-mola-hypex-and-grimm-audio-part-two

And 4 2/3 years later it’s finally available!

LOL, it was worth the wait...

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Just now, Davidny said:

I just re read this interview of Bruno Putseys from April  2014 in which he describes how he came upon the design of his DAC and some hints about how it works.

 https://www.soundstageultra.com/index.php/features-menu/general-interest-interviews-menu/465-searching-for-the-extreme-bruno-putzeys-of-mola-mola-hypex-and-grimm-audio-part-two

And 4 2/3 years later it’s finally available!

LOL, it was worth the wait...

The DAC has been available for a couple of years already as an optional add on to the Makua preamp. The Tambaqui is the same DAC, missing the line stage section. Also has more digital input options. 

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Interview of Bruno Putseys from April  2014:  "To be awfully frank, I think that if you can’t judge whether a product is good without taking the lid off, it’s probably not going to help to take the lid off and see what it does inside. What I mean is that you ought to be able to characterize the quality of a product like a DAC by a) listening to it, and b) measuring it, without having any idea of how it is constructed inside. It gets right up my nose when audiophiles decide whether they even want to listen to a product based on something they know that’s inside the box."


Roon / Mola Mola Tambaqui / Kubala-Sosna XLR / Mola Mola Kaluga / KS biwire / B&W 803 D3

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2 minutes ago, PYP said:

Interview of Bruno Putseys from April  2014:  "To be awfully frank, I think that if you can’t judge whether a product is good without taking the lid off, it’s probably not going to help to take the lid off and see what it does inside. What I mean is that you ought to be able to characterize the quality of a product like a DAC by a) listening to it, and b) measuring it, without having any idea of how it is constructed inside. It gets right up my nose when audiophiles decide whether they even want to listen to a product based on something they know that’s inside the box."

Yes that's very true. However when you have the same DAC board directly connected to the analog outputs, vs through a pot, relays, and additional gainstages, one can make a pretty educated guess that the former is going to sound better. This is likely why they make this claim:

 

 "This DAC, combined with a pair of Mola-Mola Kaluga monoblocks constitutes the finest digital replay chain available, irrespective of price." 

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On 12/26/2018 at 7:48 PM, Music Enthusiast said:

Impressive looking OCXO on that digital board:

 

 

DAC-e1524074077126.jpg

That XO looks like a Crystek module which is not ovenized.


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On 12/26/2018 at 7:46 PM, Music Enthusiast said:

Compared to the Makua, looks like we are eliminating a volume pot, along with some relays, connections and likely some gain stages as well. Should be a leap up in sound quality for less money. 

 

11415molamola2.jpg

The Makua preamp does not use a "volume pot".  The pot controls the gain of the circuit and has no influence on the sound quality: it is an adjustable gain preamp design and the signal does not pass through the pot.


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6 hours ago, barrows said:

The Makua preamp does not use a "volume pot".  The pot controls the gain of the circuit and has no influence on the sound quality: it is an adjustable gain preamp design and the signal does not pass through the pot.

 

Thanks for the info.

Interesting that even with the adjustable gain preamp of the Makua the Tambaqui stand alone seems to be superior to Makua/DAC.

BTW, did you compare Tambaqui to DAVE?

 

Matt

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On 12/28/2018 at 6:41 PM, barrows said:

That XO looks like a Crystek module which is not ovenized.

That's a pretty large unit for a Crystek. I wasn't aware that Crystek made SC cut oscillators. Please share a link to the SC cut unit's in their catalog. 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 10.53.29 PM.png

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On 12/28/2018 at 6:45 PM, barrows said:

The Makua preamp does not use a "volume pot".  The pot controls the gain of the circuit and has no influence on the sound quality: it is an adjustable gain preamp design and the signal does not pass through the pot.

So in other words it's a digital encoder? So is the volume control a ladder resistor type with relay or CMOS switch control?

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3 hours ago, Music Enthusiast said:

So in other words it's a digital encoder? So is the volume control a ladder resistor type with relay or CMOS switch control?

No, it is a standard pot, but the music signal is not traveling through it.  The pot is used to control the gain, so it is an adjustable gain preamp: the pot does not attenuate the music signal directly, it changes the gain of the preamp.


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18 minutes ago, barrows said:

No, it is a standard pot, but the music signal is not traveling through it.  The pot is used to control the gain, so it is an adjustable gain preamp: the pot does not attenuate the music signal directly, it changes the gain of the preamp.

If it's not a pot, and it controls digital relays or CMOS switches, then it's a digital rotary encoder:

 

https://www.ttiinc.com/content/ttiinc/en/apps/part-detail.html?partsNumber=EM14R0B-M25-L064S&mfgShortname=BOU&utm=ga-shopping&channel=ppc&source=google&campaigns=tti-brand&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvqLSxIPK3wIVBxBpCh3kZARGEAQYAiABEgKoxvD_BwE

 

A pot is an resistive analog device that the signal must pass through. 

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15 hours ago, Music Enthusiast said:

That's a pretty large unit for a Crystek. I wasn't aware that Crystek made SC cut oscillators. Please share a link to the SC cut unit's in their catalog. 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 10.53.29 PM.png

The oscillator pictured on that board looks very much like a Crystek 957 or 950 series, same size: 14.2 mm x 9.14 mm.  As to whether it has an SC cut crystal one would have to ask Crystek that.  One thing, if we had a picture of the board from above we could easily confirm this as the Crystek oscillators are well marked.


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21 minutes ago, barrows said:

@Music Enthusiast, I am sorry, I guess I am not explaining how the Makua works well enough for you to understand.  I'll try again.

 

The Makua preamp uses a standard pot to control the gain of the circuitry.  Unlike the traditional way of controlling volume, where either a pot or a stepped attenuator actually applies resistance to the music signal itself (in which case the pot is directly in the signal path) the Makua only uses the pot to change the gain of the circuit (hence changing how loud the signal is, without attenuating it).  The music signal is not going through the pot, as it would be with a conventional approach.

 

For more details on how this works see this thread at DIYaudio, the preamp circuit here uses a very similar approach (although I believe the Makua uses discrete circuitry vs. the IC pampas used in the DIY version).

 

https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/analog-line-level/279382-bppbp-bruno-putzeys-purist-balanced-preamp-balanced-volume-control.html

 

There are other preamps which use a similar approach, with adjustable gain rather than just directly attenuating the signal, from Ayre and PS Audio.

I understand the approach. But the literature provided by Mola Mola says this:

 

 “The relay-based volume control directly controls the gain of the output stage.”

 

You can’t use an analog pot to control relays. You use an encoder for that. 

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19 minutes ago, barrows said:

The oscillator pictured on that board looks very much like a Crystek 957 or 950 series, same size: 14.2 mm x 9.14 mm.  As to whether it has an SC cut crystal one would have to ask Crystek that.  One thing, if we had a picture of the board from above we could easily confirm this as the Crystek oscillators are well marked.

It’s larger than the Crystek 950 series. And the case looks different as well. The top printed looks laser etched. Where Crystek stamps the printing into the case. 

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6 minutes ago, Music Enthusiast said:

It’s larger than the Crystek 950 series. And the case looks different as well. The top printed looks laser etched. Where Crystek stamps the printing into the case. 

Have you seen another picture than what you posted?  I certainly cannot see any of what you describe in the picture here.


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13 minutes ago, Music Enthusiast said:

I understand the approach. But the literature provided by Mola Mola says this:

 

 “The relay-based volume control directly controls the gain of the output stage.”

 

You can’t use an analog pot to control relays. You use an encoder for that. 

OK, so they use a stepped attenuator instead of a pot, it really makes no difference here as the point is the stepped attenuator is not in the signal path, it is controlling the gain of the circuit, and as such does not add any noise/distortion to the signal (the signal does not pass through the relays or resistors of the attenuator).

Point being being that there is not anything more in the signal path as far as the volume control of the Makua vs. Tambaqui is concerned.


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Just now, barrows said:

OK, so the use a stepped attenuator instead of a pot, it really makes no difference here as the point is the stepped attenuator is not in the signal path, it is controlling the gain of the circuit, and as such does not add any noise/distortion to the signal (the signal does not pass through the relays or resistors of the attenuator).

Point being being that there is not anything more in the signal path as far as the volume control of the Makua vs. Tambaqui is concerned.

No it’s not a stepped attenuator either. As I have said many times it’s called a digital rotary encoder. 

 

Anyways that system isn’t 100% drawback free. Which is why the digital control in the Tambaqui is claimed to be superior. 

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