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Mola Mola Pre/dac review compared to DAVE dac

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Links:

 

Specifications:

https://www.mola-mola.nl/Maku.html

 

https://www.mola-mola.nl/DAC.html

 

Some tech from the designer Bruno Putzeys explaining to me some of the aspects of the dac design:

 

The upsampler and modulator are written in software. The upsampler is an asynchronous sample rate converter. You can also buy chips that do that but they only come with "just good enough" filter responses and neither do they have a particularly narrow PLL bandwidth so there was no alternative left but build one from the ground up. The choice for asynchronous vs using multiple clock crystals was made because you can't make a tuneable oscillator with the extremely stable SC cut crystal that MM use.

 

Far from being hard coded, the entire thing is completely software defined. OTOH the user has no say in what type of filter it uses, it being felt that allowing users to toy with it was a gimmick, since for every input rate there can only be one filter setting that is least audible (the filters change with input rate and format). It follows that any one might add just for the sake of "giving users a choice" would be more audible.

 

The modulator is PWM and is based on a scheme invented in 2004 to generate noise shaped PWM. It should be noted that it's not an n-bit noise shaper followed by a conversion to PWM but the PWM is noise shaped directly. Of course, from an information perspective we're still looking at the equivalent of 5 bits at 3.125 MHz however you want to look at it. The gory details are in https://www.hypex.nl/img/upload/doc/an_wp/WP_AES120BP_Simple_ultralow_distortion_digital_PWM.pdf

What sets this type of PWM aside from ordinary 1-bit sigmadelta is that it is inherently free from intersymbol interference. If you reproduce a 1-bit signal using a switching circuit whose rising and falling edges aren't exactly symmetrical you get a distortion component equal to the number of 1/0 transitions per second, which varies with the signal and which has tone like components. With the single-edged PWM conversion the number of transitions per second is constant and only one of the two edges encodes a signal so the same rising/falling asymmetry would cause nothing worse than a tiny amount of DC offset. This observation was first made by Peter Craven in 1993, who was then trying to design a DAC for B&W and published a way of generating such a signal. So if you are looking for a historical precedent for using PWM in a DAC, that is the closest you'll get. If you compare Craven's paper (http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=7001 ) with the one linked above you can see the new method is significantly more straightforward and has lower distortion.

 

The FIR trick is this: if you generate a clocked PWM signal with a period of N clock cycles, and you run that through a FIR filter with N equal valued coefficients, the output of that FIR filter is simply the total number of ones over the past full cycle. This removes the PWM switching frequency and some shaped noise from the output signal, making life easier on the analogue filter that follows. The resistors need not be matched since each tap sees the complete signal. A mismatch only slightly affects the attenuation of the 3.125MHz component. This is why FIR DACs are used. They have been around in some form or other since the mid 90's. I'm not sure about other commercially available PWM based FIR DACs though.

 

Quotes from two recent reviews (not available as links at this time)

 

Hi-Fi Choice: 

 

Makua Pre/DAC: " Like: Spacious, open sound, build, excellent app control. Dislike: Nothing. We say: Super versatile and capable modern preamp.

 

Hi-Fi News:

 

"....its aforementioned unflappability at high volumes and smoothness from bottom to top- it''s another facet that's part of its big, confident yet calm character."

 

"Bass was lithe and tuneful, the mid band delicate and satisfyingly three-dimensional, while treble has a wonderful satiny texture to it."

 

Test set up:

AQVOX switch with King Rex dc ps in port 1 out port 8 and grounding wire , AQVOX and Vovox Ethernet cables, fidata network work server, Vovox USB to dac, Lumin S1 using digital out, Mola Mola Makua preamp with dac module, Mola Mola Kaluga mono block amplifiers, Hi Diamond XLR 3 interconnects, Boenicke W11 with external Bybee speaker bullets, Hi Diamond 7 speakers cables, separate mains spurs to each component terminated in IEC plugs and dedicated consumer unit, Bybee signal enhancers under each individual component including the hub and switch, SteinMusic Harmonizers with blue suns and diamonds, Bybee signal enhancers in the room at various points, room 3.5m. x. 7m x 2.5m.

 

Comparisons: Chord DAVE, Lumin S1 built in dac, Benchmark DAC2, SST with dac module.

 

TBC

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Thanks,  interesting.

 

I know Bruno Putzeys  is one of the kii (yes pun intended) people behind the Kii Three speaker. 

 

I was curious if he incorporated some of the Dac technology from the Mola Mola Dac/Pre into the Kii Three speaker (system).  These speakers are on my radar. 

 

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2 minutes ago, jaspal kallar said:

Thanks,  interesting.

 

I know Bruno Putzeys  is one of the kii (yes pun intended) people behind the Kii Three speaker. 

 

I was curious if he incorporated some of the Dac technology from the Mola Mola Dac/Pre into the Kii Three speaker (system).  These speakers are on my radar. 

 

 

Kii's at £10,000 pair offer great value at that price point with everything built in, but ultimately Mola Mola Makua/Kaluga and good passive speakers will better them for SQ, but of course costs more.

 

I can't answer how much of the Mola tech there is in the Kii's but there must be some.

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Bruno has said that the Kiis use similar concepts/technology to the Mola Mola; the DACs themselves are unique to the Kiis; apparently the ASRC is pretty much the same.

I'd guess the electronics on the Mola Mola are better; maybe the software on them is more sophisticated.

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3 hours ago, toetapaudio said:

I'm not sure about other commercially available PWM based FIR DACs though.

 

For example T+A DAC8 DSD when running in DSD mode... And I believe Holo Spring too...

 

Apart from my DSC1, but that is not commercial affair.

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Review continued.

 

Ease of use.

 

There are three options to use the Mola Mola remotely plus manual operation. The remotes are the supplied Apple controller, the cnc machined Mola Mola handset (optional extra) and the Mola Mola app using an iPad. There are six presets that can be selected remotely, each one can be set up for whatever application you need. If a phono stage is included (at an extra cost) you could for example set up one for MM cartridges and another for MC cartridges, each with their own R, C, Gain and Equalisation. The volume can be controlled from the remotes or the knob on the front and is a relay analogue device.

 

The rear has IEC for power, and six pairs of balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (phono) inputs with a switch to select. The selection can also be made remotely. Also there are digital inputs (if the dac module is included), one USB type B, and one AES/EBU plus LAN for future use.

 

Comparisons.

 

Price points: Benchmark DAC 3 (£2350), SST pre/dac (£4200), Lumin S1 streamer/dac (£8,500), Chord DAVE dac (£8,500), Mola Mola pre/dac (£11,000).

 

I have been using the Mola Mola Makua pre/dac for around 6 months and have had the opportunity of comparing it with the above. My reference before taking on Mola Mola was the built in dac in the Lumin S1. The transport only version, the U1, is £4,500, so the dac in the S1 is worth around £4,000. The sound of the S1 was far more open and natural sounding and musically engaging compared to the Benchmark and SST. The Benchmark was detailed but over bright, the SST a bit constricted but better balanced and smoother, more natural than the DAC3. The S1 was clearly superior to both. At this time I had tried the S1 with both the SST as preamp and also direct using the Lumin's app to control volume. I preferred the sound when used direct.

 

The Mola Mola pre/dac took the sound to new levels of sonic delights. The sound stage expanded, there was more texture, notes lasted longer, smoother, more open and natural, musical enjoyment increased and I was tapping my toes more often.  And they weren't even run in yet. The sound just got better and better as time went on. The sound became more dynamic and even more musically involving and maybe there is even more to come.

 

Comparison with the Chord DAVE to follow.

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Recently someone brought a DAVE to the local dealer for a shootout with the Makua Pre-amp/DAC ..... I'm not sure what happened but the owner has put up the DAVE for sale subsequently ....

 

A while ago I had the Makua with DAC for a home trial  .... it is certainly steps ahead of my Auralic Vega (at a price of course) .....

IMG_6400.JPG

Edited by Ohlins
Added pic

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Nice read!

Always wanted to find a review of the Mola Mola DAC, but found only reviews of the class D amps, it's nice to read your review with comparisons!

 

Just a little petition...could anyone compare the Mola Mola DAC with Dave and Blu mk2? Blu MK2 is reported to give a nice improvement over Dave.

 

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@johndoe21ro, apart from Dave, I have compared the Mola Mola DAC/pre to the inbuilt DAC of the Lumin S1 and the SST Theobe DAC/pre. In both cases the Mola Mola was superior, being more open and naturally balanced, with greater musicality, giving you a better sense of how the instruments are being played, more extended and cleaner bass, improved transparency and transients. The other three are very good in their own right and price group but the Mola Mola is outright a better DAC. Hope this helps. You really need to borrow one and try it at home.

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Is the Makua's implementation of Tone controls released. I keep reading that this unit has Tone controls but not sure if this is a yet to be released add-on board or Tone controls already exists, implemented via the software app.

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