My Mola Mola Tambaqui Revuew

KrellFan1

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Mar 15, 2023
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Phoenix, AZ
Hi everyone; since I’m new to the forum I thought I’d offer up a humble review of the latest addition to my system - the Tambaqui DAC. As background, I’d enjoyed my PS Audio DAC for about 8 years, and was ready for an upgrade. The wild thing is, I bought and paid for another top shelf (not named here for good reason) DAC, and while it was in transit I “discovered“ the Tambaqui DAC. Online. YouTube videos and published reviews. But in fairness to the now traded DAC I’d had deployed for 4 days, it sounded GREAT, but while a marked improvement to my 8 year old DSD, I didn’t feel it was “next level” gear that will take me to my end days. So I went about the business of finding a way out of my purchase and into this Mola Mola DAC I’d never heard and only heard of 2 weeks before purchase. So below is my humble takeaway on this DAC I honestly believe I’ll have for my remaining years. I’m old enough that it won‘t be 30 or 40 years but more like 10-20.
  • Incredible sound staging. The DAC causes my speakers to “disappear.” The depth of the soundstage is so deep and expansive my neighbor friend asked repeatedly if I had any of my other speakers engaged, aside from the front mains. I have a 5.2.4 system and of course the multichannel amp was powered off. So much sound from 2 Dyanudio speakers!
  • The resolution and musicality is simply stunning. I’ve never heard such detail in any system at any price, and while my system is very good, I’ve heard considerably more expensive systems that do not sound nearly as good.
  • Revealing. The Mola Mola is incredibly detailed and revealing. As a result I’d suggest one needs an excellent system to appreciate the beauty of what this DAC can deliver. If the preamp and amp are “so -so,” you are probably going to find this DAC a mismatch. So here, buyer beware.
  • Bass slam: Home run! Just a big WOW how this beast handles the lowest frequencies with a firm and tight grip.
  • Mids do not get any better. Female vocalists are in the room. You can hear them breathing with the notes rolling off their lips as though an instrument.
  • The sense of musical decay as the notes linger in the air from a finely plucked violin or guitar are simply stunning.
  • Emotionally involving and riveting. You will need to force yourself to stop listening. It is THAT musical.
I am running this DAC in Direct Mode presently, allowing my Sonore Signature Rendu to deliver the music files via its optical technology with all of the line noise stripped out. Initially I chose to connect via Ethernet and Roon of course recognized it immediately as a Roon Ready network device. But my dealer stated I would absolutely derive improved sonics by removing my Ethernet connection to allow the Sonore to be recognized as the Roon Ready device. And here again, a modest bump in SQ. I left the Ethernet cable connected just the same, but play exclusively via my Sonore Rendu. It does sound better.

So that’s about it guys. I’m certainly no professional reviewer but as an audiophile with a good ear I have to say, without hesitation, this is the greatest DAC my money can buy. Many reviewers insist it’s better than some DACS costing as much as 100k. And VERY coincidentally, the man who bought my DSD (who knew I was receiving the Mola Mola) happened to hear this Mola Mola yesterday, and he was as blown away as I am. Safe to say the designer Bruno Putzseys is a digital audio genius of the highest order. Now I want to get his mono blocks!

Thanks for stopping by to have a read.
 

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Thank you, and much appreciated. Shortly I’ll be sending my Rendu back to the factory for an upgrade to Tier 2 and that, coupled with their new firmware update and purchase of the Sablon Evo cable should complete the journey.
 
Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m afraid I can’t promise to ”end the journey” inasmuch as I’d like to. I’m already considering new interconnects. Once down the rabbit hole it’s hard to dig oneself out.
 
Indeed. I can't think of anyone I know who just decided to stop at one point, and kept their word... :) I guess that's where the beauty of the hobby lies as well.
 
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Indeed. I can't think of anyone I know who just decided to stop at one point, and kept their word... :) I guess that's where the beauty of the hobby lies as well.
It’s a disease, albeit a healthy one, a veritable oxymoron.
 
Many reviewers insist it’s better than some DACS costing as much as 100k.
OP, congrats on your new DAC! Can you elaborate on the above point and share the reviews where this DAC is to best $100K alternatives?
 
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OP, curious which

OP, congrats on your new DAC! Can you elaborate on the above point and share the reviews where this DAC is to best $100K alternatives?
Honestly, I have read every review I could find online and have also watched every single review I could find on YouTube, so frankly cannot take the time to review and re-read or re-watch every review or video on YouTube. But there ar many. For the benefit of those like yourself who may be curious I DID take the time to copy and past several reviews and YouTube videos. The Tambaqui is often compared to the dCS Bartok, most especially Darko. So for the benefit of all, I hope this helps!


https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2020/09/25/mola-mola-tambaqui-dac-review/


https://www.stereophile.com/content/gramophone-dreams-55-mola-mola-tambaqui-da-processor


https://soundstageultra.com/index.p...ola-mola-tambaqui-digital-to-analog-converter


Steve Gutternberg (Mr. Analog) review, in which he states it to be the “best DAC he’s ever had in his listening room.”



Darko here :


Hans Beekhuzen here.

The Audio Analyst here delivers an outstanding review- “Astonishing benchmark achievement.” Organic and rhythmic flow. At its price range one stunning and remarkably over-achieving device.”
 
Thanks for sharing. Firstly this question is not meant to challenge any of your impressions, rather I would genuinely be fascinated by a comparison of the Tambaqui with a $100K DAC as you mentioned. The Bartok I believe was $16K as reviewed by Herb, Guttenburg and Darko (before the APEX upgrade raised it to $20K).
 
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Thanks for sharing. Firstly this question is not meant to challenge any of your impressions, rather I would genuinely be fascinated by a comparison of the Tambaqui with a $100K DAC as you mentioned. The Bartok I believe was $16K as reviewed by Herb, Guttenburg and Darko.
Fair enough and applaud you for asking. I'd do the same if deeply interested. But it is a detail that somehow stuck in my head, though I just can't recall who made the claim. That said, I believe the Bartok is now closer to 18K? I think Darko believed the only area in which the Bartok nominally outperformed the Tambaqui was in the headphone stage, but argued that if one were to purchase a stand a lone headphone amp the nod would still go to Tambaqui given the combined cost of BOTH v the dCS. If in the market for a high end DAC I can only suggest you find a way to audition one. Honestly, I don't have a dog in the fight. I don't know anyone from the company and have never met the selling dealer and don't work on commission. LOL . Did that, been there, now happily retired. -:)
 
It’s a disease, albeit a healthy one, a veritable oxymoron.
When you are ready to break your vow of chastity, I have a streamer/server/DDC to recommend. ;)

I think the Tambaqui and the Grimm Audio MU1 streamer are the best purchases I have ever made (individually, and even more so used together). They are all about enjoying music. And amazing bang for the buck.
 
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When you are ready to break your vow of chastity, I have a streamer/server/DDC to recommend. ;)

I think the Tambaqui and the Grimm Audio MU1 streamer are the best purchases I have ever made (individually, and even more so used together). They are all about enjoying music. And amazing bang for the buck.
Somewhat familiar with the Grimm Audio MU1. How can one nit be. Certainly gets a lot of (I presume ) well deserves accolades. The Dutch are certainly cranking out some impressive gear these days. But I’m kind of spoken for in the music server department with my Rendu. I’m actually getting ready to send it back to the factory soon for an upgrade to install their turbo power supply, improved damping and the owner Adrian says their new firmware is in his words, “glorious.” And MU1 not exactly inexpensive I think. It’s both a streamer and a server I believe ? I just invested a tidy sum in a SGC server and power supply and have optical modules and such out the gazoo!

How do you like their mono blocks?
 
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Somewhat familiar with the Grimm Audio MU1. How can one nit be. Certainly gets a lot of (I presume ) well deserves accolades. The Dutch are certainly cranking out some impressive gear these days. But I’m kind of spoken for in the music server department with my Rendu. I’m actually getting ready to send it back to the factory soon for an upgrade to install their turbo power supply, improved damping and the owner Adrian says their new firmware is in his words, “glorious.” And MU1 not exactly inexpensive I think. It’s both a streamer and a server I believe ? I just invested a tidy sum in a SGC server and power supply and have optical modules and such out the gazoo!

How do you like their mono blocks?
Sounds like you have the streaming/server side well in hand. Sonore makes nice stuff. Hope the upgrade works well for you. There are, of course, many paths to audio nirvana.

All the competition in this area of audio benefits audiophiles. While I think designers have nearly perfected the DAC, streamers and the whole network chain are being improved seemingly daily.

I'm a bit of a fanboy for the MU1 (Roon endpoint/streamer/server/DDC/volume control, if desired) right now since it works so well in my setup and it was a simplification for me, which is one of my goals in audio these days. As a DDC, the MU1 improves the DAC's performance, a key feature and a factor in its cost. It does cost nearly what a Tambaqui costs. On the other hand, it is one of those pieces I cannot see ever leaving my setup (not so famous last words). I'm a believer in diminishing returns and think the MU1 + Tambaqui is actually a screaming deal given it is the entire digital front end and its musicality (it is all relative and we all have our own cost scales).

Agreed there seems to be something beneficial in the drinking water in the Netherlands. It is interesting how the internet makes us aware of just how many countries make excellent audio gear and opens their markets to a broader audience. It is always fun to read about innovation, wherever it occurs.

And the Mola Mola amps are great. Powerful, efficient, nuanced and transparent. Class D works well for me. Perhaps it just fits my ears/brain and works well with my speakers. With such low distortion, the amps are not a bottleneck. My goals is for the gear to disappear and the Kalugas do that.
 
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Sounds like you have the streaming/server side well in hand. Sonore makes nice stuff. Hope the upgrade works well for you. There are, of course, many paths to audio nirvana.

All the competition in this area of audio benefits audiophiles. While I think designers have nearly perfected the DAC, streamers and the whole network chain are being improved seemingly daily.

I'm a bit of a fanboy for the MU1 (Roon endpoint/streamer/server/DDC/volume control, if desired) right now since it works so well in my setup and it was a simplification for me, which is one of my goals in audio these days. As a DDC, the MU1 improves the DAC's performance, a key feature and a factor in its cost. It does cost nearly what a Tambaqui costs. On the other hand, it is one of those pieces I cannot see ever leaving my setup (not so famous last words). I'm a believer in diminishing returns and think the MU1 + Tambaqui is actually a screaming deal given it is the entire digital front end and its musicality (it is all relative and we all have our own cost scales).

Agreed there seems to be something beneficial in the drinking water in the Netherlands. It is interesting how the internet makes us aware of just how many countries make excellent audio gear and opens their markets to a broader audience. It is always fun to read about innovation, wherever it occurs.

And the Mola Mola amps are great. Powerful, efficient, nuanced and transparent. Class D works well for me. Perhaps it just fits my ears/brain and works well with my speakers. With such low distortion, the amps are not a bottleneck. My goals is for the gear to disappear and the Kalugas do that.
All true and great points. My Sonore serves me very well. I’ve been able to isolate 100% of any line noise via Ethernet by way of this fiber optical wonder. I agree that a more direct and simple path always preferable but I’m already living in this suit I bought about 3 years ago so I’m ok with going to the tailor every now and then for an adjustment. Adrain (Sonore owner) has been beta testing the new firmware, and as great as it is now, as I said, he stated V 2.9 is just “glorious.” It’s just about ready he said but they’ve discovered a few DACS it doesn’t play nice with, so just a few minor tweaks.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the USA Mola Mola just picked up the Grimm line for his store business, so apparently it does play nice with the Tambaqui DAC. As for the mono amps, seems like many ppl love them, but a few audiophiles report they are “rather dry.” Fortunately I’m all set with my Krell!

And BTW, how do you like the outlandishly priced Kubala cables you’ve got? And about how much is their top of the line USB cable?

As an aside, audio gear isn’t ALL the Dutch do well well. They make among the very best coffee makers in the MoccaMaster. They warranty it for 5 years which in that arena is unprecedented. Typical is 90 days to one year max.
 
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All true and great points. My Sonore serves me very well. I’ve been able to isolate 100% of any line noise via Ethernet by way of this fiber optical wonder. I agree that a more direct and simple path always preferable but I’m already living in this suit I bought about 3 years ago so I’m ok with going to the tailor every now and then for an adjustment. Adrain (Sonore owner) has been beta testing the new firmware, and as great as it is now, as I said, he stated V 2.9 is just “glorious.” It’s just about ready he said but they’ve discovered a few DACS it doesn’t play nice with, so just a few minor tweaks.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the USA Mola Mola just picked up the Grimm line for his store business, so apparently it does play nice with the Tambaqui DAC. As for the mono amps, seems like many ppl love them, but a few audiophiles report they are “rather dry.” Fortunately I’m all set with my Krell!

And BTW, how do you like the outlandishly priced Kubala cables you’ve got? And about how much is their top of the line USB cable?

As an aside, audio gear isn’t ALL the Dutch do well well. They make among the very best coffee makers in the MoccaMaster. They warranty it for 5 years which in that arena is unprecedented. Typical is 90 days to one year max.
I've read several negative reviews about the Kaluga. That's fine. To me, the amps simply let through what precedes it. Dry in, dry out, I say. And I actually find them rather tube-like in their representation of venue, for example.

But I do use them in the context of Kubala-Sosna cables, which some think are lush sounding (depending upon the model and there are many). I like their IC and speaker cables, especially the Emotion, which many years ago was their top-of-the-line (now there are three lines "above" that). For their power cords, the designs above the Emotion are very good and not nearly as expensive as their ICs and SCs, the prices of which go into the stratosphere (although, just like the universe, audio prices are ever expanding beyond the limit of the imagination -- well, mine at least). I don't use a USB cable so don't know the prices.

I'm less of a cable hound that I used to be. When the room, power management and digital front end are working well, I believe cables matter less (and some gear, like the MU1, are relatively cable insensitive, which I believe shows the work done to design a great power supply). And when the budget gets tight, cables are the ideal second-hand purchase (what can go wrong with cables that have a lifetime guarantee?).

Yes, the US distributor of Mola Mola (whose ears I trust and is a great guy to work with) uses the Tambaqui in front of some awesome equipment in what several professional reviews have called the best system they have heard. He recently became a Grimm Audio dealer too. And also just added Vivid Audio. The aesthetics of the Vivid Audio lineup don't appeal to many, but I like them (so does my wife, always a good thing in case I get the fever again) and they are designed by the same genius who designed my speakers (well, the granddaddy alien snail anyway) when he worked for Bowers and Wilkins.

As for the Krell, I know you get smarter when you use them, but easy does it! Beware the id!

I don't know anything about coffee. More a tea drinker (Chinese shu pu-erh, if you must know).
 
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I've read several negative reviews about the Kaluga. That's fine. To me, the amps simply let through what precedes it. Dry in, dry out, I say. And I actually find them rather tube-like in their representation of venue, for example.

But I do use them in the context of Kubala-Sosna cables, which some think are lush sounding (depending upon the model and there are many). I like their IC and speaker cables, especially the Emotion, which many years ago was their top-of-the-line (now there are three lines "above" that). For their power cords, the designs above the Emotion are very good and not nearly as expensive as their ICs and SCs, the prices of which go into the stratosphere (although, just like the universe, audio prices are ever expanding beyond the limit of the imagination -- well, mine at least). I don't use a USB cable so don't know the prices.

I'm less of a cable hound that I used to be. When the room, power management and digital front end are working well, I believe cables matter less (and some gear, like the MU1, are relatively cable insensitive, which I believe shows the work done to design a great power supply). And when the budget gets tight, cables are the ideal second-hand purchase (what can go wrong with cables that have a lifetime guarantee?).

Yes, the US distributor of Mola Mola (whose ears I trust and is a great guy to work with) uses the Tambaqui in front of some awesome equipment in what several professional reviews have called the best system they have heard. He recently became a Grimm Audio dealer too. And also just added Vivid Audio. The aesthetics of the Vivid Audio lineup don't appeal to many, but I like them (so does my wife, always a good thing in case I get the fever again) and they are designed by the same genius who designed my speakers (well, the granddaddy alien snail anyway) when he worked for Bowers and Wilkins.

As for the Krell, I know you get smarter when you use them, but easy does it! Beware the id!

I don't know anything about coffee. More a tea drinker (Chinese shu pu-erh, if you must know).
Okay, and thanks for the detailed summary. And yes, I’ve worked with Bill and he’s a stand up guy who certainly has a keen ear. He also loves ro sell expensive gear. Then again, what smart and savvy purveyor of high end product wouldn’t prefer to sell expensive v inexpensive? And I say this with no disrespect or cynicism. I’d do the same and have as a salesperson and marketing guy my entire life. It’s particularly redeeming when the seller knows he’s offering commensurate value to the customer. That’s a win/win.

I am currently breaking in a Sablon Evo USB cable and it’s quite nice. Only have about 30 hours on it so will report findings as I approach 100 hours. So far, so good. Very different than my Nordost Heimdall. That’s for sure.
As for the mono blocks, a primary reason why I might consider is because their footprint is small enough such that I might be able to squeeze one of my REL 212/SX subs into the front rear corner where my stereo Krell resides. So there would be upside to 2 channel music listening to achieve stereo subs though a small downside to home theater. Something to ponder…..
 
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Okay, and thanks for the detailed summary. And yes, I’ve worked with Bill and he’s a stand up guy who certainly has a keen ear. He also loves ro sell expensive gear. Then again, what smart and savvy purveyor of high end product wouldn’t prefer to sell expensive v inexpensive? And I say this with no disrespect or cynicism. I’d do the same and have as a salesperson and marketing guy my entire life. It’s particularly redeeming when the seller knows he’s offering commensurate value to the customer. That’s a win/win.

I am currently breaking in a Sablon Evo USB cable and it’s quite nice. Only have about 30 hours on it so will report findings as I approach 100 hours. So far, so good. Very different than my Nordost Heimdall. That’s for sure.
As for the mono blocks, a primary reason why I might consider is because their footprint is small enough such that I might be able to squeeze one of my REL 212/SX subs into the front rear corner where my stereo Krell resides. So there would be upside to 2 channel music listening to achieve stereo subs though a small downside to home theater. Something to ponder…..
Well, Bruno's latest offering -- Purifi 1ET7040SA -- is available from various companies such as VTV (cost effective and 30-day trial): https://vtvamplifier.com/product/monoblock-vtv-amplifier-with-purifi-1et7040sa-high-power-module/ The Purifi module is transparent, so will sound like the input buffer (as Bruno admits). VTV has a wide selection of input buffers. I have never heard their amps but like their approach.

 
Well, Bruno's latest offering -- Purifi 1ET7040SA -- is available from various companies such as VTV (cost effective and 30-day trial): https://vtvamplifier.com/product/monoblock-vtv-amplifier-with-purifi-1et7040sa-high-power-module/ The Purifi module is transparent, so will sound like the input buffer (as Bruno admits). VTV has a wide selection of input buffers. I have never heard their amps but like their approach.

I’m afraid this is a bit over my head. How would such a device be integrated into a system such as mine, and to what purpose? I frankly LOVE the way my 300 XD sounds. And I have owned at least three Krell amps over the years, including the iconic 400 FPBCX which is one of those iconic “muscle cars.” David Goodman worked his magic here and this latest offering actually sounds MORE musical then the mega heat generating predecessors.
 

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