Tambaqui vs Rockna WD sig bal

Cross posted from my stereonet impressions:

Hi Guys,



So I managed to go see @GC HiFi (Gold Coast audio dealer) twice in the last few weeks and have to say Terry is a great dealer and host! He has set up some world class systems to show off in his beautiful home.

Session 1:

The first visit was fantastic, we listened to the Atc scm11 active speakers with S series antipodes stack and ps audio mono blocks, this is a fantastic little system, sounding far more expansive and weighty than it really should with the incredible mid-range detail that the ATC range renders so well . For entry level hifi or small rooms I would be definitely recommending the 11s.

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Next we listened to the fyne f1-8 driven by the Tambaqui + prima luna, I had heard the f501 or 502 a few years ago, it was not a good experience then, the timbre was off and it sounded janky and not great in that show room system.

The speakers in Terry's room were nothing like this, big macro as in subtle sounds like the singer's lips parting, breathing were upfront and crisp. tonality was good especially for point source with a big full bodied presentation that made them warm and inviting to be in front of. This for me is a very good casual listening speaker, it was inoffensive, uncoloured and performed well. The finish on them is stunning and the gorgeous design is very high WAF of 9.5 (wife approval factor), something that even the most fashionable wife would allow in the living room! I absolutely can't wait for Terry to get the f1-12 in! Will be great to hear in his main room!



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Finally we hear Terry's ATC 100 ASLT, in the absolutely stunning gloss finish, I heard this exact speaker at the 2019 hifi show with Rom from purity audio, the sound was incredible, the mid range was so sweet yet so detailed, the upper mids and highs shimmered beautifully and staging and imaging were on point. This demo along with a few other good ATC experiences convinced me to buy ATC 150s years later.

Terrys ATC room was an even better experience than the 2019 demo. He showed me two systems, one using the g2.1 auralic stack with streamer/dac/preamp/upsampler (reclocker was on loan). this sounded fantastic, I was pleasantly surprised as someone who wasn't a huge fan of the original vega and taurus. the G2.1 is an all in one system but extremely capable, allowing you to stream from basically any of the top services, run DLNA, play from a NAS or HDD, lightning DS allows an enormous amount of fiddling including digital filters. Terry did mention he was using the 'dynamic' filter on the streamer.



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The second system was using the antipodes k50 streamer into the mola mola MAKUA with the dac module. Terry demonstrated how the AES and ethernet connections differed in some rounding and softening with the AES where as the ethernet was harder and more incisive using a track we played a few times during the demo on the the ATCs: Nils Lofgren -
Keith Don't Go (Acoustic Live). I'd never actually heard this track before but man oh man the guitar work at 3mins 20 seconds is very familiar to the finger picking my father practiced for years, was a fantastic track to show the mid range tone and detail of the ATCs. Again I was not a big fan of the original antipodes DX streamer so was good to hear the k50 sounding fantastic in this system.

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On this day everything sounded good, I had goose bumps with the Nils Lofgren track and left thoroughly impressed with the synergy that Terry had achieved in each of his rooms and a pile of new tracks to try at home.

But I needed to return to test a few other things because I had been told from multiple sources I trust the Tambaqui was thin and not a great Dac but I heard it sounding fantastic in both of Terrys systems.


So at home I have ATC 150ASLT, running straight off my Wavedream signature balanced rockna with internal digital volume fed by AES from my heavily modded cd-transport or over USB from my PC using musicbee ASIO. My room is bare, surfaces are barely treated except for a few vicoustic panels. I haven't got a rug even! and it sounds pretty amazing to me.

I was able to take the tracks Terry shared with me and enjoy them and didn't think I was missing much that I noticed, I knew my lack of pre-amp and lack of treatment were likely my main bottle necks compared to his room. Our rooms do sound different, his had a little more width and he leaves the door open which makes the room very long but this is the best way to enjoy it and with Terry I definitely trust his judgement. His room has a decent amount of treatment and carpet where as mine is as I said earlier is very bare.




The Day I moved them in:


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I wanted to return to @GC HiFi to try the Makua preamp with the rockna with the ATC 100ASLT, I also wanted to compare the Tambaqui to Rockna on the Eddie current studio headphone amp I've evaluated DACs like msb select II, DCS vivaldi, terminator etc etc with the studio and my hd800sdr and very quickly get a read on DAC nuances.


So I dragged it all to Terrys place on Saturday.


Lucky for me Terry has a lot of patience (and space).

Session 2



I first set up my rockna with my eddie current studio (https://eddiecurrent.com/studio/ ) and ran it from my transport then compared it to the Tambaqui , headphones used included hd650, hd800SDR and hifiman code-x (he-5 wood cup modded). Main test album was the classic daft punk RAM album which basically only sounds good on cd.


My conclusion with headphones was that rockna is on another level to Tambaqui which is a bit thin, lacks some lower mid meat and transient heft but is pretty snappy and quick had great detail especially in upper mids but lacked lower mid info. Rockna was better with studio in every regard to my ears. We tried the Tambaqui headphone out which was very capable, it was a bit warmer and thicker and paired well with the Tambaqui (a much better implementation than something like the Dave's headphone out) where as my studio tilts on brighter than neutral and I find has best synergy with dacs that have a slight amount of warmth.

Terry made the very valid point here that we were comparing two very different price points, the Tambaqui as an all in one streamer, dac and headphone out is roughly 1/3 of the price compared to the rockna and studio which retail together for around 35k aud without tubes. The interesting part of this was the lack of synergy between the Tamabqui and my headphone amp.



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I knew the Makua (which has the Tamabaqui DAC built in) had good synergy with his antipodes k50 streamer from last time. I also knew I preferred the Makua being fed ethernet from the K50 which was a bit more lower mid pronounced than the aes which was a bit softer in the lower mids and rounder overall.

However on this day we had to use the AES to ensure the other room could get a signal.



First we tried the rockna directly to his speakers being fed by his K50, it was bad, like rockna sounded like a $50 Dac, it was soft, laid back, and recessed in the mids, I switched the makua into the preamp role skipping the rocknas internal volume control and it was better, not good, but better.

So we switched back to the makua using AES and it was a lot better, however there was still some pervasive lower mid suckout and softness which I assumed was either the k50 using the softer AES , or possibly the new AES and XLR cables that Terry had switched in which he said were less dynamic than the cables I originally heard but made up for it by being better in every other regard.

I just couldn't find the same magic we had in the first session.



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I was still trying to figure out what had caused the rockna to sound so lacking in this system. It's a vetted bit of kit, in my system and currently the r2r DAC of choice in most high end audio circles I participate in. I thought perhaps the k50 was super warm or doing some crazy up-sampling (still unsure) and that's how there was synergy between the tambaqui dac and the k50.

To test this, I put my cd transport in to replace k50 and it was a lot better but still made the rockna sound not quiet right. Synergy is everything and it's quiet possible the rockna with those cables in Terrys room just won't play nice, perhaps closing the doors and changing cables could of swayed things but even the makua and k50 were not sounding the way they had the first day I heard them. Perhaps I needed to go to bed?!

"One last track", we said this for about 2 hours!



I don't know what Terry did but we took a short break and came back played the Lofgren track again but about 10db louder and the magic was back, not sure what he did or if we switched back to ethernet perhaps? Not sure. but the k50 + makua system had fantastic detail, great transient speed, I would say it lacks a little weight in the leading edge which was easy to detect on headphones but noticeable on the speakers as well. Otherwise it's incredibly clean and lively sounding. I think a lot of the mola mola negativity may come from people using sources that lean on bright because I think that is not an ideal combination and may also explain my preference for the rockna on with my amp and transport which is tilted slightly brighter than neutral.



Terry did mention the sound continues to improve as it draws closer to night as the solar plays a role and power use in his neighborhood. He said the next GC-hifi event would be an evening session and I think anyone in the area really should go to hear the systems Terry has built. Absolutely world class!


So am i going to run off and sell my Rockna because it didn't work in Terry's system? Heck no, but I won't die on a hill defending it either.

I want to maximise my rooms performance, so treatment is a must, I'll continue to measure and treat my room until I get it to a point where I/my nervosa is happy, then I will re-evaluate my DAC and pre-amp choices for the final tailoring of the sound.


Thanks again Terry for being such a gracious host, great guy to deal with awesome synergy in your systems! Look forward to many rum fueled listening sessions in the future as I continue my audio journey.
 

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