The original MSB-powered Wavedream had no output stage where it mimicked the Metrum Acoustics converters. "We initially planned on a tube stage but eventually had insufficient space for something proper. Then we experimented with a solid-stage analog volume control stage. After extensive listening tests we realized that our digital volume control was truly exceptional. So finally we opted for taking the output signal directly off the DAC modules. Ours has 63-bit internal resolution and a very low noise floor. Being digital domain, beyond a certain level it becomes lossy of course. There's always a trade-off between losing bits and signal-path purity. Mathematically any digital volume control throws away 1 bit every 6dB. But in practice it depends how you are doing it because you basically get the signal level closer to the noise floor. In our particular case we have large dynamic range (32 bits = 192dB) so even if we start to subtract bits, there's still a lot of dynamic range left to match even very good analog attenuators."

Rockna's RD-1 discrete R2R board

The new Rockna-powered Wavedream has an output stage. "Designed from scratch, the output stage is fully discrete and acts as a high-speed buffer. Made entirely with through-hole components, we combined Jfet and BJT transistors into a class A stage with closed-loop output impedance of <1Ω and equivalent input noise as low as 1nV." Finally about Nicolae's discrete R2R conversion, there are the 27-bit RD-0 board used in the Signature versions; and the 26-bit RD-1 board in the standard Editions. "Currently either module can sustain a maximum sample rate of 6MHz, the industry’s maximum sample rate specified for an audio converter. The outputs of the converter modules are un-buffered to allow for maximum transparency and natural sound." Both Signature and Edition models are available single-ended or balanced. The latter obviously require two modules per channel. Either deck does up to 256DSD and 384kHz PCM. On specs, the costlier Signature has the lead. Specifically, THD+N between these siblings works out to 0.003% versus 0.0008%, S/NR and dynamic range to 122dB versus 132dB. Max output voltage between them is 6.6/13.2V versus 10/20V for the SE/XLR versions respectively. Hence the Signature has more gain and lower noise and distortion.

Rockna's RD-0 discrete R2R board

On how the RD-1 and RD-0 modules differ: "The RD-0 gets individual not shared switches; a lower impedance regulator; one extra bit; a 5V rather than 3.3V reference for higher dynamic range; a 6-layer not 4-layer impedance-controlled PCB; 'one-shot' master-clock driven conversion for lowest jitter; and a matched-phase clock across the ladder."

Here's what Fred Crane, dealer/importer of StereoDesk and AudioPrana, said about the Wavedream: "Nucu worked very hard on his own module. It deserves to be heard first on your pages. The feedback on it has been at the top of the game. The fully loaded unit is $20K stateside but once auditioned, has a very high success rate. To be more specific, the four owners with the top version all had it on contingency first but all kept it. The competitors we had to beat were Berkeley's new top converter, the new Nagra HD, a Bricasti and a Playback Design deck. Not bad company to keep. Two of those gents had systems designed by us so it's no wonder the Rockna played well." To alleviate the worst of wallet cramps, remember that the single-ended Edition version starts at $6'600. Many a DAC with off-the-shelf silicon stuffs one or two of Rockna's custom boards into a sub stamp-sized commercial chip to sell for the same or more. That's like charging the same for a prefab house versus building one by hand, one (resistor) brick at a time.

Cutting open the tape on the double cardboard box revealed a full-size component with power cord and rebranded remote sans batteries. No instructions either. Popping the hood showed four RD-1 modules for the fully balanced €10'000 Edition trim package, €3'500 less than the just departed TotalDAC d1-six-tube. Popping the full-width metal shield behind the inner front panel unmasked three compact power toroids. With mirror-polished lids concealing the resistor-ladder modules, this Wavedream played up the silent strong type in chic stealthy black. Even powered up, not one lone current-source LED lit up inside for proof of life. Only the yellow Oled display with its brief readout of RD status and firmware version before settling into standard mode showed how currents were flowing. Time to put the hood back over the dead-silent transformers, redo the thick top cover and hook up some cabling for first sounds.

This proved trickier. The USB device refused to show up as selectable in AudioMidi, hence just as absent in System Preference's sound panel or PureMusic's device selector. No sequence of cable seating, power cycling or Mac reboot made the Rockna visible. A quick hop to their website and the owner's manual confirmed it. OSX required no drivers. I replaced my usual KingRex double-header USB cable with a standard Curious Cable. No joy either. Stumped, an email went off. Fred Crane was just as surprised. Even designer Nucu thought it "weird". He asked that I check his machine on my Win 7/64 PC. His driver installed fine but the device still didn't show up. Did we need to reflash its firmware?