Operation proved perfectly intuitive. Pressing 'menu' starts at source selection. The up/down buttons or remote equivalents move through the inputs. Subsequent 'menu' prompts toggle through filter options, polarity, dither on/off and clock streaming/local. A longer 'menu' press reverts to the default display. That can be dimmed over eight stages including fully off. An exceptionally broad attenuation range spans from -127.5 to 00dB for the onboard FPGA volume. The enclosure itself is very solid and impeccably made. A deeply engraved Rockna logo runs across the top cover with beveled side edges. Like the recently reviewed Meze 99 Classic headphones, for build and styling this machine calls Romanian hifi manufacture fully competitive with older brands from Western Europe.

Whilst not as industrious yet as Poland, Meze, Rockna and Audiobyte might be forerunners of things to come from the land of Castle Bran immortalized in the Dracula legends; and by their most famous musical export, the Taraf de Haïdouks aka the Gypsy brigands of Clejani village. Look them up on Youtube for many memorable concert videos; or on their above Facebook page. It's traditional virtuoso Balkan music at its very finest and most authentic.

Whilst awaiting Nucu's instructions on how to make his Wavedream show up for my computer sources, I thought about how best to review it. At €9'000, COS Engineering's D1 clearly would be the most viable contender. It combines a DAC and fully analog preamp in one casing to offer similar functionality for similar coin. Ditto for the €6'000 Phison PD2 from Denmark in for review. It's another fully balanced transistor DAC/pre in one box. To test Nucu's digital volume, I'd compare it to Vinnie Rossi's Lio as passive autoformer volume control just as I'd done with Vincent Brient's discrete R2R TotalDAC d1-six-tube. With my travel route mapped out for a hopefully compelling destination, I was all set.

Without Rockna's matching Wavedream transport—or AudioByte's Hydra Z USB bridge—I obviously wouldn't exploit the DAC's HDMI-carried I²S inputs as its presumably ultimate entry points. According to Dirk Sommer's German report*, inserting a Hydra Z between a PC's USB output and the Wavedream's I²S input via HDMi cable is an audible upgrade path. It simply wouldn't be part of my journey. Nor would DSD which the Wavedream, up to DSD256/11.3MHz, converts to PCM. That's some math-intense work on the fly. Very low on the work meter meanwhile is output impedance of 0.5Ω; 100 x lower than the 420Ω of TotalDAC's d1-six-tube. Combined with 10V balanced outputs (the TotalDAC had 1.4V), the Wavedream thus promised enthusiastic drive of even long cables.

* With the Wavedream presumably running the same Rockna-specific USB transceiver tech as the Audiobyte unit, one wonders why/how externalizing this module would improve the sound when it entails an extra cable connection (HDMI) that couldn't possibly be advantageous. Dirk Sommer chronicles further sonic upticks when he added the Hydra Z's optional outboard PSU. If true, value shoppers will be disappointed to learn that a €10'000 machine can still be improved by add-ons. One possible explanation might be analog's triple mantra of power supply which states that beefing up a PSU nearly invariably improves sonics. Perhaps the Hydra Z's real estate dedicated solely to D/D conversion includes a bigger power supply than the Wavedream had room for to dedicate to the same function?

Rockna RD-1 module | Rockna Wavedream NET | DAC atop transport | Rockna RD-0 module

For their three custom filters, Rockna publish these visualizations. 'Linear phase' splits the ringing equally pre and post the impulse. 'Minimum phase' shifts the pre ringing behind the impulse. 'Hybrid phase' reduces the post ringing of the 'minimum phase' filter yet still exhibits low overshoot before the impulse. A listener can also opt for filter-less NOS mode. Selectable ultrasonic dither applies to only the last 4 bits of a digital 24-bit word to improve the R2R ladders' linearity. Polarity inversion is self-explanatory. Aside from pressing 'play' on a transport or software player, that's the extent of what one does with the Wavedream. In my case, I was asked to send it back to Romania as they suspected hardware failure. Fred punned that they'd never had one before. Of course it had to happen to a review unit. That's simply Murphy's law. Nicolae: "Got the unit back, tested it, result as you described. Found the ARM (USB) interface chip dead in the water; properly soldered, all voltages okay, nothing wrong around it yet still no movement. Never seen such an issue before. Changed it and everything works. Will prepare sending it back early next week." With the Rockna returned, it instantly showed up on my iMac as 'Wavedream' with a 384kHz limit. For five minutes, things were peachy. Then a loud fart as though one shuts down a fussy source or preamp whilst the amp remains powered up signaled trouble. By now I barely had any signal on the left channel. It was there but strongly attenuated and partly distorted. As I walked over to the Pass Labs XA30.8 amp to power it down, I noticed that its always centred meter needle sat off to the right. That was a first. Powering it back up, the needle remained off. Powering the Rockna off, the needle immediately centred itself. Powering the Rockna back up, I replaced the XLR interconnect with an RCA equivalent, thinking that perhaps one of its balanced output modules had died. Now I was back in 2-channel business. Trying XLR once more, that too was fine. Whatever gremlin had hogged the connection seemed to have made onwards tracks to bother someone else. Fingers crossed, I considered myself booked for the duration, hoping for no more daculent flatulence or tweeter scares. None occurred.