First I need to apologize for this review taking forever to get done. I bought new speakers, and wanted to spend time with them and the DAC, and also have had some other stuff going on, but here we are.
Today we are talking about Rockna Audio’s “affordable” DAC. The Wavelight. The Wavelight comes in at $4750USD MSRP, so its certainly not an inexpensive DAC, but compared to Rockna’s top of the line offering, the WaveDream, it is certainly more affordable. I’ve been interested in Rockna Audio since I found out about them back in 2014, but the cost of the WaveDream kept me off the playing field. I was very excited to see that they were trying their hand at a more affordable offering with the Wavelight DAC. Rocknas founder, Nicolae Jitaru has lended his design chops to quite a few notable brands over the years, so I was very interested in what he has managed to come up with in the Wavelight DAC.
The Wavelight DAC arrived double boxed in what can only be described as a foam sarcophagus. It is a small detail, but it is without a doubt the most impressive and protective packaging I have seen from any manufacturer, period. Its little details like this that add up to make a product more impressive than their counterparts overall. Once I got the Wavelight out of the foam, it struck me how truly solid the build felt. It is heavier than I expected by a good margin, and certainly feels “premium” enough to match the MSRP. Looks are a personal thing, but I actually really like how the Wavelight looks. Its understated, slim, and fits in well with my set up. I think most people will feel similarly, and when you combine that with the fact you can choose either black or silver, to match your other gear, you are off to the races.
Now, the Wavelight has multiple modes, filters, etc…to choose from. For the vast majority of my testing, I used the USB input, but I also played about with the optical input. I don’t have any SPDIF or i2s sources, but those inputs, as well as AES, are there should need them. I would certainly like to try an i2s input, as the trend seems to be that if a DAC has i2s, it is the best option. With that being that, I found no real problem with the USB input, and would recommend it as the go to plug and play with a computer source. The optical input perhaps wasn’t as resolving as the USB, but I’m entirely willing to admit that may have just been my mind playing tricks on me. The Wavelight has an interesting feature that the remote is..well..your phone! There is an app you can download on Rockna’s website which acts as the remote. An interesting feature, but honestly, I would prefer a cheap stand alone hardware remote. I don’t know how much this would add to the price, but I think it would be worth it, if it wasn’t exorbitant.
In terms of filter choices, you have 4 options. NOS (non over sampling,) Linear Phase, Minimum Phase, and Hybrid. In terms of overall sound signature I found that the filters went as below
NOS: The most tonally dense, bordering on thick sounding. Warmer than the other three settings. This was not my preferred setting.
Linear Phase: This ended up being my preferred setting! It had the best balance of sound from all the filters and had the best extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum.
Minimum Phase: Perhaps my least favourite setting. Not as warm as NOS, but warmer than Linear Phase. Seemed less detailed than the other settings for some reason.
Hybrid: Interesting. My second favourite setting, which surprised me. It has a sound all of its own, detailed but not fatiguing. Again, less warm than NOS.
The Wavelight has a sound signature that I would describe as being absolutely pleasing, and enjoyable overall. This is a good DAC. There are, or course, personal preferences, but the Wavelight plays to its price point very well. It is extremely capable, and has ended up being my favourite DAC that I have owned overall. Now that is not to say it is as good in certain areas as other DACs I have owned, but as an overall package, it ticks the most boxes. Im listening to it as I am writing this, and it is just a pleasure to listen too.
In terms of overall tonal balance I would say the Wavelight is mostly neutral with a slightly dense tone. Its dynamic capability is very well done, and conveys the ebbs and flows of the music incredibly well. It is tied for the second most detailed DAC I have owned, with the Chord Hugo TT2. The Chord DAVE being the one which out resolves it. However the DAVE’s tonal balance, whilst impressive sounding, is not as easy to listen to as the Wavelight, especially for extended periods of time. So if I were choosing between the two, it would really come down to what I was looking for specifically for that system, and what music I was going to be listening to. One of the more impressive features of the Wavelight DAC to me was its sound staging abilities, which are impressive both with speakers and headphones alike. Not overly wide, but wonderfully deep and “holographic” sounding. Creating an almost 3d like sense of space. Its imaging is entirely impressive as well, though for some reason I noticed the imaging capabilities more with speakers than I did with headphones, which I thought was interesting.
The Wavelight DAC is also a fully analog Pre amp, should you want it to be. Although it lacks XLR analog inputs, it does have RCA analog inputs, and can be used as an entirely analog pre amp. Now, I did not have a pure power amp to test its pre amp capabilities with, but I have given it the best try I can with my integrated amp, and it seemed to do a lovely job. However, I am still curious what the Wavelight would do when put up against a pre amp/ power amp set up of competing quality. Does the Wavelight compete with high end stand alone pre’s? This is a question I will do my best to answer in the future as I mature in my Hi Fi journey. I most certainly will write an article about it when I do so. With that being said, and with what I could ascertain with the system I do have, the Wavelights pre amp capabilities would be good enough for someone who is slowly piecing together a set up, and wants to buy an amp but can’t afford a pre yet. Using the Wavelight as a pre may not be the last word in pre amp quality, but is certainly good enough for a stand in, or as a DAC/Pre combo in a secondary system.
The Wavelight, and my time with it so far, has been absolutely lovely. Whilst it isn’t the absolutely end of the road in resolving the tiniest of details, it has a superb neutral and dense tone, conveying music with accuracy and a natural quality that a LOT of DACs struggle to come close to. The Wavelight is incredibly solid and well built, looks great, and sound great too. There honestly isn’t much more you can ask of a piece of Hifi Gear. Whilst its $4750USD MSRP is going to keep some people away (which I absolutely understand,) if you are in the market for a DAC in the sub $5000USD price range, I think the Rockna Wavelight certainly merits your attention. It is the most enjoyable DAC in overall listening enjoyment I have yet experienced, and whilst I do think there is more that is possible, you are going to have to spend more and break that $5000USD barrier to experience it.
Overall, the Wavelight gets a solid thumbs up from me. It is a complete DAC/Pre package, that performs very, very well. An overwhelmingly competent piece of gear, that sounds great too!
I purchased this DAC through Robert at Worldwide Wholesales. He is very helpful, should you have any questions regarding Rockna and their products. I will provide his contact information below.