Emm Labs DV2 versus Tambaqui

Has anyone heard both of these or better still done a comparison? Which did you prefer?


I don't know about the EMM Labs but the Mola Mola has been bettered by various Chinese DACs so why even think about it? Respectfully.

the Mola Mola has been bettered by various Chinese DACs so why even think about it?

I certainly do not think this is the case and can not think of any Chinese Dac that has "bettered" it, including best of them, the Denafrips Terminator Plus.


The Holo May KTE has been reviewed against the Mola Mola and DCS Bartok and been found to be better at a much lower price point. I personally have a Musetec 005 which has been favourably reviewed against the May and suited my needs as a one box solution. I love it. Happy listening!

Interesting. I have just looked at comparisons between the Holo May and the Tambaqui. None of them rates the HM higher than the Tambaqui, though all reviews do say the HM is very good. eg twittering machines rates the Tambaqui as clearly better. Can you post a link to review which rates the HM better please as I would like to read it.



Well thanks for the link, but the Tambaqui is not mentioned once in that thread, so it appears you have made an error. Neither is the Tambaqui mentioned in the video. As far as the musetec goes, this would never be on my radar because it is based on the es sabre chip.

The video mentions that the Holo May has a better SNR than the Mola Mola maybe you need to watch it again. There's lots of info out there but if you want to buy a designer product at 2-3x the price go for it.

IMHO DAC chips are best because they are more accurate and real, R2R will give you that lazy valve sound, but if that's your thing go for it.

Real live music doesn't sound like vinyl.

I'm borrowing a friend's Mola Mola Tambaqui in a couple weeks, can let you know my impressions if you're interested.

I've heard the DV2 but never had it at home. I did have their entry-level Meitner MA3 at home and thought it was very enjoyable. 

The Musetec is compared very favorably against the Tambaqui in the Musetec thread by teknorob23.  He's a very credible reviewer.

You may be unaware of what the ESS can do, properly implemented.

Post removed 

The Mola Mola Tambaqui is Dutch !! I don’t understand why some, use/talk about Chinese Dac. He is  good, but I prefer EMM: morer rich in sound , and open ,good placement. Mola Mola is either plat.  But this is everyone’s choice …

IMHO DAC chips are best because they are more accurate and real, R2R will give you that lazy valve sound, but if that's your thing go for it.

That is not my experience with Denafrips Terminator 2 (which I own) and MSB Reference DAC (heard several times at an audiophile friend's home). I think you need to listen to some better R2R implementations before making a statement like that. I'm always amused when people claim to know what is 'accurate' and 'real' ... the reality is that your guess is as good as mine. Neither of us were there when the music was recorded :)

The Playback Design DAC should be high on your list.

The New MPD-6 Lower priced Model from Playback Desaign soon to be released is another option too.

You're going to get plenty of opinions, the only way to really know is to compare in one's own system. Do giant killers exist in dac market, we need more comparisons of these so called giant killers, I think the Holo May is perhaps the most widely known of these, has held its own thus far.

I think most are not aware that Bruno made the design for the Tambaqui around 2006. Of course, he is no longer part of Mola Mola. They first put this DAC design in the Makua preamp and then the standalone Tambaqui.

At one time, I was really interested in the Makua or Tambaqui but decided not to spend that much on a DAC and also got the Benchmark LA4 preamp over the Makua.

The Mola Mola Tambaqui is Dutch !! I don’t understand why some, use/talk about Chinese Dac.

No one said Mola Mola was a Chinese company.


BTW - The Tambaqui is not a R2R DAC.



This is a quote from a head-fi thread from an industry professional  comparing the Mola Mola with the Mustec 005:

Essentially it bests the Tamabaqui in every area. As others in the thread have mentioned, to get the best out of the DAC you need a good Pre-amp, but comparing the MM and 005 using a the HPA4, has made me completely re-evaluate the benchmark, which i thought using the MM was super detailed but a little lacking in life . The depth of soundstage is dramatically improved listening to the musetec, so much detail too but it's the dynamics, speed and weight of presentation which are just something else. Apart from the need of an external amp i'm struggling to find a weakness.

Most of my listening is done and comparison with the Mola Mola were made with... Utopia > HPA4 > 005 > USB > Bricasti M5 > Filter > streaming cable > switch .. Listening to 75% electronica, like four Tet, Autechre, Jeff Mills, Max Cooper 25% anything from leonard cohen to MBV, New Order, Miles Davis, etc, etc.

But i have also evaluated on 2 channel set up shahinian obelisk 2 > AGD Gran Vivace GanTube Mono Blocks > HPA4 > Musetec > i2S AGG > 3D Lab Streamer > Ethernet Filter > Streaming Cable > switch ... listening to all type of music

I know i'm sounding like a love-crazed fanboy, but hey thats exactly how this DAC has made me feel.. bit of shock for 48 year old audiophile cynic 

I'm assuming the head-fi review comparing the Mola Mola with Musetec is from the same guy who later became a dealer (distributor?) for Musetec? Not that there's anything wrong with it, and it certainly does not invalidate his opinion, but it's good to present all the facts so we can individually evaluate any 'conflict of interest' in such cases.


You will find if you read all the posts, that the author discovered the Musetec was better after buying it, then decided to be a UK dealer. There is not a strong basis to conclude his opinion is insincere.

I totally get it ... but the fact that he is a dealer is an important point and something that must be disclosed when sharing quotes from the review since there is a financial interest at play here. And like I said, it does not negate or diminishes anything the reviewer said about the comparison. I don't know why you're implying that I find his conclusions 'insincere'. Never said that.


To add to your store of information and knowledge, IIUC the reviewer is a manufacturer of, among other things, an ethernet filter held in very high regard on this board. He continually needs and uses a DAC of very high quality to test his products as they develop and are improved. He used to use the Tambaqui. He sold it after hearing the Musetec.  Apparently (and you’ll see this if you read the head-fi thread) it wasn’t a close call. As he sells other, related, items and as there was no one selling the Musetec in the United Kingdom he arranged to become a dealer there.

@dbb The Benchmark HPA4/LA4 preamps (I had both) are amazing to hear OTHER gear. It usually is something else at fault if the sound is problematic.

I am open to listening to anything, however I have never heard a dac that uses the ESS chip that I have really liked. I find the mid range really lacking. "Yes", I am aware that manufacturers can do do heavily modify chips, but still.....

If you like silky smooth mid-range I suspect you like tube amps. The 005 doesn't, as most solid state products, emphasize any particular part of the music.

What you do get is detail in abundance, not sharp mechanical detail but the breath on a microphone, the vocalist's true voice, the accuracy of piano, the real sound of cymbals (not metallic crashes) etc.

If you still found the 005 not to your liking you have a 30 day return option.

Maybe couple it with a tube pre-amp?

But you could buy a 005, Holo May and Holo May pre-amp for the price of a Mola Mola.

Happy Listening

GTT Audio out of NJ is the Mola Mola distributer. When I was looking to get the Tambaqui I was offered a home demo by them but I never took it because I changed my mind due to cost. They still may offer that.

The USA Musetec 005 dealer should consider offering the same home demo.


When you say, "’Yes’, I am aware that manufacturers can do do heavily modify chips, but still....." you’ve got it all wrong.

It’s not really about the chip. True, the Musetec runs the chips warm, as was done in the LKS 004 and it is said that helps. In the case of the Musetec the chips are heat-sinked to the bottom plate of the case. I believe LKS pioneered this, with heat sinks epoxied to the tops, and I don’t know if any other DACs do this.

It’s not the chip that determines what kind of mid-range will be delivered. It’s really about the power supply in the Musetec which is unique and extremely well done. It’s also about the 8 FET analog stage which is quite elaborate in this DAC, and the very high quality parts used throughout.

Look, I’m not here to sell DACs. It’s your money and you will choose what you are comfortable with. Just trying to say that ESS chips are not what hold DACs back. True, they are ubiquitous and used in a lot of very mediocre DACs for promotional reasons. And they are used in some great DACs as well.

@arafiq ,

Good to know about your experience on the Terminator DAC.

But do you think this post is about the 2 DACs mentioned in the title?

You know what I mean 😉

“No one has heard the Meitner?”


Go to WBF for user feedback on DV2. This DAC’s is too rich for this site (no offense). BTW, DV2 is an outstanding DAC with a reasonably good VC.

“I am open to listening to anything, however I have never heard a dac that uses the ESS chip that I have really liked.”

Well, that means you have not heard Merging Technologies +NADAC yet. Give it a try and it will likely change your opinion about ESS chip DAC’s and could be your end game DAC.

@lalitk is correct -- if you're interested in super high-end hifi, WBF is by far the best resource I've encountered. A lot of experienced users there, and it tends to be friendlier...

If you want to change your perspective on chip DACs, you may want to hear the Ideon Absolute DAC. Of course it's not definitive, but Alan Sircom of Hifi+ has reviewed the Merging DAC (positively), the EMM Labs DV2 (VERY positively) and the Ideon Absolute DAC (best he's heard). Even if it's outside your budget (it's certainly outside mine), it's fun and enlightening to hear what's possible.


Post removed 

I can only say I was financially prepared to purchase Mola Mola having read enough good reviews that conformed with the sound qualities I was desiring in new dac. In continuing my deep research I serendipitously discovered Mustetec 005 on Chinese website, was impressed enough with engineering I took flyer on it. I believe I was first in North America to purchase and post impressions on NA audio forums. DBB, I believe was second to purchase and publish impressions on forum. Anyway, after year and a half ownership, I continue to be impressed by this dac, enough to not have any desire to purchase Mola Mola, Merging Technology, Aqua or any of the other top dacs on my list. I've made quite a few upgrades on both my streaming network and Coincident Statement pre, and custom built 300B SET amps since getting this dac, 005 only continues to dig deeper and sound more analog with greater exposure. It has no definitive defects I've been able to uncover, and don't know there are any assuming one's system hasn't inherent defects.


Now, I'm not going to state this dac betters the other much more expensive dacs I mentioned above, but I simply haven't felt the need to compare. That will have to be up to someone else, I continue to urge others to compare 005 to the much higher cost dacs, I want to understand if this dac has liabilities I've yet to uncover.


I just looked up Ideon Absolute DAC, high praises all around. But at $34K, it’s target audience are definitely not your average joe’s :-) In comparison, my Merging +player with Roon core and end point proven to be quite a bargain at $14K. It replaced the combo of DA2 V1/Aurender N20 in my pursuit of next level of streaming experience.

I have heard @lalitk 's Merging dac at his house. As much as I like my Denafrips Terminator 2 dac, the Merging plays in a different league. I don't think the Terminator has any liabilities as such given the price, but Merging (and also MSB Reference DAC that another friend has) provides a much higher level of sound quality. It's one of those things that you won't know until you hear them in person. We can only extrapolate so much by reading reviews or looking at graphs. You really have to experience these high end DACs in person, provided the rest of the chain is at par as well. This does not make the Terminator ii (best DAC I've ever owned) worse, but I would never claim that it plays in the same league as a Merging, MSB, Emm Labs, or Playback design. Yet to meet a true giant killer.

A FYI, another company that had an excellent implementation of the ESS chip was

Resonessence Labs INVICTA Mirus Pro review | Darko.Audio

They are no longer in business as the CEO retired. The principles used to work at ESS and knew the DAC better than anyone. You sometimes see their DACs show up on the used market.

Resonessence Labs Invicta Mirus Pro Signature | DA Converters | Santa Rosa, California 95403 | Audiogon


WBF is by far the best resource I've encountered. A lot of experienced users there, and it tends to be friendlier...

What is WBF please?

I have a Terminator and a Tambaqui. Both are state of the art. Both sound lifelike and real, not digital. Both are good, sensible, choices. 

If you held a gun to my head I would say that the Tambaqui is better, there is just something about its bass that seems more  exciting, more tuneful, than the Terminator. But if you had either, you would be a very happy bunny. 


The best way is to order both for home trial and keep the one you like better. You'll hear a lot of advise about this vs that, or I heard this there and it was amazing, but none of these are apples to apples comparisons in the same room with the same equipment. Imo...first ensure what's the ambient white noise level in your listening area, THEN consider the technology and budget of the dac you want to purchase. no point buying state of the art if you live in a large city, and your room is not sound proofed or treated and you have kids running around. Or you don't actually sit down for 2 hours at a time to listen critically - at that point you are just buying status.


I had a Denafrips Terminator and my friend lent me his May Dac KTE for a couple weeks and both don't better my Tambaqui Dac.

Sorry lordmelton the Tambaqui has more resolution but, still manages to sound musical and has no digital artifacts. Much better than the other 2 Dacs.


@lordmelton  Great vinyl should sound like a great recording, studio or hall with close miking.   It won't sound like a highly reverberant hall that is so in vogue for the last 40 years.   Live acoustic music sounds great in a large venue but not so good on vinyl when recorded far from the source.   Rock benefits from close miking as well.   Two different listening environments deserve two different approaches, one for live music and the other for recorded music.   That's my opinion (and the opinion of great recording engineers from the 50's to the 80's.  

@fleschler Why would I want music to sound like vinyl? I've been listening to music for over 50 years and used to have a huge vinyl collection. Digital has now taken over vinyl by a long chalk and you are welcome to it if you want to get up and change sides every 15 mins, with all the dust, fluff, static and scratches...lol.

Real music doesn't sound like vinyl...end of.

Valve amps are unrealistic.

You have to pay real money for good tranny amps.

I am enamored with the Musetec because it's brought me to a place where as others have said they feel everything is right. A rare place to be.

Don't feel like I have to change anything and I've still got ten grand to spend on cables etc.

I won't even address the other stuff you're banging on about, it's a load of bollux.

@arafiq What is a giant killer, and what dac or dacs are the giants? I'd call something like Wadax Reference dac a giant, but dacs in realm of $10k doubful. Pricing of audio components is partly a function of business model. Where the component is designed, manufactured, marketing budget, distributor/dealer network or direct sales, profit margins. Its possible a $10k component actual manufacturing cost could be very close to another component that retails for much less. In this case the higher price component is not a giant, therefore, the lower price unit is not in fact a giant killer.


While I'd generally agree price correlates to quality in audio realm, there are enough products and logical reasons why this may not always hold true. Purchasing products based purely on price is rather like confirmation bias in regard to faulty posits.


Bottom line, direct comparison between two components in the exact same system, preferably one's own, is most valid estimation of a components relative value. Many long term reviews over long period of time in many different systems holds value as well. Price alone, at least without factoring in business models is not very good indicator of value.

@fleschler I agree with you on the close vs. distant miking at least to some extent. I agree too many live classical recordings excessively distant miked. Sounds too messy and blunts dynamics to some extent. I prefer something in between close and distant miking, I want to hear some recording venue ambience. Same for rock, or any genre of music.


@lordmelton @fleschler  I don't see the above as a vinyl vs digital artifact, this is recording artifact. Actually, I think digital and vinyl sound are converging. There has been long and slow progress on resolution and dynamics front in vinyl and more natural timbre in digital. This is good thing to me. One of the differences that will always remain is with streaming or cd rips one can play music continuously, for  me stream of consciousness playback has become critical to my enjoyment. I may create real time playlist of initial song being classical piece, next bluegrass, next electronica, and or I can string two or three cuts of each in any order. I love completely mixed up real time listening, its like my own free form radio station and I'm the dj! Vinyl listening is totally different for me, I get nostalgic with the smell, feel and cover artistry, the work involved in cleaning, changing sides, having to listen to all cuts on album. Completely different mindsets, both have their place.

So I received the Mola Mola Tambaqui, this is Day Two in my system. I am sure it will improve over time.

For reference, the other DACs I’ve heard at home are totaldac (my reference), the latest Weiss, latest Meitner, and the Sonnet Morpheus.

The Mola Mola strikes me as a cross between Weiss and Meither. Like Weiss, it gives you a clear and raw view into the recording, tremendously good resolution. Unlike the Weiss and more like the Meitner, there is a touch of fluidity to the sound, which for me increases the engagement factor and eliminates the fatigue factor. Nothing clinical or mechanical here. There is also a great sense of force and pace with the Tambaqui, it really throws music into the room. Maybe that’s the 6V output, it’s nice that you can select lower voltages as well (which I haven’t tried yet).

These very early impressions are using the Tambaqui’s internal Roon endpoint. I will be trying it with the Grimm MU1 as well (a popular combination), which should be quite a step forward (but raises the cost vs. value issue).


Thank you for your very helpful and concise feedback. When you ‘actually’ compare DAC’s that are comparative in both performance and price, it gives our readers a true perspective on what to expect vs anyone who loves sharing their biases with a particular DAC without having the need to compare.

Please continue to share your objective impressions in your journey.

Purchasing products based purely on price is rather like confirmation bias in regard to faulty posits.

I’ve heard this argument many times before. I’m sure there are a few people who fall under this category, but by and large most people I know who purchase higher-priced DACs buy them after considerable research. Their top priority is system synergy. They are very clear in their heads about what kind of sound they're after. Price is usually not the driving factor. The DAC that I have today is the best that I can afford. But I don’t feel the need to validate my decision by questioning those who buy DACs that are significantly more expensive. I’m sure sure there are exceptions, but by and large the more expensive DACs do perform at a higher level, provided, and this is an important point, that the rest of your system is on par. You can’t put performance tires on an affordable family sedan and expect it to perform like a Ferrari. Same holds true for the higher end equipment.

@lalitk thank you! I have long admired your contributions to this forum, as they are based on direct experience. I have also found that folks with wonderful systems (like yourself) are more open minded about what’s possible in hifi (less bias), which makes for more productive conversations!

@arafiq well said. I had the Weiss in my system twice, separated by many months. What’s interesting is that the first time around, I heard it with budget speakers but fairly honest cabling. The second time, much better speakers but lower resolving cabling. It was a more impressive DAC the first time around! The second time around, I needed to switch cabling to hear it at its best. Point being, sometimes folks make hasty judgments on the quality of electronics (this DAC blows this other DAC out of the water and it’s way cheaper!!!) when it’s really a synergy problem they’re experiencing (they didn’t hear what the component was truly capable of).

@sns  I agree.  I have 28.500 LPs, 7,000 78s and 7,000 CDs.   I love both LP and CD formats with the latter being the most convenient/easy to use.   I'm knocking the other guy (or anyone) who dismisses vinyl, good vinyl (good mastering and pressing).  My favorite recordings (in both CD and vinyl versions) are Mercury Living Presence & RCA Living Stereo/London from 50's and 60's and Jazz on Contemporary (and all the Fantasy group), World Pacific, etc. generally.  Orchestral, chamber, solo violin/piano, etc. recordings of the past several decades suffer from distant miking, sometimes sounding like the mikes were facing away or backwards.  Other times they are often as you described rear of hall.   The great older recordings were a mix of up front miking combined with either natural or added slight reverb for capturing hall sound.  

What I say, after 55 years of performing (35 years as an amateur recording engineer) with orchestras, chamber groups and choruses is that live performances sound different generally from recordings heard at home.  I have not SOTA high end audio gear in a SOTA (one version) listening room.  My friends include reknown remastering engineers who cut LPs (as well CDs when they were more popular).  

I am not going the streaming route as I have both plenty of recordings and 1/3 or more of my collection will never be available for streaming (ethnic, esoteric labels such as Biddulph, Marston, Romophone, 50+ year old recordings with reduced interest for reissuance on line).   

I am searching for a better CD playback and tried several higher end DACs (including a COS Engineering D1v).  My current DAC is a Benchmark from 2011 super upgraded using a pair of $50 regulators (they used 50¢ ones), audio caps instead of computer caps, a new audio board and superior power filtering.  I haven't had success with transports (last was PS Audio-wow, a disappointment but nice company) as either too clean or lovely/warm sounding but smeared.  Next either a Jay's Audio transport or a Luxman D-03X CD player.  If I like the D-03X, maybe a D-10X.   Is the Mola Mola really a 2007 DAC design?  The May didn't hold up to the Musetec 005 (was the reviewer biased as a dealer)?