S20 and a Mola Mola Tambaqui


Looking at introducing the S20 into my system. My thoughts were connecting the S20 via usb from my nuc and then connecting the S20 via either I2S to my Mola Mola Tambaqui or alternatively using the Ethernet out from the S20 into the said DAC.

Can the S20 be used with a nuc running roon rock or would I require a S40 to connect to the S20 via USB?

Has the S20 been used in this way with a nuc and a Mola Mola Tambaqui?

Where I adopt the I2S approach, would I need a custom I2S cable?

I use the nuc loaded with roon rock to stream and this is connected via ethernet to the DAC.

I also have a PS Audio Directstream CD transport. The transport connects to the DAC via AES, which I propose to continue to use in this way.

Thanks in advance.


Hi Doc,

While it would be great to try different output such as I2S and aes .

It will be actually more beneficial if you upgrade with s60 first , as power is critical to making the already amazing s40 even better.
The Roon pi streamer in the Tambaqui is really amazing already.

Will take significant amount of money to better it.

Thanks for the advice, very much appreciate it.

S20 is a reclocker, so doing what you have outlined here is removing a player from the equation and adding a reclocker fed by a NUC performing as server/core and player. The player/streamer in your DAC, from what I have read, is very good and the DAC seems to minimise ethernet noise very well. My guess is you would be better off improving the server from NUC to something better, or at least powering the NUC really well.

Yes, S20 will accept USB input from NUC. No, you don’t need S40.

If the NUC is being both core and endpoint, The NUC is pretty much flat out doing both which most probably reduces sound quality, and you are missing out on the benefit of the DAC streamer. If you have not done so, make sure the NUC is just core and the DAC is player/endpoint. You may need to tinker around with the DAC settings to get this right. And make sure you use the correct connections.

I appreciate your comments dbastin2605. I am using the nuc solely as a core, with Ethernet into the DAC as an end point. Was proposing to use either the i2s or the Ethernet from s20 into the DAC specifically to improve on Tidal and Qobuz. When using CDs into the DAC there is a noticeable improvement when compared to streaming, although this will also depend on the track and where it’s from. As a general proposition, I also find Qobuz appears to sound better than Tidal, to my ears in any event.

Oh, if that is your objective, it is probably more to do with your network. I am not sure S20 will fix a poor network.
What ethernet cable are you using between the NUC and DAC?
What is the rest of the network?

The nuc goes into a network switch and I have a ASUS ROG CAT7 Black Network Cable going from the switch to the DAC. I previously had a Lumin U1 with usb (curious evolved) into the usb on the DAC sounded okay, but the Ethernet was a definite improvement.

About the network cable:
support bandwidth up to 600MHz & transmitting data at speeds of up to 10Gbps, Made of 4 shielded twisted pair (STP) of copper wires with RJ45 connectors on each end, twisting of the wires provides better protection from crosstalk, noise, and interference that can degrade the signal quality

The question really is…
How good is the Tambaqui at handling the asynchronous stream thru ethernet compared with the synchronous stream thru I2S?
If I were a betting man, I would say it would handle the Re-Clocked stream better than non.
However handing off the player duties to the NUC in place of the Tambaqui may place more burden on the NUC.
Trade offs.
I guess the only way to know is try and let your ears tell you.
The Mola Mola doesn’t require a custom cable, a high quality HDMI will do the business.
The pin configuration is adjustable on the S20.
There is no doubt a better server will also reap rewards.

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I have a K50 and a Tambaqui. Tried USB against I2S with I2S being a clear winner - to my ears.


A few things. As mentioned above, your Roon NUC is doing a lot (core and endpoint), and does not have optimized USB out. As such I wouldn’t be surprised if the ethernet input of the Tambaqui sounds better.

In your situation you might consider an endpoint – an S30 – if you want to use USB.

HDMI does sound better into the Tambaqui in my experience, however the HDMI input only supports PCM, only up to 24/192. This is the vast majority of most music of course, but if you care about DSD or very high res formates (i.e. DXD) you need a different way to get those into the Tambaqui. The nice thing is you can always use the simple ethernet input as a backup.

The AES input to the Tambaqui also sounds very good. I’d be hard pressed to choose between them (they both have similar format limitations) and both are better than USB. USB is important if you want high resolutions, or if you want non-Roon protocols like Squeezebox, HQPlayer, etc. If you’re not familiar with those, don’t worry about it. : )

Mark Cole won’t thank me for mentioning these, but there are products from other vendors that in my experience can improve the (increasingly complicated) digital chain - you could put the Innuos Phoenix USB between your NUC and the S20; or an EtherRegen or Innuos or other switch between the NUC and an S30.

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I had some time with the S20/60 from my Oladra EX into my Mola Mola Makua. Definitely sounded better to me. More dimension to the sound, plus a little more presence in the vocals. Now back to Ethernet to Makua and still happy. Will wait for a K50…

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I suggest try a good quality Cat6 UTP from nuc to switch.

The ROG doesn’t seem anything special, that description is just standard specs. There is a myriad of better cables.

Maybe study this first …

Then experiment to improve your network, which I’d guess is the weakest link/s currently.

After that, consider a better server.

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I,am planning to buy the Mola Mola Tambaqui and want to use the I2s connection. Can somebody tell me what the settings are of the dip switches on the K50 with the Mola Mola

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The Tambaqui can only accept up to 24/192 via I2S, with no DSD support as such no pin out configuration is required.

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Hi Mark,
The Tambaqui HDMI SDATA pins 1 and 3
are opposite polarity to the PS Audio Standard
and cause a negative absolute phase output through Squeeze Player.
I used the phase sliders in the Mola Mola app to
correct this, now the Tambaqui has even more jump! I guess I should get under the K50 and adjust the pinout switches at some point…

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Tambaqui HDMI pinout matches the PS Audio configuration.
The Denafrips Terminator II inverts pin 1 and 3 polarity and so needs to be adjusted
as Mark explains.
Sorry about the confusion…

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My limited experience with the K50 and S20/S60 with my EX into my Mola Mola Makua is that it also depends on the genre of music you are listening to. Electronic music with usb or direct Ethernet from the K50 was brilliant. Acoustic with AES/EBU sublime. I would not be choosing one cable to fit all music. The beauty of having options…

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Anyone reclocking the I2S or USB output of the K50?

Cable quality is important here.
I have compared USB and I2S outputs of the K50 using two digital cables I’m familiar with Nordost Tyr 2 USB and
Audioquest Firebird I2S,
The Reclocked I2s output to the Tambaqui is far superior sounding
in my system… I also noted that the respective input and output connectors and internal interfaces needed time to burn in. Go figure!
K50>Tambaqui>Allnic KT 150 Monoblocks> SF Serafino.

Hi Mark,
I can verify that the Tambaqui does in fact sound better
with the K50 Re-clocked I2S signal when compared to USB in my system.