Back in the Jurassic era of digital audio, when designers were experimenting with new and exciting ways to get those ones and zeros one place to another, a standard of sorts emerged; I2S. Unlike most digital communications systems – which require all manner of transcoding and handshaking between devices – the I2S interface allowed a digital audio datastream to pass from component to component without requiring the digital equivalent of the Rosetta Stone. However, size matters, and the preferred digital link became the ‘Sony/Philips Digital InterFace’ (or S/PDIF). I2S never quite fell from favour, but its use became increasingly rare.
Why is this significant? Because Rockna Electronics – a fairly seasoned and globally established creator and producer of digital audio components – is one of the main keepers of the I2S flame in domestic audio. Many products that support the interface are, in fact, Rockna-designed (or Rockna-derived). And the company’s latest Wavelight product line reflects that I2S use. The line includes a very contemporary digital/analogue processor combined with a line preamplifier within the same chassis as well as a soon to become available server unit with ample storage and ancillary circuits to facilitate streaming and storage.
Reading the technical brief about the Wavelight DAC/Preamp one remains impressed by the innovative concept where software solutions actually govern the hardware and, through the FPGA technology, every firmware update actually changes the behaviour of the hardware. A 25-bit RE2R d/a processor with a Hybrid mode is also on the cards. This approach allows a high degree of flexibility and user enabled firmware and software upgrades give this product longevity rather than obsolescence. Complex up-samling (oversampling) process is run by powerful proprietary DSP algorithms with four different filter modes available for the user to choose from (linear, minimum phase, hybrid and NOS).
The Wavelight’s analogue solid-state audio signal path is fully discrete with a hefty power supply showing off totally separate sections for digital and analogue circuits. Two large toroidal mains transformers and a humongous (for this type of a component) filtering bank of over 100,000mF capacitance on permanent stand-by speak for themselves. The Wavelight DAC/Preamplifier offers five digital (SPDIF, USB, AES/EBU, I2S, optical) and one analogue input, as well as single-ended and balanced line outputs. It can also be used as a line preamplifier with one particular feature – the volume control inside the Wavelight is fully analogue, although it is controlled digitally, thus any precious data truncation and loss can be avoided. All vital controls are physically present on the sleek front panel next to a crisp and large display window. Android and Apple iOS applications are freely available for remote use of the Wavelight DAC/Preamplifier with exact replica of all the functions on the unit itself.