My interest in Mola Mola started in Oct 2020 when Nintronics loaned me the Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC streamer. I had the Chord Hugo 2 with 2go streamer at the time, but I was never comfortable, and I had an itch to scratch. It was lockdown, there was little else, and I needed a play. After a couple of weeks listening to the Tambaqui, I got Roger to order me one, and the six-week wait began.
The relaxed and natural sound of the Tambaqui, almost vinyl in character, does it so well it got my interest in the brand and their philosophy; this was the start of my Mola- Mola journey. Bob Stares at Nintronics has put together a brilliant review of this DAC; I hope in the long run to give more insight into living with Mola-Mola as a brand over the next few articles.
Bruno Putzey's, the designer behind the Mola Mola range, is a Pioneer in Class D amplification leading the camp and proving that Class D amplification Hi-Fidelity can be done. The heart of his work was the development of the NCore Class D amplifier module at Hypex. This design has become the core of Mola Mola amplification but supercharged.
The look of the Kula integrated compared to its Class A/B brethren is diminutive. Because of the efficiency of Class D, the need for 2kva toroidal transformers, monogrammed heat sinks, and supercapacitors is history. You feel cheated thinking, where's all my money gone! Don't get me wrong, it is beautifully built, but there is no comfort food here, no reassuring back-breaking weight or massive sleeve catching heatsinks. They don't even give you chunky blue VU meters!
The Mola Mola Kula has just six small chrome buttons with white LED's above and a sleek knob that selection point lights up when turned to show where you are. All are customisable, allowing you to route any input to any switch or more with the installed optional Phono and Tambaqui modules. The volume control is relay-based; the sound of those macro relays as you adjust the volume is hypnotic. The LED lights brighten to show you where you are and subsequently dim when you reach your destination just a few clicks later. It is both hypnotic and reassuring. The look is minimalist with its singular waving curve. It is beautiful yet minimal, and there is no clutter. This philosophy is reflected in the design both inside and out.
My set-up was the Kula integrated amplifier with Tambaqui Streamer DAC and Focal Sopra's No2 speakers. The interconnects, power and speaker cables are all from the Jorma Design, Unity range.
Once the equipment had a few days to acclimate, I started with Golden Earring - Radar Love (Album version). This is always a good starting point to help me settle in. The track is about the rhythm section, so seeing how good the timing is on an amp. Kick drums were precise without overpowering, subtle intermissions on each coming through; the bass had detail with the feel of Gerristen's fingers fettling the frets. Barry Hay's vocals are sweet, with plenty of subtle Dutch twang gnarling at those words. Imaging is strong; when the drum solo came in, the kit was multi-dimensional, the floor toms all having their personal space on stage. And the cymbals, oh so sweet, the Kula had controlled of those notorious beryllium tweeters just right. I was in for the ride.
Mola Mola's philosophy, "once you've removed everything that isn't the music, that what remains is the music," is starting to make sense. The equipment amplifies what is already there. There is no signature colouration from the brand; it's just black. Pitch perfect black.
When listening, you notice, there is more detail coming through; everything arrives together. The timing is perfect; drums have kick, treble is sweet. There was something else, silence, no background noise; again, the background is BLACK. The lack of background noise comes into its own to give better contrast, stereo imagery and transients.
The Sopra's are not easy to drive with their impedance dropping down to 2 ohms on lower frequencies; the beryllium tweeters are notorious for sounding brittle if not matched well, the Kula handles all of this with calm and posture.
I had to go back. Was it better than the Gryphon Diablo? Well, this is where you have to decide for yourself; many love the signature sound of Gryphon with its masses of power in reserve for bass and the all-enveloping mid-range. It is a behemoth of an amp, and you get great comfort in knowing where your money went. It is one of Nintronics best selling integrated amps. But it's no Barry McGuigan, and my money is on the little guy. Mola Mola has sold it to me; they punch hard and fast and keep cool about it, everything held with calm poise, nothing forced, nothing added, and that works for me.
Yes, I have some, fortunately, though they are minor. The LED's are very bright, and there is no way of turning them off. This makes the amp unsuitable for a Home Theatre where you need complete darkness, so the Mola-Mola kit would have to be hidden away. The remote is borrowed from Apple TV and, as such, is not refined enough to give you decent control over volume, so you may need to get out of your chair. I have been told that Mola-Mola is designing a new remote to replace this, so I look forward to seeing the result.
One note: The Mola-Mola Kula got me thinking. It is a class D integrated amp with 150 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms. How would the Makau pre amp matched with the Kaluga monoblocks sound in comparison? Roger has arranged a Makau on loan from Sound Design, and I will review this very soon, as well as a more in-depth review of the Tambaqui, including its Roon capabilities and use as a headphone and preamp.