"With the original La Scala 2 being one of my two reference converters and the top deck in contributor John Darko's DAC index, exploring audible space beyond it seemed, truth be told, a rather tall order. How much room was there left for improvement? What ungodly reference gear would it take to hear it? As it turned out, the Formula delivered a demonstrable lead with €6'500-class ancillaries like a Pass Labs XA30.8 or pair of Zu Audio Druid V speakers. If you're an audio aboriginal who goes deep walkabout into gargantuan soundstages to cherish size, scale and utmost specificity about recorded space, this Italian formula has your number. But it's not merely about the usual 3D markers and how precisely and widely spaced they are. It's about an added dimension. That accesses the emotional mood or climate of the playback scenery. Whilst costlier decks came through earlier, none of them did it at that potency. Granted, to fully matter relies on superior recordings. Lesser or purely synthetic efforts reveal that they lack that particular magic. Finally there's this peculiar easy-digital aspect as though your brain's usually active aural processor went on holiday because it's not needed. As such, I must highlight Aqua Hifi's Formula with one of our sparsely administered awards. True, it's serious money. But it's seriously well built. And it delivers very serious performance. Yet all this multi-stage seriousness melts away when one is faced by such deep holistic listening satisfaction. That's what the 'high' in hi-end should be all about. Cachet, pride of ownership, resell value and bling to impress the ignorant with all factor. But they pale to nothing against delivering the actual experience. The Formula does. So it pays to study its recipe in detail. It really is something else."
"Back in March 2014, Aqua Hifi’s visually unassuming La Scala MKII D/A converter not only took out a DAR-KO Award but landed pole position on the Darko DAC Index, beating out contenders from AURALiC, Resonessence Labs and PS Audio....
In other words, the most satisfying DAC heard by yours truly to date just got significantly better. Modularity coupled to a manufacturer upgrade programme brings owners of existing La Scala MKII in from the cold (should they wish to).
In its Optologic incarnation, the La Scala MKII cements further its position at the very top of the DAR-KO DAC Index and DAR-KO Award assignation becomes as easy as it has ever been. In a word, primo!"
"While I'm not quite ready to sell my analogue gear, La Scala MkII is a fantastic product whose warm sonic embrace I can't imagine anyone in their right mind describing as "digital". It does have a sound though: It's wonderfully musical, inviting, enveloping, and entrancing."
"But not only existing customers profit from the additional efforts that Aqua has invested in La Scala, because even those who do not yet own one of the noble Ladder DACs can be convinced by the Italian qualities." (TRANSLATED)
It's testament to Cristian Anelli's customer support ethos that the now middle model in their converter line benefited so rapidly from the R&D behind the flagship Formula and its FPGA-controlled discrete resistor ladders. It's a very concrete benefit of Aqua's modular approach. Existing owners get to enjoy the company's IP advances without the usual sell/buy routine. Keep what you already have; bolt on real not cosmetic go-faster mods as they release. Anti obsolescence protects your valuable hifi investment with more current tech. Especially with fast-moving digital, the Joneses relocate a lot. Keeping up with them requires eyes glued on the ball. Aqua's policy doesn't drop it. That deserves applause. An already widely accoladed converter just became even better. It's a most excellent place to invest your next upgrade grand into!
"Yes, LaScala slightly boosts intonation, yes, it feels it, it's his own enthusiasm, but if you want that very not-conveyed "attracter", then this is one of the most vivid examples of such an approach in the High End. Practically exemplary implementation of the music, in combination with the overall high class of reproduction. My best recommendation." (translated)
Aqua | Horns | Kondo en Barcelona "sorprendentemente analógico sistema de lectura digital, del que en más de una vez tuve dificultades en saber si estaba sonando en lugar del giradiscos. Probablemente, es lo mejor que se puede decir de un reproductor digital: increíble musicalidad, que me sirvió para añadir una característica más al sistema, su total ausencia de fatiga auditiva."
"Although at times I have been tempted by the extra refinement and unbeatable purity of NOS, filterless DACs such as the Mosaic, Metrum and some other designs, ultimately I always came back to the Wadia and later the Bricasti, mainly because they simply had more conviction, more drive, more dynamic power." "The great thing about the Formula xHD DAC is that it offers unprecedented purity and all the advantages of the aforementioned R2R designs and adds to this all the dynamic power and drive that I could ask for, while totally avoiding imposing any character onto the sound." "But in the end all the technology in the world means nothing if it does not distil into great sound. Fortunately, after having heard the Formula xHD DAC, I can testify that this DAC is truly magnificent!"
Mono and Stereo Formula xHD update REVIEW PART ONE
"The Xhd upgrade brings quite a substantial step up in transparency and density, where both micro and macro details are forming a new experience. Have no worries, the "new" translates to positive. There are simply more pieces of information and cues coming through the digital veins of the updated Aqua Formula Xhd DAC."
"Acoustic Quality Formula Xhd DAC has now climbing up the ladder and reaching out to a plane, where the realism is more closely mimicking the real thing. Such, exhibited performance is is usually reserved for the bigger and more expensive "players", so this alone makes a Formula Xhd DAC a serious contender at a sensible price."
Christiaan Punter of HIFI ADVICE: “WOW”, this is a seriously great DAC!
The Absolute Sound: The best sound at CES
"The best sound at CES-indeed one of the best sounds I’ve heard at a trade show- undoubtedly came from the big, $191k, three-and-a-halfway (two 1" diamond tweeters, two 7" Omega 7 midrange drivers, and two 11" Nomex-Kevlar woofers in a D’Appolito configuration) Kharma Exquisite Midi Grand Signature floorstanders, driven by Lamm Industries’ ML3 Signature monoblock amps, LL1.1 Signature preamplifier, and LP1 Signature phonostage, sourced by a TechDAS Airforce 1 turntable (with SME 3012-R tonearm and Clearaudio cartridge) and an Aqua La Diva transport and Formula xHD DAC, and wired by TchernovCable. Housed in a large room on the 35th floor, this sensational system was spacious like nothing else at the show-and gorgeous like nothing else at the show, producing a supremely beautiful sound wherein everything was in balance, everything was exquisitely defined (though not over-controlled), everything was imbued with lifelike bloom and color.... it was worth coming to Vegas just to hear this system. "