I have not compared to la Scala Optologic but I had the S2 and upgraded to the S3 last year. To my ear, it's a very noticable overall improvement in terms of level of transparent and music dynamic. However, I felt that between the S2 & S3, they are also somewhat "different" sounding. S2 is more laid-back and warmer sounding DAC while S3 is a cleaner (compartively speaking) with more details and punch DAC. Overall, I'm loving my S3.
Same here and my assessment of the differences is the same.Takes a really long time to break-in even for the upgrade but a great DAC when it does.
The La Scala is a unique beast in the Aqua line up. It is the only one of their three dacs to use tubes in the output stage.
The La Scala does throw a bigger soundstage than the La Voice series and the midrange is a bit warmer and fuller. If someone is looking for a very analog like presentation the La Scala is the better dac.
With that being said the La Voice Mk III reperesents the newer more balanced Aqua sound.
The La Voice hits a beautiful balance of having a touch of midrange warmth, a very big sound stage and a very organic flowing presentation.
THe newer MK III versions of the La Voice helps rebalance the presentation from being overaly warm and masking a bit of detail.
One of the strongest endorsements we can give is the fact that Aqua is a product you can purchase one time and be done.
There are very few manufacturers that build a product like Aqua does, most dacs are built on one to three boards, usually a power supply, a main board and a streaming board or digital input board. to upgrade you usually have to replace the main board or trade in to the newer platform.
Open up an Aqua dac and you will usually see, 8-12 separate boards every part of the dac is compartmenanized into a discrete board, power supply, analog board, digital processing, filtering, digital input etc.
We know of very few companies which offer continuous and affordable upgrades to their platforms via both FPGA and hardware upgrades.
So if you prefer a very organic dac with good resolution, superb build qualityand an ever morphing upgradable design, look to Aqua to be a once for lifetime digital purchase.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Aqua Hifi dealers
Have an S2 here, as you know, and will compare to the $1100 MHDT Orchid. That will be interesting. If the S2 is warmer and more tolerant of poor recordings vs the S3, then it might be the better dac to some. I like resolution to a point. I think too much detail kills enjoyment and musicality in many pieces of high end gear today.
I also see the $2 caps on the output of the S2 and am confident replacing these with some Duelund or Miflex copper foil caps for $100-$400 will get you more of everything including resolution and inner detail.....without becoming too detailed. These caps pass the full signal to the outputs and play a huge role sonically. This is NOT a place to skimp. No, this is a place to be extravagant! This may well be the best upgrade one could do for the money on this unit.
$1700 is a lot of money to upgrade to the S3. Yes it’s great you can do it, but it comes at a pretty high cost.
When will you be comparing the 2 DACs, and will you provide your impressions back on this thread, or create another?
Will you be doing the cap swap, and if so before or after you compare the 2 DACs?
I will compare before cap upgrade and report back!
Grannyring most people want increased resolution while still keeping a degree of musicality.
The fact that you are comparing the La Voice to the MDT is kind of silly these are two very different dacs.
The build quality of the MDT is comunsurate with its much lower price point. The Aqua S2 to S3 upgrade is hardly over priced as many of the boards are changed and you are essentially rebuilding the product to move from S2 to S3.
The very fact that you can take an older dac the S2 and convert it to the lastest from the company means that a prospective buyer can get off the dac merry go round which is necessasitated by companies making non upgradable platforms.
So yes the Aqua dac is not a cheapier Chinese made non upgradable dac and you are paying for the dac’s superior construction and modularity, there is a strong likelyhood that the Aqua Dac owner has kept the same dac for many years or will keep the dac fro many years, as the dac can always be made current, the MDT will be relegated to the dust bin of history as a newer dac of the month from China will continue to gain users looking for a good sounding product at a much lower price point.
As per swapping a $100 to $400 dollar cap nobody is using a $400 cost cap in a $4k dac, you won’t find that cost cap in a $7k dac either, the reason is simple economics a $4kish dac must cost close to $1,000.00 to manufacturer, with any supply chain each leg of the chain adds cost and increases the final price to the consumer.
Most companies today believe in having a dealer base to enable prospective customers to be able to demo and receive proper service, this is much harder for a non USA based company hence the tried and trued dealer to consumer model works well and costs of manufactuer have to be balanced, the other thing is just because you put in a really expensive cap doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the benefit of a radically much more expensive part in that circuit.
We would agree with you that changing that one cap may make a huge difference we are just saying that it isn’t guaranteed.
Christian Angnelli of Aqua is a very talented engineer if you look at their parts specified they are using some very trick parts allready.
Just food for thought.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Aqua Hifi dealers
It is not silly to compare the MHDT Orchid to the S2. Not sure why you would say that as it is simply not true. We will see which dac is best in my system. I am sure you know the Orchid has many professional and user reviews stating it bested other dacs costing more than the La Voce S2. It would be nice and very professional of you to try and open your mind beyond the small boundary lines of the products you sell. It would bolster your credibility even more, I think you are credible, as a dealer posting here on the Gon. Just a suggestion. It’s a great big audio world out there with many wonderful options beyond what you sell. It is even possible some of these options cost far less and sound as good in many ways. Right? Yes, this is possible. This is not only possible, but very likely. I like the Aqua line and they certainly are among the group of great sounding dacs to consider.
I did not say that Aqua should use Duelund output caps because I understand the realities of manufacturing costs as I am also a builder and seller in this industry. I did say the position of this part is very important and a key place to be extravagant. I do think they could have used a nicer cap costing some $20 like MHDT did. Plenty of good choices here. I will be extravagant and use the Duelund cap on the output of the winning dac.
Yes using the Duelund tinned copper CAST cap is guaranteed to lift the sonic performance of this dac tremendously. No doubt in this particular position and with the nature of the Duelund cap. I have executed too many upgrades on gear over the years to think this one is a guessing game. This one is not.
Anyway, I will honestly report back with a detailed comparison of the S2 vs the Orchid. The sound quality is all that matters here, not just the internal layout and design of the unit. Plenty of well laid out, modular constructed HiFi pieces have been bested sonically by more simplified and well executed alternatives. No single build style always yields better sonic results.
I did an initial comparison between a fully broken in Aqua La Voce S2 with upgraded current usb input board and the MHDT Orchid with 2 hours of playing time. Both dacs are fantastic. I will give a more complete comparison this weekend after the Orchid breaks in more fully. Very close call as to which one is a keeper after the first listen. Very close. The La Voce throws a bigger stage with the Orchid better than the La Voce in most other areas at this point. The Orchid sounds more nuanced with better focus and inner detail resolution. The Orchid has faster and more articulate bass. The La Voce is warmer while the Orchid is smoother especially on hot female voices. The La Voce midrange is a tad more full at this point.
I am a sucker for a large stage and thus far the La Voce has that in spades! If the Orchid opens up more during break in, then it will be the easy choice as it excels in many sonic areas.
Dali Epicon 6 speakers with greatly upgraded crossover
Clayton Audio Class A amplifier
Innuos Zen lll
sotm switch and their top of the line Ethernet cabling
BPT power conditioner
Thanks for your initial impressions, look forward to your further impressions on the weekend
The reality of this comparision is questionable, Grannyring is comparing an out of date Aqua not an S3 the newer S3 sounds very different in terms of improving the overall sound quality of the dac while still keeping the tonality and soundstaging very similar.
The point we were trying to make is that the Aqua dac is aninvestment grade dac which can continue to improve, where the MDT is stuck in time and will become obsolete while the Aqua can continue to improve.
Why don't you upgrade your S2 and then do the comparison?
If you read any of the reviews on the S3 they are all raves, the S2 did have a bit of excessive midrange color which although was very nice obscured detail.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Aqua dealers
Yes the S3 sounds better and we agree. I will post my results regardless of your agenda. The upgrade to the S3 costs hundreds more than the cost of a new Orchid. Then there are the shipping costs and not having your dac for a couple of weeks. We Agoners often buy used gear so the comparison is just dandy!
I may well end up liking the S2 more than the Orchid. The S2 is not old enough to be considered obsolete if the owner can’t or won’t afford” the S3. I sure hope not. Reviewers were singing its praise just 3 years ago.
Grannyring, you miss our point. The point is that a product like the Aqua or other dacs that are modular and are hardware upgradable represent a purchase once and done scenario.
The older Aqua S2 sounds good, the S3 version sounds far better, the case of a Dac like the Aqua is that even if it is $1,700 to upgrade the dac, it is far cheaper than selling the dac getting one half to one thirds its resale price, and reinvesting for far more money with other platforms.
As per losing the dac for a couple of weeks most Aqua dealers can rebuild a dac in a less than an hour the only thing that can take more time is loading the new firmware.
The latest upgrade to the Forumla requires swapping out one board it takes 5 mins.
Please understand the Aqua line is just one choice out of a myriad of choices the coolest thing about the dac is aside from its sound quality is the fact that Christian Angeneli is always working to improve his product and with an Aqua the owner's long term value is protected and the product can continue to develop as new technlogies are implimented into the platform.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Aqua Dealers
I agree with you on these points and do fully understand.
Well after full break in and an upgraded Western Electric Tube the MHDT Orchid bests the Aqua La Voce S2 in my system. The Orchid offers improved bass, pace, dynamics, intimacy, resolution and also has all the warmth and midrange bloom of the S2. The stage size is now on par with the S2 also.
Now I am left with the decision to jump to the S3 or stay with the Orchid. The S3 is said to be better in the same ways the Orchid is better. Is the S3 better sounding than the Orchid? Don’t know and have to spend lots more money to find out.
The Orchid can be upgraded by good DIY folks with better output caps etc...
We will see.
One final post on my work today. I installed some very nice flat stacked 2.2uf Jupiter copper foil in wax caps on the outputs of the Orchid that were already broken in. Oh my, another nice jump in performance across the board. Keeping this baby!
MHDT Orchid bests the Aqua La Voce S2 in my system
If I am not mistaken you had an Aesthetix Romulus or Pandora before. How would you rate these 2 DAC’s compared to the Romulus?
I am testing the Romulus (standard) right now but would like to try other and cheaper options as well before pulling the trigger....
@grannyring, is the Aqua S2/S3 capacitor coupled on the output. I am interested in this DAC but in general I am looking for a DAC with direct coupled outputs.
The S2 has a cap on the output. The S3 should also based on what I have read. The Orchid, as you know, also has an output cap, but it is a better sounding unit than the S2. With a few upgrades I am confident you would love the Orchid.