Aqua xHD v Rockna WD SE Balanced


Moving up from Schiit Yggy. And before folks start bashing Yggy— it’s no slouch — particularly at $10k and under. I’m here to ask if anyone has experience with or has compared these 2 DAC’s. Thanks very much in advance for any/all subjective comments!
wpruett
I'm actually considering these two dacs as well. Though my top two in consideration are the Totaldac D1 Dual and the Rockna Wavedream Balanced. 

For me, the Rockna is number one on my list, as it is a true balanced dac and my system is all balanced. However, the TotalDac is beloved and reports make it sound wodnerful. I know someone who has a Formula, bit not the xHD. It sounds wonderful in his system, but I've not gotten to hear it in mine. 
Can't comment on the Rockna, but two friends and I spent a couple of weekends comparing Formula demo loaner, his Yggy and unremembered model of Meridian DAC built-in to his $10k-ish preamp. After many hours of listening, both blind and IDed, we all preferred the Aqua by a decent margin. Both well-heeled guys ended up buying Formulas and still love them. FWIW, the one who didn't own the Yggy owned an Aqua La Scala at the time, so he was already a fan of the company(with good reason, IMHO!).
If I ran into a windfall, the Formula and Bricasti DACs would be atop my list for serious consideration. Cheers,
Spencer
To me the xHD is much quieter, blacker, with a wider soundstage and better overall  grip. But It’s darker and more opaque as well and has WAY more bass.  Yggy is more open and airy. When it comes to imaging Yggy places you closer or brings everything more forward depending on your perspective. So far I liken this observation to comparing a 16x9 flatpanel (Yggy) to a 2.35:1 curved anamorphic (xHD). With Yggy everything is pretty well centered and uniform top to bottom while the xHD although having a wider sound stage seems shorter in scale top to bottom and recessed the middle. It’s really great with large format classical/orchestral although doesn’t seem to really image as well or keep pace with small ensemble jazz and rock which is where Yggy tends to shine in my system. Being a musician I liken it to the xHD being tube rectified with the Yggy being solid state. 

Just my my own subjective observations. Thanks for all the comments thus far! 

With any luck I’ll have the Rockna by next weekend :)
@wpruett,

Did you end up buying the fully Balanced Rockna? Are you located in US?

I was fortunate enough to compare this DAC in my system. Rockna has a weightier, substantial, focused and more frontal in-room soundstage than any other DAC (including AQUA xHD). It will play your recordings with utmost faithfulness and detail.
Yes getting in the fully balanced Rockna signature edition. If it’s my fav it’s not going back. LOL.
I would straight up stay away from both and either get a Metrum Pavane or an MSB Analog. Aqua is overpriced for a rolled off dac, Rockna...not sure but why bother?
Here is our take as an Aqua dealer, Aqua makes the most upgrabable digital products on the market.

If you look at a Lascala or a Formula, vs any other dac, you will see 7-8 individual circuit boards the entire unit is completely upgradable for both hardware and software most of the competition is on two-three boards.

We know of no other company whose products are completely modular and fully upgradable so if you are looking for a long term solution to non-obsolence the Aqua product is by and far in a class by itself in terms of long term satisfaction there is really nothing else in this class which is 100% both hardware and software upgradable.

Rokna does seem like an excellent unit the issue with Rockna is will they offer upgrades and stay current and how easy is it to upgrade their units and will they offer this?

There are some exciting new updates coming in the Forumla for 2019 which will again elevate the performance of the Formula, yet again.

We have a late 2017-2018 Forumula and it is fantastically musical when used with an Innuous Statement this will be one of the best sounding combinations you can get we found that the Formula is very sensitive to footers and power cords we put a set of Critical Mass Center Stage footers under the Formula and we were like wow the difference was amazing and adding a good power cord again elevated the performance yet again.

So with the Aqua how was were you using it? Which usb cable? What sever?

The Aqua is a fantastic dac and is one of the best choices for a top notch system however it requires a ton of break in 300-500 hours, if the sample you heard did not have that kind of playng time and you were using the dac on its stock footers you didn’t hear the Aqua.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
I say this with complete and utter restraint—

🤣🤣🤣

@Nitewulf you have recommended the complete other side of the sonic spectrum. I could take a photo right now of my rack and you would see Metrum Adagio, MSB Analog, Rockna Wavedream Sig Balanced, Vermeer 2. Jeff Rowland Aeris with ultra cap power supply, Stello D700, MBL 1511, and Denafrips Terminator. The last thing Wes wants is MSB Analog or Metrum Anything. Way too rolled off for his cymbals. No leading edge on either of them. But they are excellent DACs for people that like Euphonic sound. I am the seller that listens to everything so I can talk from personal experience as it's more valuable than anything. Plus I'm actually an Audiophile before anything else, this is passion for me, not a job or business plan.  So far Rockna is my Reference. Nothing can image like it that I have heard. It has a realism that's chilling. My body actually perceives another being in close proximity during vocals. Strange and fun. So about modular. I'm not sure how it's being used here but if you simply count boards everything is modular unless it's all on one board. So Rockna is modular. Most well recognized are the R2R DAC modules. 4 of them for differential operation. Differential build is twice the parts and twice the labor. Only committed companies go through that balancing act matching parts values between sides. It's a pain taking process, most companies just put XLR sockets out 
back but the circuit is single ended. Even my $22K Vermeer2 is single ended. Not Rockna with the Balanced Edition which is what Wes bought. So Rockna is behind many OEM designs. They are behind many others world class DACs. The layout of the boards and the proprietary algorithms are what separates the men from the boys. I pick my digital based on the Engineer not the mechanical features of the chassis. Nothing matters more. Gotta get back to soldering some crossover cards, I'm doing a fully active quad amp rig tonight.