DAC - Aqua Formula or Aqua La Scala

Looking at upgrading my DAC. Running an Innuos MKIII (2TB) through the DAC in the Anthem STR Pre-Amp. My pre-amp is running to an Anthem STR Amplifier. Speakers are the Paradigm Persona 9h’s.

The DACs on my shortlist at the Aqua La Scala and Aqua Formula. Any user feedback on the Formula and/or La Scala is appreciated.

Mmmmm, yummy, R2R discrete mulitibt dacs, the best for Redbook,DXD PCM. 

Just had a quick look at the specs, it seems they’ve used far higher spec’d R2R resistors for the Formula being 0.016% where the LaScala is 0.1% Also the output impedance of the buffer is a great low 10ohms, where the LaScala is 100ohms.
So go the Formula if it’s in your price range. There probably other advancements also.

Just found this also for the Formula
" The xHD update, This update has required significant optimization of code for the main FPGA of R2R ladder DAC which has improved sound quality."

Cheers George

If the DAC in the STR preamp is similar to better to the one in the STR integrated, I highly doubt you will get an audible improvement regardless of DAC. If you use ARC, then you are digitizing the analog inputs anyway, so now the ADC and DAC are active, on top of the external DAC, so that’s a lot of THD, IMD, channel separation, etc. that gets compounded through each stage, not to mention the analog inputs themselves aren’t ultra clean. You may make the sound different, but I highly doubt you will make it cleaner; and if you wanted different, just mess with ARC.
Agreed.    Reintroducing the output of either Aqua DAC into the digital domain in a budget piece like the Anthem is a bad idea.  I've heard the Formula.  It's among the smoothest and most analog sounding DACs to be had.  If you can afford it, then upgrade to a better preamp. 
You can't go wrong with either of the AQUA DACs, Formula is better (more neutral) LaScala very slightly burnished with tube rolling ability.
Worth waiting for the ARC Genesis release before changing??
Talk to Tony at Ellington HiFi. He carries Innuos and Aqua and is that rare bird, an honest and no bullshit audio dealer!
@dgarretson I've grown to hate the hifi world precisely because of people like you. Anthem STR probably with properly setup room correction probably sounds better than 95% of the so called high end systems costing $100K I've heard before.

@mzkmxcv Tell that to good portion of studio engineers that use Genelacs. I assure you, whatever you feed to a Genelac speaker with it's ADC/DSP/DAC process sound exactly like what you feed it, corrected for the room.

I'm sitting here working late in my other office, listening to Yamaha A-S1100, fed by Chord Hugo2, connected to Aerial 5Ts and the system sounds better than many of the so called high end pieces. I guess you'd consider A-S1100 to be a budget piece too.

@astelmaszek Funny, I can’t think of anyone I’ve met like me. If I did, I probably wouldn’t like him either.

The Aqua pieces are simply in a different class of performance and price than Anthem. Moreover, if you buy into the R2R construct (I do and have also compared the Formula closely to Denafrips Terminator and Audio gd) it’s a contradiction in terms to pass that through further A/D/A delta sigma conversions.

That said, these days performance at the entry level is higher than ever. I have a $1K Tascam DA-3000 whose DAC gets quite close to its big brother Esoteric K-01X, and $1k Pass ACA 1.6 Class A kit monoblocks, that within their 10wpc limitation, sound not unlike the XA-160.8.  

BTW, you have a nice well-balanced office system.

The Formula DAC!   then sit back and enjoy rather than contemplating on you should have bought the Formula if you end up with the La scala.
I’m sure the analog inputs on the Genelec are very clean.
Mi4 I think we've talked before,

We sell all of your gear including the STR preamp, and the Persona 9H and we have both the Formula and the Lascala.

We agree that the STR preamp will be a bottleneck as it is a digital preamp in order to run the room correction.

So you would be digitizing the wonderful analog sound of the Aqua. 

The Str is wonderful for the price but with the 9H's resolving quality a good tube preamp would be our recommendation then party on with the Aqua gear.

If you have any questions you know where to find us.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Anthem, Paradigm, Aqua Hif dealers
audiotroy - What Tube pre-amps are you using with your 9h set-up?
We are loving the Manly 300b preamp gigantic soundstage, great tonallity,  super organic, just extra ordinary the magic of a 300b vacumm tubes in a preamp

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Manly Labs dealers
forego the LaScala and STR combo.  Get a Chord HugoTT2 and Mscaler.  DAC direct to a 9H is leaps beyond anything you've heard.  The 7 watts from the TT2 will play the 9H to screaming loud. 
Dmance,  we would adamantly disagree with that concept. 

The Chord digital is uber clean, which is not what the Persona 9H need they need a bit of additonal warmth. We had Chord Digital for years, clean, fast, articulate but not on the warmer side of the spectrum, the Aqua Lascala or Formula are both much warmer analog sounding dacs, not as clean as the Chord Dave sound but much more analog like. 

Also the Mscaler can be duplicated with an Innous Zenith which through Roon can also upconvert as well as cross convert to DSD if your dac can handle DSD decoding, and then you will get an awesome Roon Core for the same money as the Mscaler.

We would recommend the STR going it is a great $4k Dac/preamp but not really up to the class of matching product that should be played with a speaker like the 9H. 

MI4 is using the Anthem STR power amp which is pretty good, adding a good tube preamp and then even better digital will make that system really jump up and perform.

We actually have MI4 same system Anthem gear and the Personas. we can setup any major combination.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Innous, Anthem, Paradigm Persona, Aqua Dealers

Dave and Troy,
I've been fortunate to hear a Chord MScaler+DAC combo with optical isolation on the dual coax interface. When the MScaler (and everything upstream) is on a battery and the TT2 (or even Hugo2) is on another battery you are presenting absolutely transparent dac-direct signals to the ultra linear persona 9H.
I'm single mindedly pursuing playback with zero RF noise intrusion to the DAC or amplification. When I do, any perceived brightness goes away completely.  Everything just sounds amazingly real ...and this is the only criteria to pursue in my opinion.
Dmance, you heard that combo on your system? Or somewhere else?

We have not heard that specific combo setup exactly as you’ve heard so we can’t really comment on that, the Dave which we have heard and most Chord Digital like DCS goes for speed articulation and transparency, never heard a Chord digital setup that we would say that sounds lush or rich.

Remember one persons’ transparency can be another persons too bright. So it would all come down to system matching.

We would still stick with our recommendations of going tube preamp then the choice of digital can be taken separately.

We had a client who demoed the T+A Dac 8 DSD vs the Chord Dave and was very impressed by how close the T+A Dac was to the Dave.

You should hear one if you can shockingly good digital $4,200.00 then invest in an Innous Zenith which is also your Roon Core and can upsample Tidal to DSD and you will get a very similar sound for less money and have a Roon Core to boot.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Paradigm, Innous, Aqua, T+A dealers
audiotroy - In your experience will moving to a tube pre-amp provide more benefit over losing ARC?

yes, the Anthem Str is a decent preamp and a decent dac but you can get far better results by upgrading to even better electronics.

The Aqua Hifi’s La Scala MKII Optologic DAC uses 2 ECC81 tubes in its analog section.  I was told the life of these tubes is around 10,000 hours (?).  When you are finished listening to the DAC, do you turn if off or leave it on?   What is the impact of the turning on and off have on the tubes?  Or, does the DAC have a standby feature that reduces the current to the tubes?  Please explain how this works?

How hard is it to change the tubes?   Are replacement tubes easy to find?  How do you know when the tubes need to be replaced?   

Any other comments on the Aqua Hifi’s La Scala MKII Optologic DAC?   I like the La Scala MKII DAC but, as you can see from my questions, I have concerns with its tubes.  Thanks....
@hgeifman I have a La Scala. I turn off the unit after listening. There is no stand by. I wouldn’t be turning it off and on multiple times a day, as that may shorten tube life over a long period.

It is not hard to change the tubes. You need a Hex 2.5 mm allen wrench, there are 12 small screws that hold the cover on. Lift the cover off and you have access to the tubes.

Replacement tubes are 2 12AT7 small signal tubes, easy to find. I am using Psvane new production tubes to good effect. I ordered them from Grant Fidelity.

The stock tubes in my La Scala were still going strong after 2 years, and I listen 4-5 hours a day.

Being a dealer and getting to hear them both, it is really a matter of taste. Much like fine wine or Cuban cigars. I do believe the La Scala is the bigger bang for your dollar.
Best Regards, Mike
Gestalt HiFi

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