Installed the new analogue board into the Formula yesterday and initial impressions are that it’s changed the character completely from Italian romance to German teutonicness. I’m hoping a few days/weeks burn in (not the 600hrs please) will bring back some sweetness though I could also play with HQP settings at a later date.
Highlights include; much larger soundstage particularly front to back, increase in dynamics, another drop in noisefloor, and more resolved bass.
Downsides, hopefully temporary; in your face vocals, less organic presentation, not quite as ‘musical’ (more head than heart).
It could also be reacting to the temporary rollerball feet supporting it.
Anyone care to comment on how the first week progresses?
I have been running in brand new Formula xHD with 2019 update 24x7 for 2 weeks. As expected, it was getting better for that 2 weeks of running in.
Then I went for traveling for 10 days and continued the run in when I was away.
When I was back from Japan (should be around 800 hours of total run in), what I listened was something really special and drastic difference.
It was not just about soundstage getting bigger, more opened sounding, more defined bass. The vocal was brought forward, separation was excellent, the presence was much better and it was like live music playing in front of you.
I believe you will get the ‘organic’ presentation with continuous playing. Not sure how long the analog board needs to run in for the best performance though.
A number of friends and customer have this dac and are very happy with it. Great sounds for the modest price point, especially when driven by a Taiko server, and is well designed and constructed. The modular build enables easy updates in the future, some by the owner without the cost and downtime of factory shipping, and it is completely reliable. Is a product which I feel comfortable recommending to my customers.
I got the scoop on the LinQ from my friends at Aqua...
First, it's still a ways off from shipping, which should be end of this year. This will give them time to create the modules people want. Yes, modules! This is a modular architecture, like their DACs.
So, right now, it can't accept external storage directly, but it might, if they come up with a module for it!
Same for a Roon Core module.
So if you have a specific need that could be addressed within the LinQ, send them your request, and let's see what they can come up with!
Aqua Acoustic Formula xHD analog output upgrade review
A bit of install tidbits: With the Formula being a modular design the analog modular output upgrade was a snap. 6 screws on top and 3 per side allow removal of the top cover. The output module sits in the back right section and attaches via 2 screws. Once removed, simply install the new module, install the cover and you're in business. Easy peasy!
I let the output module burn in for about 125 hours before this review. The dealer (Alex from Alma audio) recommended ~100 hours for critical listening with 200 hours for full burn – in. As such burn - in should be mostly if not totally complete. I'm not one to wax poetically so let's get down to it..
Upon listening to Peter Wolf’s A Cure For Loneliness I was immediately stuck by what seemed like a bit less low frequency output. However the more I listened I realized it was better bass control and more articulate bass with fewer artifacts. To 2x confirm I played one of the most notoriously challenging CDs for accurate bass reproduction - Cecile McLorin Salvant's Grammy winning, "For One To Love". On "What's The Matter Now" the floor toms appear out of the distinct right channel and with the upgrade there was less overhang, less delay yet with a bit more body, the best of both worlds. Also, the double bass was clearly less plump, if you will. There is a bass run about half way through the song, if you want to test if your ability to render low frequencies at equal loudness I highly encourage playing this track. With the upgrade the bounce from note to note was equal level per note, tight, clean, yet full bodied. Also, to a lesser degree I believe there's a slight increase in dynamics. In addition, there is more precise definition of the leading edge in mids which has the added benefit of a bit better clarity.
In summary, Aqua's modular design permits multiple upgrades that yield sonic benefits and this analog out upgrade proves worth the shillings. Most apparent is the overall better, tighter more real and slightly fuller bass with a side helping of improved leading edge transients and slightly better dynamics. Bravo Aqua!