Aqua La Scala MKII Optologic Dac Owner Testimonial

Arcadia Audio

Industry Expert
May 6, 2020
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www.aquahifi.com
Please find a wonderful and very detailed testimonial we recently received from a very happy Aqua La Scala owner....

Aqua La Scala MKII Optologic Dac

Review and overall results following 4+ months of intense listening


Contextual Notes – About the DAC:

• I did own many high-quality DACs in the past 5+ years
• The latest I was listening to and from which the comparison was done is the APL DSD-S XE DAC from Alex Peychev
• I also have a super CD Reference unit in the Esoteric X01 D2
• I have been carefully listening and testing the Aqua La Scala since early October 2020
• The La Scala has been tested using the following tubes: Telefunken 12AT7, Genelex Gold Lion 12AT7, PSVane 12AT7-T MKII, Shuguang 12AT7 Natural Sound

Contextual Notes – Test System:

• Amplifier: Pass Labs XA 30.8
• Preamp: ModWright LS 36.5 / PS 36.5 using 6H30 Reflektor Tubes from 1982
• CD: Esoteric X01 D2
• Streamer: Aurender N100-H
• Buffer: Custom Buffer B1 – Nelson Pass version
• Analog: VPI + ZuDL103 Grade 2 (plus Retip from Peter at SoundSmith) + Allnic H1201 Tube Preamp
• Speakers: Verity Audio Parsifal Anniversary
• Cabling: Top IEC, AC and Speaker cables (Shunyata, Siltech, Synergistic Research, Audioquest, others)
• Dedicated Power hooked to a Vibex 11-R Conditioner
• Entire system upgraded on Synergistic Research Orange Fuses
• Entire system sitting on specific anti-vibration, upon best results (SR Mig 2.0, Symposium Rollerblocks 2+, dedicated platforms)

Summary of my Test Notes:

Please find below a summary of the notes taken along the MANY listening sessions that took place over the last 4+ months.
The result and the conversations with audio friends resulted in having two of them buying a Aqua La Scala, following myrecommendations!
Summary of my Test Notes (after four Months):
• The Aqua La Scala is much smoother.
• Less digital.
• The tones of the instruments are more precise and much closer to reality.
• The realism of individual and group instruments is significantly increased.
• The stage is much wider, but above all, much deeper. Sometimes it feels like there is no wall at the back. It's like being in a spaceship and traveling through musical space!!!! This is what I describe, as with many reviewers, as a 'Complete dark background' or 'Black background'...
• The tops are less sibilant, softer and more textured.
• The attacks are much more precise, but without being exaggerated.
• Same results with the cymbals; the attacks with the tips of the sticks, made of wood or plastic, are much more real; we can also feel much more after-tones and overtones.
• The bass is rounder, deeper, warmer, faster and more precise.
• The mids are also softer, while being more dynamic, which is quite remarkable...! They also have a better attack and a better precision, which adds to the rhythm...
• The rhythm… AMAZING! The space (next point) created between the instruments, combined with the precision of the attacks, bring energy and flexibility to the rhythm and musical swing in a simply diabolical way... nothing less! Ihave never wanted to dance so much on my couch!
• Space = WOW! For most audio devices, space brings an analytical aspect to listening. It creates a detachment between instruments (the Nagra VPA 845 are a good example), which makes realism incoherent, and it greatly diminishes the listening experience. In the case of the AquaLa Scala, it is quite the opposite! The space created between the instruments is so flexible that it feels like each note is floating in space, while being in motion. It's really striking with the percussion and drumming. But everywhere and all the time!!!!
• Regarding details, it is the same as for Space and Rhythm. The Aqua La Scala offers even more micro details and information. But again, not in an analytical way, but to bring realism: the slackening of the hand on the neck when the guitarist changes chords, the snapping of the string on the double bass, the overtones and harmonics on the cymbals, the fine crackling in the voice and the breathing, the movement of the keys on a saxophone, etc. All of this makes the listening experience much better than the APL, or any high-expansive DACs I have been listening to, and with any digital sources heard...!
• The subtleties come and appear every day, every time you listen to a song you've listened to a thousand times...
• The rendering is much more 'Live'; you want to close your eyes so much the artist or the band are in your living room. When you close your eyes, you can touch them... from far away, just like when attending a concert!
• The voices have a more beautiful grain, more realistic and more comforting...
• Once it was broken in, with the right cables and tubes, no aggressivity; I listened to it at more than 98db with my wife, who is very sensitive, and she was completely amazed... and so did I!
• The Aqua La Scala is also not Forward. The artists are well placed and the 'Front' (Lead artist), is not too forward, but just well positioned in a slight half moon pointing forward.
• Acoustic instruments are much more real and natural.
• An image that came to my mind: it's a bit like adding 845Tubes in my Pass Labs!
• Piano: the texture, the grain of the wood and strings, the movement and the hammering, the pedalboard, the tones, the acoustics, everything is really more natural than with the APL...
• The overall dynamics, because of all the previous points, is simply amazing!
• The structure and audio signature between the Aqua La Scala and the APL are totally different. In another galaxy... We are much more engaged in listening.
• It gives shivers, tears, joy, and only happiness!!!!
• It's the first time I can compare a recording on my digital kit, in real time, with my analog kit... and I must admit that it's a disturbing!!!

Well Done !! BRAVO !!!
 
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sbo6

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May 18, 2014
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Congrats, I'm glad he's enjoying it!
 
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Addicted to hifi

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Sep 8, 2020
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Please find a wonderful and very detailed testimonial we recently received from a very happy Aqua La Scala owner....

Aqua La Scala MKII Optologic Dac

Review and overall results following 4+ months of intense listening


Contextual Notes – About the DAC:

• I did own many high-quality DACs in the past 5+ years
• The latest I was listening to and from which the comparison was done is the APL DSD-S XE DAC from Alex Peychev
• I also have a super CD Reference unit in the Esoteric X01 D2
• I have been carefully listening and testing the Aqua La Scala since early October 2020
• The La Scala has been tested using the following tubes: Telefunken 12AT7, Genelex Gold Lion 12AT7, PSVane 12AT7-T MKII, Shuguang 12AT7 Natural Sound

Contextual Notes – Test System:

• Amplifier: Pass Labs XA 30.8
• Preamp: ModWright LS 36.5 / PS 36.5 using 6H30 Reflektor Tubes from 1982
• CD: Esoteric X01 D2
• Streamer: Aurender N100-H
• Buffer: Custom Buffer B1 – Nelson Pass version
• Analog: VPI + ZuDL103 Grade 2 (plus Retip from Peter at SoundSmith) + Allnic H1201 Tube Preamp
• Speakers: Verity Audio Parsifal Anniversary
• Cabling: Top IEC, AC and Speaker cables (Shunyata, Siltech, Synergistic Research, Audioquest, others)
• Dedicated Power hooked to a Vibex 11-R Conditioner
• Entire system upgraded on Synergistic Research Orange Fuses
• Entire system sitting on specific anti-vibration, upon best results (SR Mig 2.0, Symposium Rollerblocks 2+, dedicated platforms)

Summary of my Test Notes:

Please find below a summary of the notes taken along the MANY listening sessions that took place over the last 4+ months.
The result and the conversations with audio friends resulted in having two of them buying a Aqua La Scala, following myrecommendations!
Summary of my Test Notes (after four Months):
• The Aqua La Scala is much smoother.
• Less digital.
• The tones of the instruments are more precise and much closer to reality.
• The realism of individual and group instruments is significantly increased.
• The stage is much wider, but above all, much deeper. Sometimes it feels like there is no wall at the back. It's like being in a spaceship and traveling through musical space!!!! This is what I describe, as with many reviewers, as a 'Complete dark background' or 'Black background'...
• The tops are less sibilant, softer and more textured.
• The attacks are much more precise, but without being exaggerated.
• Same results with the cymbals; the attacks with the tips of the sticks, made of wood or plastic, are much more real; we can also feel much more after-tones and overtones.
• The bass is rounder, deeper, warmer, faster and more precise.
• The mids are also softer, while being more dynamic, which is quite remarkable...! They also have a better attack and a better precision, which adds to the rhythm...
• The rhythm… AMAZING! The space (next point) created between the instruments, combined with the precision of the attacks, bring energy and flexibility to the rhythm and musical swing in a simply diabolical way... nothing less! Ihave never wanted to dance so much on my couch!
• Space = WOW! For most audio devices, space brings an analytical aspect to listening. It creates a detachment between instruments (the Nagra VPA 845 are a good example), which makes realism incoherent, and it greatly diminishes the listening experience. In the case of the AquaLa Scala, it is quite the opposite! The space created between the instruments is so flexible that it feels like each note is floating in space, while being in motion. It's really striking with the percussion and drumming. But everywhere and all the time!!!!
• Regarding details, it is the same as for Space and Rhythm. The Aqua La Scala offers even more micro details and information. But again, not in an analytical way, but to bring realism: the slackening of the hand on the neck when the guitarist changes chords, the snapping of the string on the double bass, the overtones and harmonics on the cymbals, the fine crackling in the voice and the breathing, the movement of the keys on a saxophone, etc. All of this makes the listening experience much better than the APL, or any high-expansive DACs I have been listening to, and with any digital sources heard...!
• The subtleties come and appear every day, every time you listen to a song you've listened to a thousand times...
• The rendering is much more 'Live'; you want to close your eyes so much the artist or the band are in your living room. When you close your eyes, you can touch them... from far away, just like when attending a concert!
• The voices have a more beautiful grain, more realistic and more comforting...
• Once it was broken in, with the right cables and tubes, no aggressivity; I listened to it at more than 98db with my wife, who is very sensitive, and she was completely amazed... and so did I!
• The Aqua La Scala is also not Forward. The artists are well placed and the 'Front' (Lead artist), is not too forward, but just well positioned in a slight half moon pointing forward.
• Acoustic instruments are much more real and natural.
• An image that came to my mind: it's a bit like adding 845Tubes in my Pass Labs!
• Piano: the texture, the grain of the wood and strings, the movement and the hammering, the pedalboard, the tones, the acoustics, everything is really more natural than with the APL...
• The overall dynamics, because of all the previous points, is simply amazing!
• The structure and audio signature between the Aqua La Scala and the APL are totally different. In another galaxy... We are much more engaged in listening.
• It gives shivers, tears, joy, and only happiness!!!!
• It's the first time I can compare a recording on my digital kit, in real time, with my analog kit... and I must admit that it's a disturbing!!!

Well Done !! BRAVO !!!
It’s a good thing when a customer is very happy with his purchase
 
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Emperyan

Well-Known Member
Oct 11, 2020
32
32
83
43
Did you compare balanced and unbalanced outputs of the La Scala Optologic?
There seemed to be some transformer issues leading to high distortion in the old Stereophile review of the formula when using the balanced output. The unbalanced output fared way better in this regard. Not sure if this also applies to the La Scala Optologic.
 

jriggy

Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2017
26
10
110
I have one on the way - how long of burn-in did it need?
Hi Circles, did you take delivery of a La Scala? Or any others?
Thought I’d revive this to see if there are any new la Scala owners with any new or interesting comments or comparisons…
 

Emperyan

Well-Known Member
Oct 11, 2020
32
32
83
43
I am now also using the LaScala MKII Optologik + LinQ in my system.
What I can confirm is that I don´t hear any distortion on the balanced XLR output (my concern after the review mentioned above).

Tried some different tubes in it. Did not like a Telefunken 801S and finally settled with older Mullard ECC81 from Blackburn.

I am very happy with the setup at the moment.
The LaScala does not sound tubey at all. But I like the option to give it a little more smoothness on top and midrange musicality magic with exchaning the tubes (one of my main reasons to go for the LaScala).

I was coming directly from a PS Audio DirectStream DAC (which I consider pretty laid back) and in direct comparison the Aqua is more forward. But I find the DAC + streamer combo to play in very balanced way. It´s not forward, but also not laid back - just about right.
Especially after the tube change, I would also consider the Aqua to have a very nice analog touch to it - even compared to the PS Audio. I did not like the stock tubes in this regard, though.

All in all, it´s a very natural, organic presentation. I am not missing anything, at the moment.

But I have to say that I am using the La Scala with Bayz omnidirectional speakers. So compared to conventional speakers, my impressions could be taken with a grain of salt. But I would consider the Bayz to be very revealing and they would definitely show me any kind of digital harshness or anything like that.
 
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rgmd11

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2017
148
112
175
Hi Circles, did you take delivery of a La Scala? Or any others?
Thought I’d revive this to see if there are any new la Scala owners with any new or interesting comments or comparisons…
Hi jriggy

I have had my La Scala for just over a year now, paired with my Linq, which is a marriage made in heaven, best's the T+A SDV 3100 HV that I had a couple of years back and a substantially better value proposition, the La Scala scales well with a good power cable and just recently I installed a QSA Red Fuse which took it to another level altogether, swopped the tubes out to some original Mullard M8162 CV4024 with the Gold Pins which also gave a nice incremental increase in SQ once burnt in, though I am hoping in due course to get a pair of original 60's Telefunken 802s tubes which are quite rare to find IMG_3612.jpg with original providence, next though will be a set of Revopods, I already have a set on my Linq and it settled the music down nicely, everything became more relaxed and tonal quality had a very nice uptick.

Very impressed with Aqua Acoustics, they make excellent products that don't break the bank.

Best wishes
 

Emperyan

Well-Known Member
Oct 11, 2020
32
32
83
43
Wow, I am impressed that you tested the La Scala against the T+A 3100 HV generation and preferred the Aqua. Sure, the Aqua is the better value proposition, but I would have expected the T+A to come out on top.

The La Scala uses ECC81 type tubes, not ECC82. So you would need a Telefunken 801s. But I tested it and can´t recommend. It´s like the complete opposite of a Mullard ECC81.
If you like the Mullard CV4024 late military type, then try to get your hands on some older ECC81 Mullards from Blackburn. They have the same signature, but are in all aspects the better tube. Way better top end resolution while still being smooooth. If you can´t find Blackburns, you could also go for Heerlen Netherlands production - sometimes also found as Philips Miniwatt brand.
 

rgmd11

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2017
148
112
175
Wow, I am impressed that you tested the La Scala against the T+A 3100 HV generation and preferred the Aqua. Sure, the Aqua is the better value proposition, but I would have expected the T+A to come out on top.

The La Scala uses ECC81 type tubes, not ECC82. So you would need a Telefunken 801s. But I tested it and can´t recommend. It´s like the complete opposite of a Mullard ECC81.
If you like the Mullard CV4024 late military type, then try to get your hands on some older ECC81 Mullards from Blackburn. They have the same signature, but are in all aspects the better tube. Way better top end resolution while still being smooooth. If you can´t find Blackburns, you could also go for Heerlen Netherlands production - sometimes also found as Philips Miniwatt brand.
Hi Emperyan

Yes, I was very surprised as well with what I heard when compared to my previous T+A SDV 3100 HV, though it easily out paces the LaScala with DSD files as it has its own dedicated converter, but I have very few DSD files, so not a biggie for me, I think that the LINQ probably makes a big difference as well, LINQ feeding the T+A I think would have reveaedl a very different outcome, but that boat has already sailed.

Thanks for the correction on the valves and I appreciate your advice regarding the Telefunken tubes, the Mullards I have were manufactured in the Mitcham factory, I have also read elsewhere that the Blackburn tubes are superior and much more coveted for their SQ, will certainly look into this, certainly tantalising, your description of better top end resolution while retaining the famous Mullard buttery smoothness.

Best wishes
 
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Emperyan

Well-Known Member
Oct 11, 2020
32
32
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The CV4024 are a special military type and were produced in large numbers. They are more readily available today. But the ones I have tested were significantly more mushy than all ECC81 labeled Mullards I tried. I have never had an older ECC81 from Mitcham, though, so I can´t tell for sure whether an ECC81 Mitcham would be better. But I would still assume so as Mitcham used the same Design as Blackburn for ECC81 and the Heerlen types are also relatively similar to Blackburn. Blackburn still on top of all others - for whatever reason that is.

It´s always a question of system synergy. You could test a Telefunken, but I would not recommend spending the high $$ for one unless you are sure you like it. And I doubt you would like it if the Mullards are to your taste. Btw, there are many fake Tele 801s around, so also be careful there.

Oh, and for the Aqua always make sure that you have perfectly balanced triodes. I have read that the Aqua uses different triodes inside the tube for different channels, so it´s important that they are matched in amplification factor.
 

rgmd11

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2017
148
112
175
The CV4024 are a special military type and were produced in large numbers. They are more readily available today. But the ones I have tested were significantly more mushy than all ECC81 labeled Mullards I tried. I have never had an older ECC81 from Mitcham, though, so I can´t tell for sure whether an ECC81 Mitcham would be better. But I would still assume so as Mitcham used the same Design as Blackburn for ECC81 and the Heerlen types are also relatively similar to Blackburn. Blackburn still on top of all others - for whatever reason that is.

It´s always a question of system synergy. You could test a Telefunken, but I would not recommend spending the high $$ for one unless you are sure you like it. And I doubt you would like it if the Mullards are to your taste. Btw, there are many fake Tele 801s around, so also be careful there.

Oh, and for the Aqua always make sure that you have perfectly balanced triodes. I have read that the Aqua uses different triodes inside the tube for different channels, so it´s important that they are matched in amplification factor.

Hello Emperyan

Yes the Telefunken 801's are pricey for sure, It would appear they have become mythical to some people and through scarcity, I will most certainly at some point look into maybe getting some Blackburn tubes.

Oh yes, there are a lot of fake tubes around that cleverly really look like the originals, so I am extra wary on that front, the Mullard tubes I have now were bought from Audio Valves in the UK, great communication and I believe to be trust worthy.

One of the first things that I look for is a near to perfect balanced pair of tubes when doing my research on buying.

Cheers
 
Last edited:

jriggy

Well-Known Member
Dec 4, 2017
26
10
110
Thanks for some more posts for me to read and think about here, folks! I appreciate it. I’m going to try for a demo…
 
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Backo NYC/SF

Active Member
Oct 15, 2021
49
98
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Big LaScala fan here. I’ve had mine since 2021. No tube experimentation done yet. Have been using Cardas interconnects and currently listening with the unbalanced outputs although the balanced have their own charm.
The most important thing was isolation for me. I use a Taiko Daiza isolation base and have Stein Music Super Natural Matrix feet to get the LaScala off of their stock rubber feet. Huge difference in sound stage.
My primary digital source is a Taiko Extreme server which I use as both a Roon Core and file server. I also have an Esoteric P-03 transport and a Lumin U1 Mini for streaming. The LaScala handles all of the sources beautifully.
For the record, I have no religion about what media I am listening to and the LaScala helps my digital sources really compete with my vinyl setup. It’s been a game changer for me.
 
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rgmd11

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2017
148
112
175
Big LaScala fan here. I’ve had mine since 2021. No tube experimentation done yet. Have been using Cardas interconnects and currently listening with the unbalanced outputs although the balanced have their own charm.
The most important thing was isolation for me. I use a Taiko Daiza isolation base and have Stein Music Super Natural Matrix feet to get the LaScala off of their stock rubber feet. Huge difference in sound stage.
My primary digital source is a Taiko Extreme server which I use as both a Roon Core and file server. I also have an Esoteric P-03 transport and a Lumin U1 Mini for streaming. The LaScala handles all of the sources beautifully.
For the record, I have no religion about what media I am listening to and the LaScala helps my digital sources really compete with my vinyl setup. It’s been a game changer for me.

Hi

Thats very interesting and gratifying that the LaScala can hold its own in such exalted company (very nice system you have by the way), once I fitted my RevOpods, for me too there was a very nice and noticeable difference in the SQ from the stock rubber feet once the RevOpods had settled down, though swopping the foot under the side with the inputs was a bit tricky, had to totally loosen the PCB from the chassis stand offs inside and remove the screws and locking nuts on the outside, nervous not to do any damage, but most certainly a worthwhile effort in the end.

best wishes
 
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barbz127

Member
Jun 4, 2022
55
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39
Are there any chance any current or past la scala owners have heard/compared the la scala with the msb discrete?

I had the la scala on loan for a while and loved it but bought a discrete as it came up at a silly price. There was a bit of time in between with no music and Ive always been curious how the two would have compared side to side.

I like the msb in my setup (with remains the same as when I tested it with the la scala) however the dual power chords and lack of rca outs does annoy me when I opt to change / test other items.
 

Blue58

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Jan 20, 2013
880
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Blue58

Well-Known Member
Jan 20, 2013
880
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London, UK
Oh, and in my Formula, the SR Master fuse was a jump up from the Orange.

Enjoy your La Scala
 

rgmd11

Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2017
148
112
175
I have an Aqua La Scala 2 dac. Replaced the stock output tubes with Telefunken 801s. Love the sound. Very involving musically.

Hi

Emperyan in post # 9, stated that he was not a fan, I must say everything I have read about those tubes has been very complimentary, though at the price they cost, I am apprehensive to get a pair.

But then I will always be wondering what i might have potentially missed out on.

Best wishes
 
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