Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, Fore Audio DAISy1, COS Engineering D1, Aqua Hifi Formula, AURALiC Vega
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, F5, F6, F7; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund/Job 225; Linnenberg Allegro monos; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €3'760

No man left behind. This motto promises that wounded or dead, an army won't abandon any of its soldiers on the ground. If we replace man with customer and military with Italian company Aqua Hifi, hifi general Cristian Anelli has always worked to the same motto. In the face of constant flux, his battle plan centres doggedly on extreme modularity. It means that the various functionalities of his D/A converters spread across individual boards. As tech progresses, any of them can be upgraded. It's no longer the customer's investment that's left for dead. It's built-in obsolescence. With due apologies for such bloody imagery, given today's pricing of top DACs and how quickly this sector changes, anything that's not fully modular is really inexcusable.

For customers of AQ's entry-level La Voce model, this year's launch of the S3 boards and modifications mean that existing units running on the original BurrBrown PCM 1704K dual-mono chips can be upgraded to fully discrete in-house designed R2R operation. Enter the new P608 FPGA/decoder board; the new P607 R2R ladder board [right]; the new P901 USB board recoded with new firmware; hardware mods to the main P601 board; and hardware mods to the I²S/USB board P603.

This connects the €3'760/€1'460 (new/retrofit) La Voce S3 to the very same design DNA as the above €6'780 tubed La Scala Optologic and €13'670 Formula xHD models. A custom-coded Spartan 6 FPGA data manager renders them PCM384/DSD128 compliant (768/256 for the range topper); and none drive commercial silicon but instead, Anelli's very own switched discrete resistor ladders at different degrees of complexity. Given the cited very extensive changes to the S3 revision, existing La Voce units must obviously be upgraded at the Milan factory.

Cristian Anelli's bench.

Preinstalled or retrofitted, with the S3 revisions Aqua Hifi's La Voce becomes one of the more affordable dealer-supported discrete R2R machines made in central Europe.

... to be continued...

Aqua Hifi website