Aqua Formula xhd

Anyone own or have had an opportunity to listen? I’m particularly curious as to any comparisons with the DSD through bridge II and/or the Aqua la scala.

I’ve read a ton of reviews and posts on Agon, etc.—most are very positive, but just trying to get some additional opinions/data points before laying down relatively serious cash or hassling a distributor for a demo unit (if they even exist at present).

Thanks in advance,

Just an FYI, the Aqua Formula xHD is now in its Rev. 2 release.

I own both the Directstream with bridge II and the Aqua Formula xtd, fed by the Aqua LinQ network interface.

They are both excellent DAC’s and they have a similar sound signature, in my opinion. Very musical, great texture and tone.

The Aqua is a bit more refined, neutral and quieter. The combination with the LinQ is superb - reference quality. But, the SQ comparison between the two DAC’s is much closer than the price delta.

I think Ted Smith is a fantastic engineer/designer and a great guy, PS Audio is a solid team and I plan on upgrading to the DS MK II, with the Air Lens streamer, when it comes out. That will likely give the Aqua pair a run for their money.

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High praise, indeed.

Welcome to the dungeon…I mean forum.


Welcome @Robelinks !

Thanks. Your response is super helpful. The more I see about the MKII and Air Lens, the more excited I am about those products and their functionality (I think it is a given that they are going to sound fantastic and having the great PS Audio customer support is also a huge plus in my book).

Honestly, I could live with the DS MK I forever and be perfectly content (other than its lack of wifi/airplay capability, which will be offered by the Air Lens or easily solved by a standalone streamer). This is particularly true given the diminishing returns (as you noted) in going up the ladder (no pun intended) cost-wise.

It’s probably not a coincidence that what attracted my interest in the Formula were the descriptions of its sound, in terms which I found very similar to my thoughts on the DS. Not sure why this hobby/obsession lends itself so much to the “this is great, but could it be better?” mentality. I don’t have that with anything other than my audio systems.

For me, it’s a choice between (1) an expensive new DAC/Streamer for my main system right now (supply chain gods willing) or (2) waiting on the DS MK II/Air Lens for the main system and using the money saved for a significant upgrade my office/headphone rig (which is about 30% of my listening time) using my current DS as the source.

Your upgrade dilemma sounds exactly what I was going through. I didn’t want to just get “different” for the sake of a change. I don’t really change my gear, once I find a good fit. I’m not a car, boat or watch guy - this is my only incurable obsession (I Think?!?).

I’m blessed with being able to have two good systems and needed another DAC. I wanted the TSS DAC for my reference system, but the wait for that seemed like it might be too long.

The Aqua Formula with the LinQ is an end game DAC for my main system. I just don’t get the “hummm, I wonder if this could be better?” Thoughts with it.

If the DS MKII and Air Lens are not too expensive, they will be end game for system 2. Otherwise, I’ll be happy with the DS I. It’s a very good DAC, but I think the tech has moved along and getting the streamer in a stand alone, galvanically isolated chassis will really up the DS game.

BTW, I liked the pun. You gotta have a sense of humor to be into this crazy hobby.

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Your statement about the Aqua and not having any thoughts about whether it could be bettered is certainly high praise.

Edit: Meant to ask, is there any genre of music where you think the Aqua is a particularly good fit or not a good fit?

While I’ve listened to a number of different DACs in dealer shops and at shows, I’ve never had the opportunity to listen anything other than PS products in my current setup (first the DS Jr and currently the DS). It’s a constant theme that the DS “punches above its weight,” but I have no real frame of reference because I’m left to wonder with other DACs (when listening outside my systems), whether I’m hearing the DAC, the amps, the speakers, the room, etc. It’s likely “all of the above”

Of course, this is easily remedied—just get a couple of demo units to try out (but I have this weird guilt thing about trying but not buying/buying, trying and then returning) or just bite the bullet and understand that I will take a loss in the secondary market if decide to sell.

I always tell my SO that it could be worse, I could choose to spend $50k/year on a CC membership (if I was a golfer) or $10k/each on a collection of road bikes (if I rode). At least with home audio, I am around and available to take out the garbage when she yells at me for it.

I would suppose there are “better” DAC’s out there, but the Aqua is end game, for me. It’s good enough for me to not be willing to search for more, probably at a prohibitive price point, that I could rationalize buying.

I listen to a lot of Jazz - piano trios and horns. Rock, pop and female vocals. Classical gets its time on the system. Everything sounds good, to me. It plays electronic and shoe gaze very well too.

It’s hard to demo gear these days and I’m with you, I just can’t demo something at home, unless I’m going to buy it. I hope I’ve helped and not just muddied the waters.

Thanks again. Your responses and thoughts have been very helpful.

Also, it’s refreshing to see someone make an unsolicited reference to shoe gaze. Will need to listen to some Ride this evening…

I’ll check out Ride. I listen to Washed Out, Rhye, Tycho and Bonobo, to name a few.

I thought about your value proposition question:

Buy the Aqua or keep the DS MKI or/and wait to upgrade to the DS MKII and Air Lens (if needed), and I’d probably wait and pocket the cash. I think once PS Audio separates the two functions and Ted Smith puts his secret sauce in the MKII, you are likely to have a different, not better comparison. His secret sauce is really tasty!

Happy listening.