“Perhaps more so than with many components, good NOS and filter-less/R2R DACS like the S3, the Audio Note’s, etc. have something different in their sound. Cheaply made bad ones just sound soft and mushy. But the good ones retain almost all the detail and precision you’d expect from a traditional well-measured filtering oversampling “modern” DAC architecture even as they tend in my experience toward a slight tonal warmth and delicacy.
After all, do I REALLY wanna know just how utterly shite that bootlegged Dylan gig from ’75 was? Yes I would; if I were re-mastering it. But to date no one has asked me to do so. As such, I am willing to sacrifice what I perceive to be some fine shavings off what can be the bitter bare bones truth of a recording for the sake of the greater musical enjoyment of all of the less than terrible ones.
Aqua’s S3 represents for me, if not a quantum leap forward from the already very musically consonant and good-at-what-it-did S2, a meaningfully, more well-rounded, improved version of same; adding to the former shades more heft, detail and dynamics as well as an improved way with timing. In other words, it’s faster, punchier and more fun!” - David Abramson/Stereo Times
Full review here