When it comes to other upgrades available on the GA platform, they range from upgraded input and output capacitors to an upgraded tube-regulated power supply, upgraded clocks for both the 44.1 and 48kHz families of frequencies, upgraded connectors and even upgraded footers. Whatever Mr. LampizatOr could upgrade, he did using the knowledge gained during the development of the Golden Gate. It's not simply a long list of boutique parts but carefully selected components which sound great together. For a price halfway between base and GA, the Atlantic Plus delivers the tube-regulated power supply which LampizatOr believes delivers the greatest audible benefit without the KR-sourced regulator and it also leaves out all the other tweaks including the high-precision clocks available as options for €300 each. Describing all options and their pricing would take pages but LampizatOr's own website offers a great price calculator for your very own configuration.

Since my system is all single ended and I tend to favour integrated amplifiers over DAC direct into power amplifiers, I selected a single-ended Golden Atlantic without volume control and I chose to leave the pricey DSD512 option out since there is no such material available to download today and I hear little gain from DSD128 to DSD256 so expect even less going from DSD256 to DSD512 - never mind that my current file server does not support the format. I also included LampizatOr's own Silver Shadow €400 USB cable to make sure I listened to the GA as its designer intended.

Starting on this journey to select a new DAC, one thing became quickly apparent. Every time I was listening to various DACs, I had a very favorable emotional reaction to R2R implementations of various types over the enjoyment I got from even the better off-the-shelf delta-sigma chips. R2R always sounded more fluid to me, equally involved and resolved but somehow with less undesirable tension. Of course a few 'chipped' implementations like the Gryphon Kalliope grabbed me just as intensely but none were in my budget. It seems R2R is the next fashion statement and many brands are jumping on the bandwagon but I narrowed down my choices to three brands that have been championing the technology before it was fashionable. I wanted very badly to include MSB Technology's Analog DAC on that list but they never answered my emails so on I moved.

First on my short list was the much praised Aqua HiFi La Scala Optologic since its bigger brother Formula would reach deeper into my wallet than intended. A trip to Chicago to sample the fare confirmed just how accurate Srajan's description of its sound was. I was greeted with the highest dynamic capability of all my options, superb drive and nicely saturated tones that provided excitement without stress. Unfortunately PCM playback was not my only assessment factor. I have been building my collection of high-quality DSD transfers from classical music tapes of the 1960s and 70s. Those files downloaded from High Definition Tape Transfers showcase where DSD truly shines: treble finesse, relaxation and capture of the most subtle incidental cues. As always those digital files will never be better than the original material but there are vaults full of amazing Classical and Jazz recordings on tape, many of which have never been released before or such a long time ago that they are as good as forgotten. HDTT brings them back to life beautifully. Unfortunately that's where I found the La Scala somewhat disappointing. DSD through it sounded outstanding like PCM; exactly like PCM. The conversion from DSD to PCM which the DAC performs completely eliminates any difference between formats. Everything sounds like PCM. If you don't own or value DSD, look no further. The La Scala is simply outstanding and priced very competitively for its performance. If you want to retain the unique traits of great DSD file playback however, then the La Scala simply won't deliver. That does not mean DSD through it sounds bad. DSD sounding exactly like PCM was simply not what I was after.