Box & Accessories
For the high price you’re paying for the unit, the packaging and unboxing experience to me is very basic and not really on par with the modern and high level we see and get nowadays, even at lower price points.
You get a functional, very basic box in which you find the unit, not even a power cable but there is a manual and warranty card. That’s basically it. I would have loved to have seen a USB cable, a short pair of ICs or an optic/coaxial cable at this price point, but they’re not there. The presentation and extras at this price imho could have been better to give the unit a more luxurious feeling.
Is it important? Yes, as we pay good money for it. No, as the build quality and sound are a lot more important. But still, at this price, we do expect something fancier.
Design, Build Quality & Lay-out
The Musician Aquarius looks nice and stylish, with the same house style which we saw already with the Pegasus. The unit is quite a bit bigger now, measuring 30cm deep, 33cm wide and 7.5 cm heigh. It takes up more space on your desk or your rack, but it’s still within the normal size range, especially in the high-end segment.
The Aquarius’ body is made of metal aluminum (CNC high-precision processing) and it weighs an impressive 5,6kg and it will not budge when inserting or unplugging cables. The build quality is good and there really are no complaints here. It’s the same as we already saw before from Musician Audio and it’s simply good. The unit stands on 3 feet, Two at the front and one in the middle on the back side.
The lay-out is a bit different than before, especially on the front as this higher up model offers more functionalities. On the front we from left to right have the LEDs indicating the input source, the input selectors and the faze button. In the middle we have the power button and to its right we find the NOS, Mute and Mode buttons. Next to those we have all the LEDs for the sample rates. It’s simple, it’s stylish and easy to work with.
The back of the unit is busy, but everything is easily accessible. From right to left we have: the power socket, the AES input, the optical, coaxial and double I2S inputs. The second part are the outputs, and we have a unbalanced RCA and balanced 3-pin XLR output here. Out-and input-wise the Aquarius certainly delivers.
The burn-in time of the Pegasus – according to Musician Audio – is around 300h or one full week, which is easy to achieve. To quote Musician Audio: “Standby or Powered on 24/7 (300 hours), you will get the best performance after the enough aging hours”.
As I mentioned earlier, the unit size wise (33*30*7.5cm) is perfect for a high end unit and it will nicely fit your rack, stand or office desk.
The Musician Aquarius is a very versatile unit as it offers all the in and out puts you will ever need. Musician Audio does not recommend using the RCA and balanced XLR analog outputs at the same time, even if the units are not in use. It does work but it highly degrades the sound quality as these outputs are “shared” as it is called. It’s obvious when you’re using the unit, and you will notice right away that you can’t leave all the outputs connected when using the unit.
Musician Audio also strongly recommends using the balanced XLR outputs as they deliver the very best sound quality. That sounds reasonable and logic to me. Why would you buy a fully balanced DAC to use the RCA outputs? That said, I do use the regular RCA out as well with many of my tube amps which don’t have a balanced input (such as the Headonia and Euforia AE).
I love using and working with the Aquarius in my office setup and it is very simple to use. Where I had 3 points of criticism with the Pegasus, I only have one now, but it’s one of the 3 we saw before. It’s about the tiny LEDs on the front plate. These LEDs are so small, and they aren’t the brightest and that results in me forgetting to turn of the DAC most of the time after I have used it. But maybe that’s just me. Using the back of the Aquarius is easier as with the Pegasus as the connectors are more accessible. It’s a lot simpler to plug cables in and out now.
Input + / Input – : Press the button to select the input source, press input + to select the next, press input – to select the previous, select the corresponding input source, and the LED will light up.
Phase: Press the button to toggle Phase Output. LED On: Positive Phase, LED Oﬀ: Negative Phase
NOS: NOS Indicator light oﬀ means oversampling; NOS Indicator light on means original sampling rate
Mute: Press the button to enable/disable Mute. When mute, the Input Signal LED will be blinking from Left to Right.
Mode: The MODE button is for Filter Selection, but only under OS mode. First, press the Mute button to enter conﬁguration mode, then short press the MODE button, 2x light on means Slow Filter, 2x light Oﬀ means Sharp Filter
Digital audio signal input: Five input modes: I2S * 2, Coaxial, Optical Fiber, AES, USB. DSD1024, PCM1536 Supports on USB & I2S Input (the audio source needs to be compatible with the native interface
Note that Windows users need to install the Aquarius driver before using the unit. You can find the correct driver here. The Aquarius user manual is right over here should you need it. Do note that there is no remote control. Personally, I don’t need it as the unit is right next to me on my desk, but a remote could have been useful in a living room setup, in example.
The review continues on the 3rd page with the part on sound. Simply click here.
Page 3: Sound, Comparison, Conclusion