La Spaziale Vivaldi II: I love this machine and would buy it again in a heartbeat.
Positive Product Points
I have the La Spaziale Vivaldi II . Great espresso. Great steamer. Quieter than vibrator pump machines (I owned one before). MUCH more confidence in brew temp compared to an HX machine. Yes, I read all the HX machine how-toos, and I could pull darn good shots (IMHO).... FOR MYSELF. But when company was over, or we held a party, it was MUCH more difficult with an HX machine to be sure of the proper brew temp.
Negative Product Points
La Spaziale Vivaldi II. I will be honest, and list all the negatives I can think of, but these pale compared to the Positives. The timer should be built-in, even if it raised the base price by $100. Unless you are somone that leaves it on 100% of the time, OR you are some freak of nature that doesn't want coffee first thing in the morning, you will NEED the timer. And it's a little klutzy, the way it is wired-in and being a smallish external box. Speaking of the timer, mine loses about 5 minutes a month, and needs monthly or bi-monthly time setting. The steam power is much better than my previous HX machine... but because it's a double boiler, and I have the 20A design with a 20A circuit.. I want "more"! I guess you must need a 220V 30A machine to have "zero" decrease in steam pressure while steaming... Yes, I'm a nit-picker. Speaking of wanting more, being the type that is never satisfied, and being the type that reads other people's reviews... I'm lusting after a triple basket. So, as a negative, I wish one was available for purchase. Another slight nit is that the diameter of the portafilter is smaller than I had before, so be sure to order a proper-sized tamper with the machine.
I put the meat of this review in the Positives and Negatives, I don't have much to add here... other than to say I've been pulling espresso shots at home for about 4 years.. 2-4 double shot lattes or caps, EVERY DAY I'm at home, which is close to 49 weeks a year. I'm not saying I'm an expert, but I sure know when a latte or cap tastes GREAT or not great. The coffee I use is home roasted in a San Fran SF-1LB... which I would also highly recommend to anyone. I know what many perspective buyers are agonizing about, just what I was: should I spend over $2K (remember, you need the timer) when GREAT HX machines are 1/3rd less expensive? To that I would say: if you very rarely pull multiple shots for company/party/whatever, go ahead and stick with a good quality HX. If you want to have worry-free crema-coated entertaining, go for the Vivaldi II. If you go with an HX, I would also highly recommend direct plumping the water line. It was easy for me, because we had our kitchen remodeled at the same time. The ease-of-use of direct plumping, and NO (visible!) slim build-up in a tank, is worth some effort and cost. I would like to comment on the rating of "cost vs value". One of my friends has an older single boiler machine, with a temp driven "proper brew temp light". He can and does make great espresso... so... I feel a little uncomfortable giving the Vivaldi II a 10... but when something is built very well, and performs "as advertised" and in an excellent fashion, I lean toward the higher numbers.
My personal experience with Chris' Coffee Service, both from purchasing and service (previous HX machine had a slight problem and one "how to" question on the Vivadli II) has been nothing short of excellent. I only wish they were within driving distance of my home.