Pros: balanced amp and DAC, tons of power on tap, lots of outputs and inputs, remote, build quality
Cons: some issues with source switching, expense of balanced setup
Hello, I noticed there aren't many reviews of the NFB28 on Head-Fi, and as a big fan of the unit, I felt that it deserves more praise. I will preface in saying that this is the first balanced DAC and amp that I have owned, and the unit was purchased second hand from another Head-Fi member. Kingwa was gracious and allows for warranty transfers, so big shoutout for that!
The NFB28 makes a pretty big first impression with the size and weight alone. It's far more hefty than my previous amps and DACs, with a solid aluminum chassis. The potentiometer is a stepped potentiometer, and it feels great to use compared to my other analog volume pots. The satisfying click for each rotation makes it very easy to dial in the volume just right. Aboslutely nothing wrong in terms of overall construction. While it may not be as beautiful as something like the Oppo HA1, the unit is simple looking and straightforward.
The digital inputs on the NFB28 feature a USB, optical, coaxial, and I2S, while the analog in features RCA and XLR. Outputs include TRS and 4 pin XLR for headphone output, as well as RCA and XLR line out. All in all, the unit has more than enough inputs and outputs for myself. The unit can decode DSD, but my library is entirely Redbook format, so I didn't test many exotic file formats with the DAC.
There is also a cheap plastic remote that works well. You can purchase a nicer metal one, but that was not included with my unit.
My headphone stable includes the HD600, HE400i, and Alpha Dog as the main hifi trio. Most of my listening was done through the single ended input until my balanced cable supplies get in.
I was a bit worried about the sound signature of this amp, since it has a reputation as one of the smoother implementations of the ES9018 DAC. But lo and behold, I definitely don't feel like I'm missing detail compared to my very neutral O2. The bass in particular with my planars seems to be a bit more controlled in my ABX testing, but it was definitely not a scientific comparison. The highs and mids do not disappoint either, it doesn't seems like any particular part of the frequency response was compromised here.
My main reason for getting this amp was for the insane amount of power on tap in the balanced input. I have just recently made a balanced cable for my HD600, and the power difference is pretty darn huge. I'm not sure how different it actually sounds compared to the SE output, but I willl test that in the future. For now, I at least know that I have the option of going with harder to drive headphones in the future.
All in all, I'm very impressed with my first Audio GD product. It has every feature I need, sounds great and is built great. Balanced amplification may not be entirely necessary for good sound, but I figured since I wanted to get a unit with tons of inputs and outputs, I may as well go all out. In the end, this amp is a beast and well worth your consideration as a balanced amp / DAC.