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NuForce Icon HDP (High-end Headphone Amp, USB DAC, Preamp)

94% Positive Reviews


Pros: Outstanding 24/96 USB section, sleek form factor, great price to performance, clear and detailed sound signature, fast, synergy with Sennheiser HDs

Cons: Might not go well with bright cans

I purchased the Nuforce Icon HDP along with Sennheiser HD 650 headphones as my first desktop setup about six months ago. I'll start off by saying that the HDP has been a fantastic purchase that I am thrilled with and enthusiastically recommend, especially as a starter desktop setup.


The HDP has loads of power and easily drives my Sennheiser HD 650s and other high impedence headphones such as AKG 701 with lots of headroom to spare. This is an awesome attribute for a unit at this price point as it will have ample power for almost any headphone on the market, regardless of price. With my Sennheiser HD 650, I usually listen from 11 am to 1 pm on the dial and never go past 2 pm. It absolutely drives them authority and tons of power to spare.


The HDP offers a sound signature that is very clear, transparent, detailed, fast, neutral, and with a nice sense of overall polish and refinement to the sound. My previous Dac/amp prior to HDP was the very popular portable Ibasso D10. The HDP was a very significant improvement over the D10 in all areas. The HDP seems to pair especially well with headphones that are bass heavy and not bright, such as the Sennheiser HD series and Denon AHD series. It specifically does a great job of really tightening up the bass on these headphones, which can be a little boomy or loose on many other amps. With the Sennheiser HDs especially, it also helps give them that extra detail and speed they can oftentimes be missing. The HDP is also a really nice combo for the AKG 701/702 as it really gives them extra bass weight. 


One area that was a huge bonus for the HDP compared to other popular units in its price range is the fact that is has an outstanding USB section that supports full 24/96 high resolution music files. I regularly download high resolution albums from HDTracks and play them over my laptop via USB and they are very noticeably better than standard 16/44 regular cds. I have tried comparing the HDPs USB section with its coaxial and optical inputs on numerous occasions and have never been able to discern any differences, which is high praise for the quality of its USB section.


Since having purchased my HDP, I have attended several local meets and have auditioned gear much more expensive than it such as Woo Audio WA6, Beta 22, Bijou, Eddie Current ZDT, Supra, etc. While the really high-end gear does exceed the HDP--most noticeably with larger soundstage--the price to performance ratio of the HDP compared to any of these more expensive units is just phenominal. No matter how high-end of gear I audition, I am never disappointed going back to my HDP. My HDP has helped me to content with my gear and focus on my music collection. While I will likely upgrade to higher end gear over time, I am truly enjoying my HDP in the meantime and am in no rush to upgrade any time soon.


Pros: Versatile, Small Size, Acceptable Performance

Cons: Amplifier is not powerful enough, Poor design, DAC sound is treble accentuated

I owned the Nuforce HDP for two months, I tried it with several headphones ranging from the 600 Ohms DT880 to the 300 Ohms Senn HD600 and HD650 and 62 Ohms AKG K702. Actually I wasn't impressed that much. I didn't feel that the amp had enough juice to drive any of the headphones mentioned above, and the DAC had too much emphasis on treble which seemed too exaggerated and unnatural to my ears. When listening to several audio tracks and in comparison to Headroom's Ultra Micro DAC I heard distortions in the upper highs that never showed in the Ultra Micro. The imaging and accuracy of the UM DAC was far beyond the reach of the HDP, but on the other side, the HDP performed better than my Marantz CD5004 regarding clarity and detail. The best sound I got from the HDP was from the Marantz CD player connected by coaxial/ optical connection. But USB connection sound quality was thin, harsh and lean. 

The volume knob is made of cheap plastic and sometimes I heard static when moving the knob between 1 o'clock and 3 o'clock. On the other side, the HDP is very small size, very portable and it has many connections on the back which makes a great versatile unit for many purposes.

So all in all it is not a giant killer. It doesn't function as good as DACs or Amps double or triple the price, but you get what you pay for. A $200 DAC and a $200 Amp no more, no less.



Flat out, it's the best piece of audio gear I have purchased in my 2 1/2 year long audiophile career.


My previous DAC was an M-Audio Fast Track Pro run to an external amp, so that will be the standard by which I judge the HDP.  There frankly is no comparison between the two.  The HDP's internal DAC is world class compared to the Fast Track Pro.  It is extremely accurate without any coloring of the sound.  Separation and sound stage/placement is very well produced.  I get the impression that I am listening to exactly what the mastering engineer intended me to.  I am starting to notice how awful some of my recordings are, this DAC will show flaws in music like nothing I have listened to before.  On the flip side, I'm picking up sounds from recordings that I have never noticed before.


The amplifier was what surprised me the most about this device.  The HDP has a pretty small footprint on my desk, especially when propped up with the supplied hard rubber stand.  Because of its demure stature I wasn't expecting the amp to be great, but it is!  In fact I have just come to notice that Jan (from Meier Audio) actually re-sells the HDP on his website - I am imagining because he's currently missing a small desktop Amp/DAC from his product line (not to mention it's a great Amp/DAC).  This amp pushes my Senn. HD600s with absolute ease and I am no where near 50% of the max volume level for average listening (maybe 60-65% if I'm getting carried away).  This amp has great attack and great punch and is very analytical compared to other amps I have listened to.


I think that long-term I may acquire a tube amplifier to connect to this world class DAC for when I want a warmer, more laid back sound signature, but in the meantime the HDP has found a very happy home on my desk.  For $450, if you are just starting out in the Desktop world I highly recommend this device.


Equipment used for my review:


PC & MediaMonkey (FLAC and 320 MP3)  ::  Nuforce Icon HDP  ::  Sennheiser HD 600


Pros: compact and affordable all-in-one DAC/amp and preamp

Cons: bright, analytical sound signature

After reading some glowing reviews, I decided to give the HDP a go.  I needed a compact and hassle-free solution for my work rig, and one that could drive any headphones I decided to bring to work with me (including the difficult-to-dive 600 ohm beyerdynamic cans).


After receiving the HDP, I was impressed with its looks and build quality.  Even the packaging and branding were pretty sleek.


However, it was upon powering up the device when my impressions started to turn for the worse.  The HDP is, to my ears, a pretty nice source paired with a somewhat bright and not exceptionally powerful headphone amp.


The DAC section of the HDP is nice, but perhaps a bit on the analytical side.  It is detailed and wide open sounding.  The headphone amp section of the HDP, however, I found a bit bright for my tastes.


I found that using EQ to roll off the treble gave me the sound I was looking for, but the nagging feeling remained that I could find another amp to more suit my needs...


If I were using the HDP as a DAC only, I perhaps would have kept the unit, as it was a nice sounding source.  However, i bought it to perform both DAC and amp duties, and as such it was a slight disappointment for me. 


All this is not to say that different folks may not like the product.  But I, for one, found its sound signature was not exactly to my liking.  Functionally, and otherwise, it was more than fine.


Pros: excellent connectivity, USB, SPDIF, analogue out, headphone out

Cons: not really portable desk

This is an all-around terrific value for what it does very well and transparently.

I'm listening to 200-hour burn Senn HD600s with cardas cable upgrade.


The headphone amp is dead quiet at full gain, super clear, and uncolored.  It delivers transparent, super quick transients and crispy detail without fatigue or pooling in any particular frequency.

The Analogue outs go into my NAD C553BEE for a deep and fully detailed stereo experience through my KEF 103.2s. 

As a Headphone amp it works without any fatigue, noise, coloring, or mud in the guitar samples.

percusion, Cajón, tabla and deep african drums are accurately and clinically deep without any smear and harmonic concomitance.


You can connect it to an MBox 2 via spdif and monitor your session on Protools.

The headphone gain is characteristically clean and unfettered at its limits.  You get more music without anything extra.  Separation, placement and colored trademarks of each instrument are heard and felt with uncanny sharpness and definition.


I will comment after another 100 hours of burn time.

Love the simplicity and starkness of a well-designed device that sounds so good.


Ordering with Nuforce online was smooth and trouble -free. 



Pros: Excellent pre-amp, headphone amp and dac for a great price

Cons: Nothing I can think of

After having a few dacs and amps , I wanted an all-in-one package that would leave me happy for a very long time. The size of this thing is small and portable which is an added bonus. I didn't like dealing with interconnects with amps and dacs so this thing was a blessing.


I only owned a handful of amps but I compared this Meier Corda Arietta and from what I was hearing out of my RS1 was better attack and speed. It is not as warm as the Arietta but for me this is a good thing. The transparency and soundstage depth is improved over the Arietta as well. I felt the HDP amp is a better match for my RS1 than the Arietta. If there was one thing that I wished it could improve on would be the width of the soundstage but this is minor for me since my AD700 already offers a huge soundstage.


I did not get a chance to compare with my other DACs since I sold them all betting that the HDP would triumph them all . Clearly it does not disappoint when I received it.


There is no hissing on my unit with my AD700 and RS1. The unit runs cool all day and never gets hot, but lukewarm leaving it on 24/7.


Overall I'm impressed by the price and the features of the HDP, it's hard to find anything with all the features at the same price. I feel as an headphone amplifier, it could very well be worth the entire price of the HDP at $449 but Nuforce managed to fit an excellent DAC packed with features all for the price of one. Like some have already said, this entire package offers a lot of bang per buck.


My first headphone amp. No experience with others, so my impression of this one is in comparison to regular output from MP3-players and receivers. With this in mind I still feel the value is high (even though I realize I need to spend some time with other amps in order to justify my praise to this one in particular).


I'm very happy with the HDP.

Price paid 3879SEK(VAT excluded) ~$500



Pros: Small size, relatively portable, enough power for most low-mid end headphones, versatile

Cons: Can be harsh, funny volume pot

Awesome, buy it now.


Tested with K701, DT990 Pro, DT880 600, HD650 and HFi-2400's.


Pros: good sound, compact, functional

Cons: nothing special

I like this unit as it delivers much possibilities for not a big price. Besides  an excellent amplifier, it has a modern DAC, separated digital and analog power lines onboard. Well done.

NuForce Icon HDP (High-end Headphone Amp, USB DAC, Preamp)

The Nuforce Icon HDP incorporates a full-speed USB DAC and full-function S/PDIF D/A converter, plus a headphone-amplifier circuit and preamp output. Supporting digital USB, S/PDIF in coaxial and 3.5mm optical (3.5mm) modes, along with an analog line input, the HDP's flexibility has been designed to accommodate all manner of audio devices. Icon HDP is expected to compete with other DAC and preamp costing up to several times its price and serve as the heart of a high performance audio system.

FeatureLow-distortion, high-current headphone amplifier
Height4.5 inches
Length6 inches
Weight1 pounds
Width1 inches
LabelNuforce, Inc
List Price$449.00
ManufacturerNuforce, Inc
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
PublisherNuforce, Inc
StudioNuforce, Inc
TitleNuForce Icon HDP (High-end Headphone Amp, USB DAC, Preamp)
Special FeaturesWeight: 1 lb
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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