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Audio-gd NFB-10SE Thread

post #1 of 197
Thread Starter 



I just received my Audio-gd NFB-10SE today in the mail.  It arrived via DHL safely and without a scratch.  Build quality is better than my NFB-12.  It is a nice looking, well put together piece of equipment.


Here are some pictures:


Device Driver Installation


























I am not going to try to do a marathon review at the moment until I have time to compare it to my MKVI+, Lyr and NFB-12.  Initial impression seems to be a little less colored compared to my MKVI+ (pretty tubey sounding with the Tungsol VT-229/5998 combo), makes my LCD-2 Rev1 sound closer to LCD-2 Rev 2, aka a little less bottom heavy and a little crisper/cleaner in the mids highs.  It is a slightly more reference sounding setup.  I need more time to compare it to the Lyr and NFB-12 still.  


What I hope to accomplish is

NFB-12 vs. NFB-10SE directly both from USB

NFB-10SE DAC driving the Lyr  and compare the two (Lyr vs. NFB-10SE amp) from USB

NFB-10SE DAC driving the MKVI+ (balanced) and compare the two (MKVI+ vs. NFB-10SE amp) from USB


If I have time I will compare the USB to SPIDF on just the NFB-10SE.


So far it has more than enough power for LCD-2 out of the Balanced port in low gain.  This amp would do a good job with HE-6 in high gain, no question.  I am having issues telling apart the different filter settings but this is only with 5 mins or so of listening. More to come later tonight.

Edited by LiqTenExp - 9/26/11 at 3:58pm
post #2 of 197
Thread Starter 

NFB-10SE vs. NFB-12


SE 1/4" port (for a fair comparison)

Both in high gain

Audio-gd Filter 6

11 o'clock on the NFB-12 and 22 on the NFB-10SE (for reference in case I want to compare them again)

Both fed via USB using their internal DAC



LCD-2 w/Norse Audio cable



Rush - Moving Pictures (96kHz/24)


NFB-12 sounds pinched tighter in overall sound stage.  The NFB-10SE has better instrument separation and staging.  The NFB-12 seems to push everything more forward and tighter in the center. Highs are better defined on the NFB-10SE, they aren't louder just better separated.  Example would be cymbals are better defined from the rest of the drum kit and allowed to shine.  This is a clear audible difference, definitely anyone could pick this out. Bass drum seems tighter.  Geddy's voice is more defined/cleaner, even the effects (echo on his voice) even is pulled out better.  NFB-10SE is the clear winner here.  No brainer to me, NFB-10SE > NFB-12.




Lyr vs. NFB-10SE


SE 1/4" port (for a fair comparison)

NFB-10SE in high gan 

Lyr w/IEC Mullard ECC88/6DJ8 NOS

Audio-gd Filter 6

11 o'clock on the Lyr (variable output still set on NFB-10) and 22 on the NFB-10SE (for reference in case I want to compare them again)

Fed via USB using NFB-10SE internal DAC



LCD-2 w/Norse Audio cable



Rush - Moving Pictures (96kHz/24)


Sound stage is similar, maybe an edge to the NFB-10SE.  Instrument separation is equivalent.  Snare drum has a little extra energy/kick to it on the NFB-10SE (probably Mullard tube).  Geddy's Voice is a little more forward on the Lyr.  Both are awesome and can't really find a fault in either that the other improves on.


Switched over to: 

Dream Theater - Images and Words/Octavarium (flac 44.1kHz/16)


I am trying to ignore tonal differences due to the capability of the Lyr to swap tubes.  I am having a hard time again finding something one does better than the other to a point where I can reliably find it song after song.


Switched over to: 

Five Finger Death Punch - War is the Answer (flac 44.1kHz/16)  


Same issue, both sound great.


Switched over to my Denon AH-D5000

NFB-10SE in low gain

Lyr @ about 11:30 on the volume (due to NFB-10SE in low gain)

Lyr will hum a little with these tubes and very low impedance of the Denons.  32 ohms is the minimum rating for the Lyr and that is what the Denons are.  No hum on the NFB-10SE.  I know going to the stock JJ will clear this up slightly.


Switched over to Joe Satriani - Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards (flac 44.1kHz/16)  

On the Lyr, similar to the lyrics on rush, the guitar is a little more forward/pulled out.  I wouldn't call what the NFB-10SE is doing with it wrong, it sounds a little wider across the two channels and therefore feels less pulled out.  I am not sure which sounds more natural to me at the moment, I think I like the presentation the Lyr does better.


What you have read above is literally my impressions while listening just flowing out.  Please excuse the lack of formality.




NFB-10SE vs. LD MKVI+ (both running out of balanced XLR 4-pin ports)

NFB-10SE DAC feeding itslef and the LD MKVI+ via balanced cables


Filter setting: 1



LCD-2 w/Norse Audio cable



Rush - Moving Pictures (96kHz/24)


NFB-10SE is a hair brighter.  I wouldn't mark the MKVI+ down any points for this.  My tube selection promotes that kind of tonal balance.  I hear kind of what I expected...  The NFB-10SE is a little crisper/snappier sounding in the drum set and strumming sounds. The MKVI+ is warmer and tubey sounding across the board.  I appreciate what both do, I can see wanting a more mellow sound and going to the MKVI+.  I can also see wanting a more analytical sound and going for the NFB-10SE.  Having both options is perfect! Sound stage and imaging is very close on both of these using the LCD-2.




NFB-10SE vs. Lyr


Filter Setting: 1


NFB-10SE Dac driving itself and Lyr

NFB-10SE in High Gain mode

NFB-10SE XLR output, Lyr TRS output



Animals as Leaders - Animal as Leaders - CAFO and Inamorata (flac 44.1kHz/16)


Initial impressions after balancing the volumes is the NFB-10SE sounds a tad more detailed. The bass drum hits get out of the way quicker and don't step on the bass parts as much on the NFB-10SE (5:20 in to the song for example). These songs are all about percussive hits, strums, etc. I figured if I wanted to compare two very powerful amps, this kind of song would work. My heartburn with saying this is I could swap the tube over to a NOS Telefunken or Amperex Orange A-Frame and might get some more detail/dynamics out of it at the cost of a deep/full sounding lower end response.  I don't have any to try at the moment so let's leave this one open still to be determined.  


I swapped to the stock JJ tubes and got a little of what I was hoping for in dynamic without losing much bass response. I know the JJ sound a little veiled so I will not comment on the brightness or high frequencies.  I think depending on your tube preference you could hurt yourself. I know I originally concentrated on tonal balance with my Lyr tube selections.  Rolling through them over and over again I realized some of the other benefits/downfalls as far as the texture of the sound when rolling tubes.


I cannot call a clear winner hear like the NFB-12 vs. NFB10SE.  Maybe? I'd give the edge to the NFB-10SE.  Mind you I have been only listening to rock so far with this comparison.  I decided since I know this is a touchy subject to try some other styles of music.  I don't want to miss a flaw in one that may come out from another category of music.  

Engage random shuffle....


I got:

Tito Puente - Tito Puente - Lullaby of Birdland (flac 44.1kHz/16)


I had to switch back to the Mullards.  I couldn't take the veiled JJs any longer.  Initially I had them in and the trumpets/cymbals sounded dead/flat/boring.  So continuing on with the Mullards...

The bass player was a little more prevalent on the Lyr due to the Mullards and had an overall weighted tone.  The trumpets and piano sounded a little more aggressive on the NFB-10SE.  Engage random shuffle...


I got:

The Muppet Show - Music, Mayhem, And More! - Mahna Mahna (flac 44.1kHz/16)


At first I laughed, and just about hit the next button.  Then I remembered something...the character singing moves left, right, in/out into a deep echoing room, slides all over.  Maybe a fun test for imaging.  I let it play...  Both did well, they had good focus throughout the sound stage.

Engage random shuffle...


I got:

Jethro Tull - J-Tull Dot Com - The Dog-Ear Years (flac 44.1kHz/16)


The NFB-10SE sounds airy.  The strings on the acoustic sound a little brighter on the NFB-10SE (again probably due to the Mullard in the Lyr).  Both sound good in their own ways.  The flute can sound a little shrill on the NFB-10SE when he rolls his tongue and plays on the higher notes.

Engage last random shuffle...


I got (after admittingly pushing it a few dozen times):

Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment - Paradigm Shift (flac 44.1kHz/16)


Ok, so I've heard this live and on cd.  I know what this is supposed to sound like.  It may or may not be my favorite band (side project) and song ever. I think the Lyr sounds a little bassy but not sloppy. There is some serious double-bass going on in this song.  The double-bass on the Lyr sounds closer to what it does in real life.  Again I think the NFB-10SE might sound a little more reference than the Lyr with the Mullard tubes.  I prefer the Lyr if you are trying to reproduce a fun live sounding sound, the NFB-10SE for a cleaner crisper sound.  No real loser here.


I will let you guys know if anything "changes" as this thing runs it.  I doubt it but we shall see.


Edited by LiqTenExp - 9/27/11 at 6:06pm
post #3 of 197

Finally some impressions. Looking forward to hear what you have to report on this. My finger has been hovering on the order button for sometime now. 

post #4 of 197

There is a thread started for this unit in the Dedicated Source section?

Edited by tim3320070 - 9/26/11 at 5:28pm
post #5 of 197
Thread Starter 

possibly but I am really trying to compare the Amp section of it in this thread.  I would imagine discussions on the filter settings and comparisons of its preamp output to other DACs preouts would be discussed there.

Edited by LiqTenExp - 9/26/11 at 5:44pm
post #6 of 197

I don't really care but all DAC/Amp units have been put in the Source section and an ongoing discussion of the NFB-10SE carries on there. The other recipients (soon myself included) have put there impressions there. Just a FYI.

post #7 of 197


Looking forward to more impressions esp between the 10SE and Lyr.


Edited by hngls - 9/26/11 at 10:54pm
post #8 of 197
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tim3320070 View Post

I don't really care but all DAC/Amp units have been put in the Source section and an ongoing discussion of the NFB-10SE carries on there. The other recipients (soon myself included) have put there impressions there. Just a FYI.

I would have put it there if there was a separate NFB-10SE thread, putting it in with the NFB-10WM thread is ok but there's already too much there and trying to weed out was comment belong to what unit seemed like too much.  It is constructed different, has dac different filter settings, different output stage, etc.

post #9 of 197

Nice man.  Your pics look better than Audio-GD's pics.  


Hope you bring this to the Nov. White Plains meet.

post #10 of 197

Thanks for starting this thread LiqTenExp. Audio-GD don't do themselves any favours with the pics they post of their products. Your photos look great.


It's incredibly encouraging that the SE holds its own even single ended against the Lyr (also with the unit just fresh out of the box). Audio-GD threads are littered with findings of improved sq after about the 300 hour mark, so there should be some improvement to look forward to. When I receive my unit I'll be going single ended initially. This should allow me to clock some hours on it while I wait for my balanced cables to arrive.


The burning question on my mind is that if the SE does well in single ended mode compared to the Lyr... how much better is it in balanced mode? L3000.gif


I was expecting delivery of my unit today, but Australian Customs decided to go on strike this morning. Tracking shows it's awaiting clearance, so hopefully tomorrow.

post #11 of 197

I wonder if using balanced out in LOW gain (for the LCD-2) compromises anything vs HIGH gain and lowering the volume to achieve the same listening level? Also, is only half of the amp section utilised when going 1/4" out, or are all components internally used but output is just halved?

post #12 of 197

You made a mistake in description "Lyr vs. NFB-12". And I think you should review NFB-10SE in balanced mode versus Lyr, because I think you don't use all the power in single-ended or I could be wrong.

post #13 of 197

Reassuring that it performs so well in SE mode vs the well respected Lyr already. Now try balanced please.




post #14 of 197
Thread Starter 

Thanks, I fixed it!

Originally Posted by nsk1 View Post

You made a mistake in description "Lyr vs. NFB-12". And I think you should review NFB-10SE in balanced mode versus Lyr, because I think you don't use all the power in single-ended or I could be wrong.

I prefer to compare apples to apples when possible.  I am going to get into the balanced mode eventually.  Just a hint, it sounds even better through the balanced port.  And yes in balanced mode LCD-2 are placed in low gain mode.


post #15 of 197

I posed some questions to Kingwa in anticipation of my SE. Here's the Q&A -



- I have the LCD-2 rev.2 and will be using it balanced. Do you recommend using LOW gain and turning the volume up, or HIGH gain and lower the volume to achieve the same levels? Is there any compromise using the LOW gain setting?------There is relays based volume control, so even low or high volume position, all without channel imbalance, just try with yourself, I will like to use the high gain for low sensitive phone.
- Is only half of the amp section being used when using the SE from the 1/4" headphone out? What would be the output into 60ohm and 300ohm?------------The SE only had the hot signal feed to the phone, so the power in SE model is around 25% of the balanced model.

- What FILTER do YOU personally think is the best and why?------------I most time listen the 44.1K WAV, I like to setting at model 9, it had the best specs, but some time I listen and working I like with the model 1 or 4.
The model 4 and 6 is the worst specs but warmer and when I working I can't pay more attention on the music.

- Would the SE benefit from a USB to SPDIF adapter, or will the improvement be subtle? I'll mainly be using optical from my MacBook. Do you personally feel there's a difference in quality between optical and usb?-----------the MAC book in China all without optical output so I can't compare, it depend on the gear design, if the gear design optical better than USB, the optical will sound better. Otherwise maybe the USB better.
I think you can try the combo with USB to SPDIF at first, upgrade step by step alway better, because you can't had the best resolve when you still a hifi fans.



Single ended is 25% of balanced mode. Lol.

Edited by olor1n - 9/27/11 at 5:16am
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