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NuForce Icon iDo - Mini Review

post #1 of 87
Thread Starter 

So I've had the NuForce Icon iDo for just over a week and here are some of my thoughts. First off, if you haven't heard of the Icon iDo, its an amazing device. Form factor, its very close to the well known HDP headphone amp/DAC from Nuforce; except this unit only takes inputs from Apple devices. It has the ability to pull the digital data out of these Apple devices and bypass the less than optimal DACs that they have inside. I would have also liked to have seen a standard USB input from a PC or Mac to compliment the inputs (ala the iWadia).

 

DSCN0977.JPG

 

DSCN0979.JPG

 

For the actual specifics of the device, you can find them on the NuForce website here:

 

http://www.nuforce.com/hp/products/ido/index.php

 

Ok, so how does it sound? Well I can say that it worked flawlessly with all of my Apple devices (iPhone 4, iPad 3, iPod Classic 160Gb and my wife's iPod Nano). Using it was simple. Simply plug in the unit for power and attach the i"device" (oh and plug in your headphones too wink.gif). 

 

Headphones used:

 

beyerdynamic DT1350

Westone 4

UE Triple Fi.10

NE-600X

 

I did some A-B comparisons with the above headphones directly plugged into my iDevice and then compared them to how they sounded when run through the iDevice. First off I noticed that the sound staging was no longer collapsed and 2 dimensional. Through the iDo the imaging opened up considerably to being much more 3 dimensional; a great step up from my iPad or iPhone. The details on the cymbals were easier to hear as well through the iDo too. Mids were more organic and forward (and less sucked out as they were on my iPod Classic). Bass was slightly tighter and better defined. I would consider the sound signature of this amp/dac as balanced and clean.

 

For $249 MSRP, I can think of no better bang for my buck bedside rig where I can simply attach my 160Gb iPod Classic or iPad 3 and have great quality sound. And my wife likes it as it doesn't take up much room, nor look out of place (to her anyway tongue.gif).

 

Side Note: I also have had a chance to evaluate the NuForce NE-600X IEMs and for $30, the price to performance ration is fantastic. I would classify these IEMs are "fun" when compared to my Westone 4s, but for less than 1/10th the price, I'm amazed at just how resolving they are. Isolation is top notch, bass is plentiful (and quite good too, though not as "tight" as say the 700X or my other top flight IEMs that I've owned throw the years). But I have to keep reminding myself that these are only $30 IEMs, but they do punch in weight classes above their price point.

 

I plan to try some of my full-sized headphones next....more to come. smile.gif


Edited by MacedonianHero - 6/21/12 at 4:15pm
post #2 of 87
Great writeup Peter. As always. If you get a chance please post some pics with the iPod so everyone can see it's portability to carry or travel with.
post #3 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by baka1969 View Post

Great writeup Peter. As always. If you get a chance please post some pics with the iPod so everyone can see it's portability to carry or travel with.


Photos to come this evening.

 

Thanks Ross.

post #4 of 87
Thread Starter 

As promised, I've added some photos in my review.

post #5 of 87
Thread Starter 

So I've had some time with the Icon iDo and I gotta say that I'm really impressed. It can power my ATH-W3000ANVs quite well too...a bonus for my bedside rig and favourite closed headphones. It sounds several steps up over straight out of my iPad 3 with FiiO E6 or my RSA Tomahawk. The details retrieval is a few cuts above what I hear through my iPhone or iPad. The shimmer on cymbals is more apparent and real and the small nuances and micro details are much easier to hear. The imaging is also wider and deeper with incredible instrumental separation. 

 

Out of my "i" device + Silver Dragon LOD + FiiO E6/RSA Tomahawk, the presentation was a bit on the muddy side where the instruments were smudged together. With the iDo, I can finally say that I'm very content with what I'm hearing. I don't think the issue was amping before I got the iDo; as RSA Tomahawk is quite good and clear when I use my main W4S DAC-2 feeding it; but rather I'm fairly certain that my iPad, iPhone, iPod were the culprits (with substandard DACs/volume attenuators).

 

All I can say is if you're interested in a bedside or work rig that doesn't take up much space; this device is one heck of a buy. smile.gif

post #6 of 87

Interesting that the iDo is about half the price of the HDP.

 

Any difference in sound, or just the inputs?


Edited by hunter9002 - 6/27/12 at 10:25am
post #7 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hunter9002 View Post

Interesting that the iDo is about half the price of the HDP.

 

Any difference in sound, or just the inputs?

Sound-wise, they are pretty close...fairly neutral. The biggest difference is that the iDo ONLY takes inputs from Apple devices. Perfect for taking up very little room.

post #8 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacedonianHero View Post

Sound-wise, they are pretty close...fairly neutral. The biggest difference is that the iDo ONLY takes inputs from Apple devices. Perfect for taking up very little room.

 

I have the HDP and I wouldn't call it neutral. I think it has kind of a strong bass extension, and the highs can be a bit weak sometimes. That being said, it may be my other components making it seem that way, but I feel I can hear this when adjusting the gain.

 

Regardless, it's interesting that they went into this market. I feel like if I wanted a headphone amp specifically for my Apple products, I would need it to be portable for iPod, iPhone, and iPad usage on the go. My whole setup is run from a Macbook, and I just use the optical S/PDIF input on the HDP. Works like a charm. Maybe it's becoming more common to run a stationary audio system from an iPod, though. 

post #9 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hunter9002 View Post

 

I have the HDP and I wouldn't call it neutral. I think it has kind of a strong bass extension, and the highs can be a bit weak sometimes. That being said, it may be my other components making it seem that way, but I feel I can hear this when adjusting the gain.

 

Regardless, it's interesting that they went into this market. I feel like if I wanted a headphone amp specifically for my Apple products, I would need it to be portable for iPod, iPhone, and iPad usage on the go. My whole setup is run from a Macbook, and I just use the optical S/PDIF input on the HDP. Works like a charm. Maybe it's becoming more common to run a stationary audio system from an iPod, though. 

I found the HDP and iDo more neutral than you I guess. I think the iDo competes very well against say the iWadia (with the added bonus of having its own DAC on board if you want to use it and headphone amplifier too) and at about half the price.

post #10 of 87
Nice! Is there any hiss with the Westone 4? What about channel imbalance?

Have you tried it as transport?

Thanks cool.gif
post #11 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pekingduck View Post

Nice! Is there any hiss with the Westone 4? What about channel imbalance?
Have you tried it as transport?
Thanks cool.gif

No hiss to my ears with the Westone 4s. Never had any channel imbalance issues with either the W4 or iDo.

 

More to come as I use it as a transport from my iPod/iPad and spdif to my W4S DAC-2. smile.gif

post #12 of 87

How goods the amp on this? I've got a pair of HD650 and am curious how this does with them... Have you tried the HD800 for kicks? 

post #13 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by imackler View Post

How goods the amp on this? I've got a pair of HD650 and am curious how this does with them... Have you tried the HD800 for kicks? 

 

Surprisingly pretty good. Not GS-1 or LF good, but it can power them to adequate levels and for the price/size, very impressive.

post #14 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacedonianHero View Post

 

Surprisingly pretty good. Not GS-1 or LF good, but it can power them to adequate levels and for the price/size, very impressive.

 

Thanks for the input! 

 

How do you think it compares to some of the entry level amps like Asgard or Mstage, or maybe something like the Bottlehead Crack/Speedball? Are they in the same ballpark w/ something like that? I'm kind of locked to the ipod, for better or worse, but I'm intrigued... 


Edited by imackler - 7/31/12 at 9:32pm
post #15 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by imackler View Post

 

Thanks for the input! 

 

How do you think it compares to some of the entry level amps like Asgard or Mstage, or maybe something like the Bottlehead Crack/Speedball? Are they in the same ballpark w/ something like that? I'm kind of locked to the ipod, for better or worse, but I'm intrigued... 

 

Hard to say as I don't have them around to compare directly. From memory (take with plenty grains of salt), they weren't night and day different. I found the Asgard a bit darker and the iDio a bit cleaner. But the Asgard did have some more headroom. You can also use the iDo as a DAC to feed a subsequent amp.

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