NFB11.32 with TCXO for USB chip Impressions
Background: I previously owned the Ref 5 (with a WA6SE Amp), and NFB2 from Audio-gd and had moved to Violectric V800 DAC with V181 Amp because I wanted to have a balanced setup with my LCD2.
I recently sold my V800 DAC and my V181 is for sale in the forums.
Impressions: I've got to tell you, this DAC/AMP combo is an excellent setup for my LCD phones. I was worried about the dynamics without having a dedicated separate Amp but I am really enjoying my setup these past two weeks.The detail of the DAC is so revealing compared to the V800. It is really a pleasure to listen to my music and hear detail that went unnoticed previously. I tired the RCA optical with a Wireworld Silver Starlight Coax cable for a couple days, and then switched to USB. I like the sound from the 32 Bit USB more than I do the Optical. To me, it is a bit smoother sounding, less edgy on vocals, and the highs are a bit more revealing. That was enough for me to invest in a better USB cable to see if more could be revealed. I bought a wireworld starlight USB cable, and this past week have enjoyed a minor increase in an already revealing sound, with an even smoother sounding mid-range especially on vocals and stringed instruments.
Since I still have the V181 Amp here, I thought I would check to see what the V181 sounded like with the NFB11.32 as a DAC. I set the input at USB and output at fixed and spent an hour or two A/B ing between the two Amps. The sound quality from the V181 is a bit better than the internal amp of the NFB11.32 but the difference is not enough for me to hang onto the V181 because of the difference. I noticed more of a jump in quality when I went from Optical to USB and another from going from cheapo USB to Starlight than I do going from NFB to V181 as an amp.
I am SUPER pleased with the sound quality of the NFB11.32 and I can honestly say, the $375 for the NFB11.32 is such an excellent value. If the V800 and V181 were only $375, I would still pick the sound signature of the NFB11.32 over the Violectric setup. But I am saying this based on what I enjoy in sound signatures. The violectric has more dynamic range in reproducing bass and strong passages, but for me, the smoothness and revealing sound signature of the NFB11.32 is more enjoyable over long listening periods than I have had for the past year with the Violectric setup, even though the Violectric is balanced, I think the single-ended sound of the NFB11.32 trumps it in terms of pure enjoyment of the music for me.
Please keep in mind, someone else listening to my setup may have the total opposite feeling about the sound as I do. I am passing this along to people that might have an LCD setup and are concerned about the sound coming from the NFB11.32. I am not sure if the clock crystal upgrade added to the quality, as I cannot A/B that. I bought it with the option purely from the point of view that it made sense because it added a better clock to the setup and USB is so clock sensitive. I cannot say what it would sound like had I not ordered the TCXO, only with it. I am truly impressed, really, really pleased with the sound.
The only wish I would have for this, if I had a magic wand, would be to have an Analog input of the device. Since I have a TT setup also here at work, I will need to buy a secondary amp, perhaps a tube amp, for when I want to hear vinyl and that was something the V181 did very well for me and I miss that feature. But I knew this going in, and I wanted to try this because the 32Bit USB receiver with 32 bit DAC just made sense to me, and I have wanted to hear a 32 Sabre DAC since they were announced.
As always, please take what I say with a grain of salt, as my opinion is based on my impression, and not by an scientific measurement, or serious, critical comparison. It is just my opinion on what I like...