I've been considering this for a while now and can't seem to reach a conclusion. It's fairly difficult if the product is not near at hand to demo. The Cambridge DacMagic Plus is quite popular and even exists in my local hi-fi store from where I demoed it and found it to be overly bright, just a tad; and I didn't think it would be worth it for the price. Also, the Bifrost wasn't really something for me, and I've set my eyes on other products. It seems like no matter where I look my gaze always returns to China. After extensive research I've narrowed it down to these models:
- Yulong D100 MKII
- Audio-gd NFB-3.32
- Audio-gd NFB-2.32
Now, I understand that the D100 and the Audio-gd differ somewhat in the sonic presentation: The D100 should be very transparent/neutral and detailed, whereas the NFB3 should be warmer. My amp is quite warm to begin with. It's a Little Dot MKIII with Voshkod tubes. And for the time being I've gone back to the Xonar Essence ST with LME49720NA opamps and EQ left untouched on default frequencies. My primary concern is that the Ultrasone Pro 900 may sound too bright with the Yulong D100 since people have recommended not to pair these products with each other. But since I have the LDMKIII running between perhaps the Yulong might be a good choice? Or would it be better to use a warmer source as the NFB-3? My concern in this case is that the HD650 may become too dark; they're already fairly warm cans to begin with, plus they're running through the Little Dot. Atm, running the Xonar Essence ST > LDMKIII > HD650 is not that bad actually, and the Xonar Essence ST is fairly neutral in the DAC as well; and I don't think I would mind having the HD650 somewhat warmer than they already are - the question is just how much more... I would say the difference between the HD650 and PRO900 is quite steep. But I don't want to tailor my gear to fit one type of signature. Rather I'd like to reach a balance between the two without making either the HD650 sound too dark and blunt, or the PRO900 too bright and harsh. The Little Dot really helps with softening the engaging treble of the PRO900, to that extent that I never ever run the PRO900 from the Essence's HP out anymore.
Currently my only other concern apart from the source coloration is that the NFB2/3 tech spec page listing only max. 96kHz for Optical input and then 192kHz for both Coaxial and USB... Is this correct? If so, then it could be a deal-breaker for me as I have to resort to TOSLINK. I emailed them and their reply was "if your source is 192kHz, then the optical should handle it in 192kHz, even though it's on 96kHz."(?) Anyone here that has run into problems using Optical 192kHz? I have just a couple of recordings on 192kHz that I rarely play, but still, it would suck if it didn't work out.
If someone who has owned/tried both units, could you chip in with a comparison? Does the detail differ much? How do both D100 and NFB handle soundstage? I've read in a review that the soundstage on the D100 felt 'fake'.