Some of you may have seen the review I did of the Lead Audio LA-200 integrated amplifier. It's a great little all-in-one unit, with DAC functionality, headphone amp, and "pure digital" speaker amplification in the same vein as the NAD M2 and C 390DD, or the NuForce DDA-100. Lead Audio has had some success, especially overseas, with their LA-100 which is essentially the same thing minus the speaker amplification. I was curious to see what new products they might come up with down the road.
Several years later, they form a new sub-brand called Northern Fidelity, with Danish audio designer Soren Mac Larsen (formerly with Copland) still at the helm. The first release is the NF DAC, followed up eventually by the matching NF AMP-A (analog) and NF AMP-D (digital).
I go my hands on the NF DAC for evaluation and have been enjoying it for a while now. I still have a lot of listening to do, but so far I find it rather enjoyable. It's a slightly warmish signature, very natural, with good tone and plenty of body. The XMOS based USB section is excellent, and the integrated amp seems a better match for high impedance headphones than low. Variable output means the NF DAC can be a preamp too, if you want. Pretty nice for under $700, which is what the manufacturer suggests retail pricing should be. I suspect it will come in somewhere closer to $600, which would be even better, but of course the resellers are free to charge what they like. But even at the full $700 it's got a pretty nice feature set: balanced design, XMOS hi-res USB, quality integrated headphone amp, preamp functionality, and a unique attractive design. Build quality is up there with the best I've seen in this price range.
I'll have more to say about this unit as I get more hours logged. Just wanted to throw it up here for now to get a thread started.