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Audio-GD NFB-3 (2014) ES9018 DAC - Page 7

post #91 of 205

Kingwa's WM8741 DACs sound great. I owned the older NFB-3 and have heard numerous iterations of the NFB-2. I find the WM8741 implementations to be a bit warmer and less detailed overall than the current NFB-3, but they are very good sounding DACs.

 

I'd be inclined to go with the current NFB-3 if you can manage it. Yes, this is a generalisation, but you're unlikely to overcook things in the detail/resolution area by matching the revealing NFB-3(2014) with a tube amp. Instead, the two should synergise quite well.

 

Re: The NFB-17, do you actually need balanced outputs in your system?

post #92 of 205

I would agree with petemac.  Now I haven't heard the NFB-3 yet of course, but my many emails back and forth to Kingwa makes me think that if you don't need balanced and don't need an amp, it is the best bang for your buck DAC.  If you want an integrated amp and/or balanced, then go a different route.

 

I went with the NFB-3 with 2 RCA outs (don't need the ACSS).  That alone is a great feature.  Being able to simultaneously go into two different amps is killer.  And Kingwa said they can both be run simultaneously too.  So A/B testing would be a breeze...or you could go 1 into a speaker amp and 1 into a headphone amp at the same time.

 

My route is going to be a Bottlehead Crack for high impedance and then some other amp for low impedance (maybe Little Dot 1+).

 

Personally, I think you should go with a DAC that is as neutral and detail resolving as possible.  Let your amp/headphones colour the sound.

post #93 of 205

I spent this weekend listening to the NFB 3 (2014) and even though it is too early to have definitive conclusions, I'm quite happy with it!

 

Petemac110 has been spot on in his descriptions of this unit, and I agree fully with his assessments (BTW, thanks for being instrumental in my choice).

 

The only thing I'm hoping the burn-in process will finally refine is the timbre in some instruments, like sax and piano. Not bad right now, but less natural sounding than I expected.

 

I know the 9018 chip tends to emphazise frequency extremes at the cost of a somewhat subdued midrange. Nevertheless, I found vocals excellent with this DAC. Sometimes, depending on the recording, higher frequency sounds may be a bit aggressive to my ears, especially with bad recorded, loud selections. If the source is right, though, it really shines. The level of detail and soundstage presentation are better than I've ever heard (from my now humble HRT MSII+, my only reference).

 

Just a question for those on the know: What are the differences between some of the available choices on Foobar,

 

ASIO Via Direct,

Audio-Gd direct,

ASIO Via my map

 

In my case, no ASIO version would work with 24/192 recordings, only WASAPI and Audio-Gd direct (which I don't know what it is).

 

More as the unit gets settled.


Edited by Musica Amantem - 5/19/14 at 5:06am
post #94 of 205
Quote:
Originally Posted by Musica Amantem View Post
 

I spent this weekend listening to the NFB 3 (2014) and even though it is too early to have definitive conclusions, I'm quite happy with it!

 

Petemac110 has been spot on in his descriptions of this unit, and I agree fully with his assessments (BTW, thanks for being instrumental in my choice).

 

The only thing I'm hoping the burn-in process will finally refine is the timbre in some instruments, like sax and piano. Not bad right now, but less natural sounding than I expected.

 

I know the 9018 chip tends to emphazise frequency extremes at the cost of a somewhat subdued midrange. Nevertheless, I found vocals excellent with this DAC. Sometimes, depending on the recording, higher frequency sounds may be a bit aggressive to my ears, especially with bad recorded, loud selections. If the source is right, though, it really shines. The level of detail and soundstage presentation are better than I've ever heard (from my now humble HRT MSII+, my only reference).

 

Just a question for those on the know: What are the differences between some of the available choices on Foobar,

 

ASIO Via Direct,

Audio-Gd direct,

ASIO Via my map

 

In my case, no ASIO version would work with 24/192 recordings, only WASAPI and Audio-Gd direct (which I don't know what it is).

 

More as the unit gets settled.

 

Where did you get that impression from?

A well designed Sabre32 DAC should go very low & very high with nothing lost in the middle. My Sabre32 DAC certainly is not lacking in the midrange department and if it did it would of been sold a long time ago.

 

Anyway congrats on your purchase.

post #95 of 205

Maybe the burn in process already happened, if there is any at all.

According to their manufacturing process, every single unit runs at least 100 hours, for the sake of burn in. Here is the link: http://audio-gd.com/Baby-EN.htm

post #96 of 205

In fact, even though I had the impression this chip would offer a tradeoff by extending the frequency extremes, it doesn't, so I'm loving the voices here as the mids seem unaffected by the ultra-resolving highs and lows.

 

On the burn-in topic, I was not aware of a pre-cooking done at the factory. This may imply there could be a tradeoff in this design after all, in the form of a little off-timbre issue, especially piano and saxophone (although I have not yet listened enough to other instruments which may be included too). Hopefully, what I heard is recording-related or the fact that my few 24/192 selections require a better Foobar installation of ASIO, for example.

 

I'm using the Audio-Gd provided ASIO *.dll (only one file) in the Foobar components folder, but I'm just able to play 24/192 through Audio-Gd Direct (whatever that means) or WASAPI-event mode, which I have not really listened to as I wanted to try ASIO since Kingwa's suggestions.


Edited by Musica Amantem - 5/19/14 at 11:05am
post #97 of 205

Ok, an update on my previous remarks about the NFB 3 (2014):

 

The edginess on the highs are definitely recording-dependent. So, it may not be a too forgiving DAC when it comes to hiding imperfections in a terribly recorded job, but this is the tradeoff I was looking for with this equipment: More palatable resolution that coupled with my tube-based gear is sensational with any decently recorded source.

 

Regarding the timbre on some of the instruments, I'm still evaluating this aspect as I have not had enough opportunity to really assess the differences between the Audio-Gd and my trusty HRT MSII+ at that level. The latter is not too resolving and has not enough soundstage projection, but it seems to be more faithfull to the original timbres. Having said that, I don't find the NFB 3 lacking timbre naturalness either, just slightly over-enthusiastic with some of these instruments  ..   it could well be that I'm just used to the sound of the HRT MSII+ with those instruments and the level of detail on the Audio Gd may be changing their presentation.

 

As things are right now, I prefer the Audio Gd many times over due to the clarity and transparency of the instruments and voices, in spite of not being yet accustomed to this different timbre projection, plus the quite deeper and defined bass along with extended highs that are crystal clear to my ears.

 

This may not be the ultimate DAC out there, especially considering the much more expensive DAC offerings, but in my appreciation and with my budget restrictions, I could not have done any better. As Petemac110 stated, if your gear is not too bright already, this is a very nice contender at any reasonable price.


Edited by Musica Amantem - 5/20/14 at 5:02am
post #98 of 205
A quick update...


I'm loving this DAC - there's no two ways about it. On certain familiar music, I'm hearing minute details and textural information that I simply haven't heard before with my previous DACs.

I still reckon that the audio-gd PCM1704UK DACs nail the timbre and tonal aspects, but this DAC isn't all that far behind. As Kingwa would say, it's a different 'flavour' - a bit more energetic. It's a vodka and Red Bull instead of scotch on the rocks.

I think I do prefer the WM8805 receiver vs the DIR9001 which I always preferred on the WM8741 DACs. I think this is because the extra clarity of the DIR brought something extra to the table with the WM8741 DACs, but the ES9018 doesn't require this.

That said, I'm using the USB32 input exclusively, via the SBT. It sounds superb!
post #99 of 205

So is the DIR9001 not necessary because the direct spdif input of the sabre chip is tonally clearer or the same?

I will mostly use usb, but also need occasionally both spdif connections. My hope is that neither my 8 year old creative x-fi gamer sound card nor an even older technics cd player (SL-P477A) isn't to weak for the direct input to the dac chip.

I will definitely buy the WM8805 module, so I can add some flavour sometimes. But should I play save and also get the DIR9001 module? It is not much money, but I already stretched my limit a little bit.

post #100 of 205
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asound View Post

So is the DIR9001 not necessary because the direct spdif input of the sabre chip is tonally clearer or the same?
I will mostly use usb, but also need occasionally both spdif connections. My hope is that neither my 8 year old creative x-fi gamer sound card nor an even older technics cd player (SL-P477A) isn't to weak for the direct input to the dac chip.
I will definitely buy the WM8805 module, so I can add some flavour sometimes. But should I play save and also get the DIR9001 module? It is not much money, but I already stretched my limit a little bit.

The NFB-3 doesn't have a 'direct to DAC chip' SPDIF connection like the NFB1, so you either go via the default WM8805 SPDIF board, or the optional DIR9001 board.

IMHO the USB32 input is more resolving than both the DIR9001 and WM8805, but also seems to be tonally richer than the DIR9001. There's not a lot in it, but I do rate the USB32 very highly.
post #101 of 205

I knew I would end up with usb mostly. Yet I still like to listen to only a cd sometime. But using optical does seem to be a small step backward. Even Project86 once said that there are now many dacs where the usb interface sounds better then the optical one. Hopefully it does not destroy the optical experience for me.

Only 4 days till I will make the order! I may open a new thread for that unit then, since there is noone yet.

post #102 of 205

I have 2 questions.

 

1. Does it cost extra to change the ACSS to another RCA output?

 

2. Is it worth me selling my NFB3.1 (WM8741) and spending ~$200-230 more for the NFB3 2014?


Edited by phandrew - 5/26/14 at 3:18am
post #103 of 205
1. No - it mentions on the audio-gd website that this change is free.

2. It depends... Are you willing to sacrifice a bit of warmth for greater resolution and detail retrieval? If so, the new NFB-3 is a step up. I also note that that you are using TOSLINK - the new NFB-3 brings the high-quality asynchronous USB32 interface which IMHO is a better way of connecting up to a PC.
post #104 of 205

Well I don't mind if I gain more detail and resolution :)

 

I might be also considering the NFB28. Is the only difference between the NFB28 and NFB3 the headphone amp and preamp?


Edited by phandrew - 5/26/14 at 4:09am
post #105 of 205
The NFB28 also has balanced inputs and outputs, so it really depends what your intended usage is.

The NFB3 is certainly great bang for buck, especially as it comes with the free 2x TCXO upgrade.

If you don't intend using the headphone amp and preamp capabilities of the NFB28, the NFB1 is also an option. However, Kingwa recommended the NFB3 as being the bang for buck option.
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