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Headphone Amplifiers item created by , May 5, 2010
Pros - Small size, relatively portable, enough power for most low-mid end headphones, versatile
Cons - Can be harsh, funny volume pot
Awesome, buy it now.
Tested with K701, DT990 Pro, DT880 600, HD650 and HFi-2400's.
Pros - good sound, compact, functional
Cons - nothing special
I like this unit as it delivers much possibilities for not a big price. Besides an excellent amplifier, it has a modern DAC, separated digital and analog power lines onboard. Well done.
Cons - None So Far
I mostly listening from my CD player and PC (flacs, HDTracks 24bit/96 and 192Khz files) with my Sennheiser HD650, so I decided to buy this NuForce Icon HDP as a DAC and headphone amp combo.
It is very decent DAC/Amp. It gives a more balanced, clean and transparent sound to my Senn 650. The build also has a very nice finished and touch. Overall, I'm satisfied!
Pros - Really steps up audio quality
So I purchased this last week and must I say, there is nothing else like listening to my HD 650. Sound quality was great with using the hd 650 straight with my iPhone, but boy did this step ti up a notch.
Pros - Dynamic, aggressive sound
Cons - 24/96 optical input only, poor with IEMs, overheats when horizontal, newer model has poor gain
Having owned the $100 NuForce uDAC1 for over two years, I felt it was about time to upgrade. It had been acceptable, but I could still notice a bit of a veil in the midrange. The itch was also caused by going to a Head-Fi meet. When I plugged the uDAC1 into some high-end amplifiers, I realized how limiting it actually was. What does the HDP get you? Not much.
I had a good review on the HDP before, but I can no longer recommend it. The HDP, being a $500 product, has worse gain than their $100 uDAC1. It can barely amplify a Grado. I have posted on Head-Fi about this and NuForce has assured me that this is normal. That is complete bee-ess. My first unit had hissing when turned on. This second unit, sent directly from NuForce after I paid an extra $100 service fee, still has hissing beyond 3 o-clock, and the gain is worse than the first unit!
Please see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMkj-5L0w74 for video proof.
Pros - Versatile, Small Size, Acceptable Performance
Cons - Amplifier is not powerful enough, Poor design, DAC sound is treble accentuated
I owned the Nuforce HDP for two months, I tried it with several headphones ranging from the 600 Ohms DT880 to the 300 Ohms Senn HD600 and HD650 and 62 Ohms AKG K702. Actually I wasn't impressed that much. I didn't feel that the amp had enough juice to drive any of the headphones mentioned above, and the DAC had too much emphasis on treble which seemed too exaggerated and unnatural to my ears. When listening to several audio tracks and in comparison to Headroom's Ultra Micro DAC I heard distortions in the upper highs that never showed in the Ultra Micro. The imaging and accuracy of the UM DAC was far beyond the reach of the HDP, but on the other side, the HDP performed better than my Marantz CD5004 regarding clarity and detail. The best sound I got from the HDP was from the Marantz CD player connected by coaxial/ optical connection. But USB connection sound quality was thin, harsh and lean.
The volume knob is made of cheap plastic and sometimes I heard static when moving the knob between 1 o'clock and 3 o'clock. On the other side, the HDP is very small size, very portable and it has many connections on the back which makes a great versatile unit for many purposes.
So all in all it is not a giant killer. It doesn't function as good as DACs or Amps double or triple the price, but you get what you pay for. A $200 DAC and a $200 Amp no more, no less.
Pros - Nicely balanced sound with good bass and soundstage. Detailed without being harsh. Excellent build quality and aesthetics.
Cons - None.
I was using a Meier Corda Move as a desktop DAC connected to active speakers. I know this is not how the Corda Move was intended to be used, and it definitely lacked something that I could not put my finger on. There's no shortage of desktop USB DACs these days but there aren't many with a headphone socket, which I do use for late-night music and gaming. I decided to buy the Icon HDP after reading a good review in HiFi Choice and the forum posts on head-fi. I was not disappointed. Even without burn-in it was significantly better than I what I was using before. The soundstage has opened up and the bass is no longer indistinct but now much tighter and deeper with increased slam. The treble is also more extended. Some people have mentioned that it is too forward sounding but I don't think so at all. Yes it's not warm or sweet-sounding, but neither is it cold or harsh. I'm using Grado SR80i and Denon D2000 cans, as well as Epoz Aktimate Mini speakers.
All in all it's a great buy I'm very happy with it.
Pros - Outstanding 24/96 USB section, sleek form factor, great price to performance, clear and detailed sound signature, fast, synergy with Sennheiser HDs
Cons - Might not go well with bright cans
I purchased the Nuforce Icon HDP along with Sennheiser HD 650 headphones as my first desktop setup about six months ago. I'll start off by saying that the HDP has been a fantastic purchase that I am thrilled with and enthusiastically recommend, especially as a starter desktop setup.
The HDP has loads of power and easily drives my Sennheiser HD 650s and other high impedence headphones such as AKG 701 with lots of headroom to spare. This is an awesome attribute for a unit at this price point as it will have ample power for almost any headphone on the market, regardless of price. With my Sennheiser HD 650, I usually listen from 11 am to 1 pm on the dial and never go past 2 pm. It absolutely drives them authority and tons of power to spare.
The HDP offers a sound signature that is very clear, transparent, detailed, fast, neutral, and with a nice sense of overall polish and refinement to the sound. My previous Dac/amp prior to HDP was the very popular portable Ibasso D10. The HDP was a very significant improvement over the D10 in all areas. The HDP seems to pair especially well with headphones that are bass heavy and not bright, such as the Sennheiser HD series and Denon AHD series. It specifically does a great job of really tightening up the bass on these headphones, which can be a little boomy or loose on many other amps. With the Sennheiser HDs especially, it also helps give them that extra detail and speed they can oftentimes be missing. The HDP is also a really nice combo for the AKG 701/702 as it really gives them extra bass weight.
One area that was a huge bonus for the HDP compared to other popular units in its price range is the fact that is has an outstanding USB section that supports full 24/96 high resolution music files. I regularly download high resolution albums from HDTracks and play them over my laptop via USB and they are very noticeably better than standard 16/44 regular cds. I have tried comparing the HDPs USB section with its coaxial and optical inputs on numerous occasions and have never been able to discern any differences, which is high praise for the quality of its USB section.
Since having purchased my HDP, I have attended several local meets and have auditioned gear much more expensive than it such as Woo Audio WA6, Beta 22, Bijou, Eddie Current ZDT, Supra, etc. While the really high-end gear does exceed the HDP--most noticeably with larger soundstage--the price to performance ratio of the HDP compared to any of these more expensive units is just phenominal. No matter how high-end of gear I audition, I am never disappointed going back to my HDP. My HDP has helped me to content with my gear and focus on my music collection. While I will likely upgrade to higher end gear over time, I am truly enjoying my HDP in the meantime and am in no rush to upgrade any time soon.
Flat out, it's the best piece of audio gear I have purchased in my 2 1/2 year long audiophile career.
My previous DAC was an M-Audio Fast Track Pro run to an external amp, so that will be the standard by which I judge the HDP. There frankly is no comparison between the two. The HDP's internal DAC is world class compared to the Fast Track Pro. It is extremely accurate without any coloring of the sound. Separation and sound stage/placement is very well produced. I get the impression that I am listening to exactly what the mastering engineer intended me to. I am starting to notice how awful some of my recordings are, this DAC will show flaws in music like nothing I have listened to before. On the flip side, I'm picking up sounds from recordings that I have never noticed before.
The amplifier was what surprised me the most about this device. The HDP has a pretty small footprint on my desk, especially when propped up with the supplied hard rubber stand. Because of its demure stature I wasn't expecting the amp to be great, but it is! In fact I have just come to notice that Jan (from Meier Audio) actually re-sells the HDP on his website - I am imagining because he's currently missing a small desktop Amp/DAC from his product line (not to mention it's a great Amp/DAC). This amp pushes my Senn. HD600s with absolute ease and I am no where near 50% of the max volume level for average listening (maybe 60-65% if I'm getting carried away). This amp has great attack and great punch and is very analytical compared to other amps I have listened to.
I think that long-term I may acquire a tube amplifier to connect to this world class DAC for when I want a warmer, more laid back sound signature, but in the meantime the HDP has found a very happy home on my desk. For $450, if you are just starting out in the Desktop world I highly recommend this device.
Equipment used for my review:
PC & MediaMonkey (FLAC and 320 MP3) :: Nuforce Icon HDP :: Sennheiser HD 600
Pros - Drives my mediocre headphones to the point that I have to upgrade my digital music
Cons - none
This is my first headphone amp. It drives a set of Sony MDR-V700 s. Definitely allows my headphones to exploit the dynamic range of classical music. Easy to discern bit rates that used to hide in my speakers and headphones before.