NuForce Icon uDAC-2 (Black) USB DAC (24bit/96kHz) and Headphone Amplifier

Average User Rating:
3.53571/5,
  1. jshaffe
    3.5/5,
    "Good for its size"
    Pros - tiny, well built, usb powered
    Cons - distorts at certain frequencies
    It does a good job as a DAC for my starving student amp. Eventually, I will probably upgrade but it works well enough. It is nice that it powers off of USB and doesn't take up tons of space.
  2. seawalnut
    1.0/5,
    "Cute design, OK performance, poor QC"
    Pros - When it works: reasonable sound quality, nice package layout, good value if size is important
    Cons - Poor QC, mediocre support
    Any product can fail, so negative reviews are always statistically suspect. However... I have bought SIX of these (including two of the RCA-less uDAC2HP model), over a period of a couple of years, and TWO were DOA. Also, two of the supplied USB cables were shorted, in one case apparently damaging a PC. (Sensed that the audio problem might be in the wiring when the USB cable got hot to touch.)
     
    When it works: a good entry-level USB DAC, also unusually portable for frequent flyers. Sound quality (to my ears) not quite up to standard of other brands not that much more, so I'd recommend the step up where feasible. And very reasonably priced now, with prices way down in just a couple of years.  [Oops - must have been a momentary blip on Amazon.]
     
    One of my first Icon uDACs had terrible sound; company apparently was familiar with the problem, and replaced it fairly quickly. (I still had to deal with the return; recommend buying through Amazon or someplace else that covers returns.) They also knew about the bad cables, which weren't worth the effort/postage of returning; I'm a little surprised that Nuforce wouldn't just send replacements on trust.
     
    I bought some of the Icons for "inventory" as future gifts. I've been buying hifi equipment since the days of Mac tube amps, AR3 speakers and the Thorens TD-124. Never had a defective new product (maybe just lucky?), so it didn't occurred to me to break the package seal on a relatively simple device for an on-arrival test. One of these was opened recently, an HP model, and didn't work at all. (Bad cable, too.) Nuforce took a while to decide that this model was too ancient to be supported. They suggested that I might separately contact their sales dep't., who might make some accommodation on another product.
     
    Decided I just couldn't be bothered to plea for a small discount on another uncertain product. So the Icon is a desk ornament until it gets recycled to scrap. Nice micro-project box, but I'm not building electronics these days.
     
    It is pretty apparent from my experience and other reviews that Nuforce QC leaves a lot to be desired. The two failed units clearly hadn't had even a minimal plug-in test. And support afterwards was uninspiring.
     
    I hate to put down a company that makes useful little products at moderately reasonable prices. But recent promotional material suggests that they are heading toward the fashion-conscious yuppie gadget market, rather than boring black boxes that merely sound great. I am unlikely to do business with them again. For those who do, I suggest putting each purchase through its paces immediately, and be very wary of defects as early as possible.
     
    Disappointed, but life happens. HRT Music Streamers are still working just fine. And the Nuforce earbuds are holding up well for me. I rate the Icon uDACs that actually work at about 4 stars; it's adding 50% to the price for the bad ones, plus a fried USB system, plus the hassle of dealing (or failing to deal with) the defective ones that forces down my rating.
    gevorg and HemiSam like this.
  3. Kolapso
    4.0/5,
    "Good first usb dac/amp for the money"
    Pros - Good volumepot, small in size and can really improve the sound vs a computers internal soundcard.
    Cons - None discovered sofar
    I feel that it's a good amp for starting out, atleast sofar. Definitely better than my realtek soundcard, aswell better/onpar with (imho) my Xonar DG.soundcard.
  4. El Pino
    5.0/5,
    "Hidden potential"
    Pros - small, rigid, LO
    Cons - no power supply included
    Hi there,
     
    I would like to say few things about this little thing here. After seven eight months of use I found uDAC2 quite good when it comes to sound quality for this money (lets say money for pure DAC). Why? First I was listening the uDAC2 through AMB Mini3 (via line out) in a simple connection - connected directly to USB on my laptop - for a few months. Yes, gotta argee that after first impressions and the ear got used to it, the sound was nothing special. Not that boring or unbalanced, but neither entertaining. After some time, an idea occured, since uDAC2 has no external power supply possibility, you still can conect it to an USB hub with additional power supply (usually to attach external HDD) and hat would supply this little piece of DAC with enough power. And it really does. For example with 5V/2.5A power supply you can really hear a great difference in every sight. Details, dynamic/sharpness, bass response, soundstage together with separation in space, highs also.
     
    Pitty is that there is hard to find some reasonable linear non-switching power supply unit with 5V output voltage to connect it directly between PC and uDAC2. I think I'll have to build one :-D
     
    And also pitty that nobody here's considering that supply has major effect on sound quality in case of USB DACs.
  5. idontevenknow
    2.0/5,
    "Unreliable"
    Pros - sounds good, looks good, has RCA out on the back
    Cons - did not last for me
    I first bought the uDAC2 in the fall of 2010, and it blew me away with its quality as it was the first decent source I'd ever listened to. Sadly It stopped working within about a month. I returned it with it's cable under warranty and received a refurb model. Sadly, this new one wasn't sent to me with a cable, but no big deal. Fast forward to this week, and I've just had this one die on me as well.
     
    While it was working, I loved my uDAC-2, but I can't recommend it to anyone after going through 2 of them in under a year and a half.
  6. cheapskateaudio
    3.5/5,
    "Dcent at best"
    Pros - Great sound on its own
    Cons - Lacks cachet, does not work well with a high end system
    This little amp is a surprise. Alone it is actually not that bad with some HD650's. The sound is typical dark, liquid, and pretty nice to listen to if you're into that sort of tubey coloration.
     
    Later, when you try to put this DAC into a revealing system, perhaps as a source for a revealing amplifier, the surprise is that the uDac 2 is actually quite terrible. And it has nothing to do with anything that has been ranted and raved about, forget the tech specs. The DAC section simply has a flat out horrid frequency response, it's boosting the upper mids in a way that makes revealing amplifiers sound ear piercingly bad...  This DAC could go well driving a tubey sounding tube amp, but anything even a little revealing is going to be terrible sounding.
     
    Build quality is decent, it is metal and the connectors are gold plated. The first version (uDac v1) had problems with channel balance on the volume pot, that seems to be largely alleviated in the uDac 2. I do not have a channel imbalance issue with my uDac 2. My uDac (v1) on the other hand was almost unusable because the channel imbalance showed up at a relatively loud volume.
     
    Once you add up everything it does, few amps can match it in features/price, and it really does sound good on its own. But if you plan on building a system and upgrading it and hope to use the DAC section of the uDac 2 with a better amp, just DON'T, save you and your ears the trouble.
    Syros and jameszbn like this.
  7. kungmarten
    2.5/5,
    "Just OK, but works if you really need the setup"
    Pros - Size, plug'n'play
    Cons - Boring, a bit distorted, sound.
    My firs uDAC (v1) fried because of manufacturing problems. I got version 2 as a replacement. What I like about it is the ease of installation and portability. I use it mainly at work where my options are a bit limited. For this purpose the form factor is excellent.

    What bugs me though is the un-dynamic sound that seems a bit distorted. In my opinion quite boring - I get a lot better sound (with the same headphones, Beyerdynampic DT770 Pro & Sennheiser HD200 tested) from my Sony Walkman A845 than from this DAC/Amp, even though the price is similar. 

    I will keep using it at work because of the form factor, but I can not recommend it for home use - there are just too many better alternatives out there.
  8. Kaviar
    5.0/5,
    "Perfect for my needs"
    Pros - Sound, design, ease of use
    Cons - None for the price
    I went from onboard sound (realtek on a z-68 board) to this and did notice an immediate difference. Bass is more snappy, mids more natural and highs are now nice and crisp. Anyway, the real advantage for me at least is that I now have no problem listening to music for long periods at a time and at high volumes without succumbing to listening fatigue. Previously I could not listen even at moderate volumes for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  9. funkmeister
    3.0/5,
    "uDac2-HP is nifty"
    Pros - Has a volume knob
    Cons - cheap USB cable, uneven sound, audio isn't as good as hoped
    Keep in mind that my star rating is weighted against price, and I'm reviewing the uDac2-HP. It sounds just like my laptop's out even though there are legitimate reasons to expect it not to. There's a sense of quality to the unit and its volume knob from their feel but the USB cable that came with it is poking wires out of the plastic shroud. Lame-o. I have another cable hanging around that I used instead.
     
    Anyway, I like the sound well enough despite its supposedly massive shortcomings that others talk about. It isn't spacious like the Icon HD (which is an awesome product) but it sure sounds fine with some of the hidden details in the recordings no longer getting drowned out in the poor analog circuitry of my laptop. It's also so nice to deal with a volume knob again even if I am limited to the top 40% of the range for good-enough balance.
  10. axw
    4.5/5,
    "nice little toy"
    Pros - size, price, last but not least sound
    Cons - for the price hard to find any
    When I first got it I was surprised that the Lavry DA-10 I then had isn't much better. It sounds better than most soundcards, better than usb powered Meier Audio Porta Corda amp+dac.