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NuForce Icon HDP (High-end Headphone Amp, USB DAC, Preamp)

  • The Nuforce Icon HDP incorporates a full-speed USB DAC and full-function S/PDIF D/A converter, plus a headphone-amplifier circuit and preamp output. Supporting digital USB, S/PDIF in coaxial and 3.5mm optical (3.5mm) modes, along with an analog line input, the HDP's flexibility has been designed to accommodate all manner of audio devices. Icon HDP is expected to compete with other DAC and preamp costing up to several times its price and serve as the heart of a high performance audio system.

Recent Reviews

  1. derbigpr
    Nuforce HDP review
    Written by derbigpr
    Published May 14, 2013
    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.
  2. arhandrei
    Small & Smart
    Written by arhandrei
    Published Nov 19, 2012
    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.
    1. lramirez1959
      Paired with Grado SR325is is just fantastic, maybe grainy in the highs. Excellent choice
      lramirez1959, Nov 21, 2012
  3. boyfrombluesea
    Great Sounding DAC/Amp For My Senn 650
    Written by boyfrombluesea
    Published Oct 21, 2012
    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!
  4. jamm8805
    Too good to be true.
    Written by jamm8805
    Published Aug 26, 2012
    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.
  5. colgatetotal
    uDAC's big brother but has pathetic gain
    Written by colgatetotal
    Published Jun 19, 2012
    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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. colgatetotal
      Wouldn't recommend it. Volume pot already goes up to about 40% on a Grado, so it wouldn't have the power to effectively amp orthos.
      colgatetotal, Oct 21, 2012
    3. Night Crawler
      @manzana: yes, it's functions perfectly well with ortho's. Drives my Mad Dog's, HE-4, HE-500, and HE-5LE with ample headroom.
      Night Crawler, Nov 22, 2012
    4. AzNyCans
      You must have had a bad unit. I ran PS 500's as loud as I could possibly stand at about the 1 o'clock position. I don't care what Nuforce said, that was not normal for this DAC/Amp. As you can see from the above comments, Night Crawler more than sufficiently ran orthos with the HDP
      AzNyCans, Sep 20, 2014
  6. homeros8000
    Nuforce HDP Is Not A Giant Killer!
    Written by homeros8000
    Published Jun 3, 2011
    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.
      gevorg likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. EarHead1
      jasonl, thank you for your response. i'm of a mind that one should not throw spears until you've done what you can to resolve the issue. ugly and rude comments don't satisfy or accomplish anything. EarHead1
      EarHead1, Jul 11, 2012
    3. hunter9002
      as an HDP owner who would give it 5 out of 5 in a heartbeat, i have to say homeros review was honest and straightforward. it does not sound like his device was defective, or at least he wouldn't have reason to believe that it is. static happens on many amps, and the sound signature clearly didn't meet his preference - his review reflects his experience in a very clear and straightforward way. don't try to twist it into something evil just because he doesn't like the product as much as everyone else.
      hunter9002, Aug 2, 2012
    4. EarHead1
      hunter9002, the sources of static can be as varied as the gear we choose. bad connections are a primary source of this. i would check the connections and work the interconnects to see if that were the cause. if not it is an internal issue and my aforementioned comments still apply. i can't see leaving that sleeping dog to lay around unfixed or replaced under warranty. Earhead1
      EarHead1, Aug 2, 2012
  7. russelk
    Written by russelk
    Published Feb 11, 2011
    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.
  8. Sid-Fi
    Nuforce Icon HDP - Fantastic Value and Performance
    Written by Sid-Fi
    Published Feb 9, 2011
    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.
      cb490763 likes this.
    1. ChayleyGrim
      i own a pair of hd598's and i think they work great out of my zunehd but i know they were meant to be amped so should i buy this or is there another amp out there in my budget?
      ChayleyGrim, Oct 2, 2011
    2. Enthusia
      For your hd598's the HDP is more than competent.
      Enthusia, Oct 7, 2011
  9. SoulSyde
    NuForce Icon HDP: 8/10
    Written by SoulSyde
    Published Jan 6, 2011
    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

  10. willcasp
    Love it
    Written by willcasp
    Published Dec 22, 2010
    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.


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