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


Headphoneus Supremus
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.


New Head-Fier
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.
Paired with Grado SR325is is just fantastic, maybe grainy in the highs. Excellent choice


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!


New Head-Fier
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.


100+ Head-Fier
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 for video proof.
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.
Night Crawler
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.
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


100+ Head-Fier
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.
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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
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, 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


New Head-Fier
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.


500+ Head-Fier
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.
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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?
For your hd598's the HDP is more than competent.


Headphoneus Supremus
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


New Head-Fier
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.


Pros: Great DAC, Headphone Amp & Preamp for the money
Cons: wish there was a switch to enable output from headphones and speakers at the same time if/when desired
I just got an HDP (my first DAC/headphone amp!) a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it immensely since I got it.  So far, I'm just using it as a USB DAC and headphone amp plugged into one of my W7 laptop's USB ports and playing mostly lossless files with Foobar with the WASAPI plug in with Foobar's volume at zero db (max) going out to the HDP.  I've been pretty much blown away by the upgrade in sound the HDP provides over the stock sound of my HP laptop which I had previously thought was pretty decent with my 530 IEMs.  But now after experiencing the difference the HDP has made, I know better.  

Compared to many here, I don't have a lot of money that I can spend on lots of audio equipment so the HDP's 3 in 1 value proposition is very important for me.  Although I don't have anything besides my previous stock setup to compare it to, the increased fidelity, clarity, space, transparency, etc. it provides has been dramatic and a wonderful revelation for me, especially with lossless source material.  I am amazed, indeed at times almost shocked by how much better my 530's sound plugged into the HDP.  Lossless files really sound so much better with this setup so I have already started to rebuild my music library with more lossless material.

After seeing some of the comments about the HDP in another review thread about hiss and various volume pot issues experienced by some, I feel really lucky because the pot on my unit is as close to flawless as I could reasonably expect.  I have zero detectable channel imbalance even at very soft volumes and I cannot discern any hiss at any volume I can reasonably tolerate with music playing through my Shure 530 IEM's which I would think should certainly reveal it if any is there.  But I can only hear some very faint, barely detectable hiss if I listen hard for it with the volume turned all the way to max while no music is playing.  Also when no music is playing, I can hear some faint crackling as I rotate the pot, but it only starts to occur when the pot has been turned past the 3:00 level (with HDP in vertical orientation) which is pretty close to max volume.  But this is a complete non issue because the maximum volume I can comfortably listen to the HDP with the 530's is at about 9 to 9:30 with most material which is barely turned up at all.

In sum, neither hiss nor channel imbalance is a problem for me at all with the HDP, even with my IEMs.  However, I'm 58 and my ability to hear high frequencies is most certainly diminished, probably a bit more than normal for my age.  So someone with more sensitive hearing would likely be able to hear more hiss with my unit than I do.
Another thing I should mention is that I initially found I was getting some occasional annoying glitches in the sound that were apparently being generated by my computer through the USB connection.  This led me to try the WASAPI plug in for Foobar which bypasses and isolates the data stream from the WIndows volume mixer, enabling bitperfect output from the computer to the HDP.  Fortunately, this simple fix completely eliminated those annoying audio glitches. 
To sum up, although it was a significant chunk of change for me, I'm really glad I decided to spend the money on the HDP as it's providing me with a huge upgrade in sound for music in a nice looking, small, easily transportable package that should be able to scale up nicely as I expand my system with active speakers and full size headphones (probably HD650s) in the near future.


Pros: Great sound, high res DAC, analog volume control
Cons: Price?
I'd like to knock the price, since $450 seems like a lot for a little headphone amp/DAC, but you get what you pay for, especially in the high-end audio world.  And, in my opinion, this is a great product.
I am just getting back into high-end audio, building a new kit.  The first things I wanted to do were to digitize my CD collection in lossless, build a media server with direct digital out, get a really good headphone amp/DAC and good headphones.
After a long search, reading several forums, I bought the following:
Sennheiser HD650
Icon HDP
Nuforce E7
I'm mroe than happy with all 3.  
For the E7, I use that as a headphone amp between my laptop or my iPod and my Grado 60's.  Great portable setup.  The E7 will drive my HD650's, but I prefer to keep that setup separate from my portable kit.
The Icon is my home headphone amp/DAC.  I can use the digital in from my laptop to the HD650's, which sounds amazing.  I can also use the analog out to connect to a small amp/speakers for a 2nd location.
Overall, I think having a separate portable and home setup is nice to have, since I don't have to move things around, and I really do prefer having the Icon wired up at home to my system.  It would work fine connected to an iPod, if needed.
As far as the high-end audio stuff like "extreme cross-over, wide dispersion, ample headroom, vast soundstage", I don't feel qualified to comment.  This is my first dive into this world, and I bought this setup without listening to it first, just based on the reviews I read on-line.  For the sound quality, it's amazingly higher quality than headphones plugged into a laptop or A/V receiver or iPod.  The difference is striking.  To be honest, I wasn't planned on re-ripping all my music, but once I heard the difference with the new hardware, I had to re-do my collection in lossless.  You CAN tell the difference, even with 320K MP3 files. 
Again, overall, a great setup.  Thanks to everyone on the forums who helped me with the decisions and spent their time posting very extensive reviews of the equipment.
Hello Stekos!
I wish to ask, I currently use the Fiio e11 (That is truly very good amp) do you think there will be difference between the nuforce Icon and the e11?
I own the B&W P7 as my main headphone set with Asus laptop and S4 as my portable to go
Thank U


Reviewer at Headphone.Guru
Pros: compact and affordable all-in-one DAC/amp and preamp
Cons: bright, analytical sound signature
After reading some glowing reviews, I decided to give the HDP a go.  I needed a compact and hassle-free solution for my work rig, and one that could drive any headphones I decided to bring to work with me (including the difficult-to-dive 600 ohm beyerdynamic cans).
After receiving the HDP, I was impressed with its looks and build quality.  Even the packaging and branding were pretty sleek.
However, it was upon powering up the device when my impressions started to turn for the worse.  The HDP is, to my ears, a pretty nice source paired with a somewhat bright and not exceptionally powerful headphone amp.
The DAC section of the HDP is nice, but perhaps a bit on the analytical side.  It is detailed and wide open sounding.  The headphone amp section of the HDP, however, I found a bit bright for my tastes.
I found that using EQ to roll off the treble gave me the sound I was looking for, but the nagging feeling remained that I could find another amp to more suit my needs...
If I were using the HDP as a DAC only, I perhaps would have kept the unit, as it was a nice sounding source.  However, i bought it to perform both DAC and amp duties, and as such it was a slight disappointment for me. 
All this is not to say that different folks may not like the product.  But I, for one, found its sound signature was not exactly to my liking.  Functionally, and otherwise, it was more than fine.
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100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great value in a compact 3 in 1 package
Cons: Nothing yet - Does what NuForce said it would
This is my first headphone amp purchased with my first "better quality" headphones (DT 880/600) in years.  Nothing else to compare them with as of yet. The HDP is hooked-up to a Sony all-in-one desktop computer via USB.  The preamp outputs are connected to a pair of Audioengine 5 powered speakers.  The sound through the speakers is excellent for the type of setup, but with headphones connected, it is nothing short of Hi-Fi quality.  The volume turned up all the way, there is not even a hint of distortion.  Except for a slight bit of brightness at the higher end of the frequency range, the sound is dead flat with just enough bass impact and lively midrange.  Hopefully, I will have more to comment on as I put more miles on this setup...


Pros: excellent connectivity, USB, SPDIF, analogue out, headphone out
Cons: not really portable desk
This is an all-around terrific value for what it does very well and transparently.
I'm listening to 200-hour burn Senn HD600s with cardas cable upgrade.
The headphone amp is dead quiet at full gain, super clear, and uncolored.  It delivers transparent, super quick transients and crispy detail without fatigue or pooling in any particular frequency.
The Analogue outs go into my NAD C553BEE for a deep and fully detailed stereo experience through my KEF 103.2s. 
As a Headphone amp it works without any fatigue, noise, coloring, or mud in the guitar samples.
percusion, Cajón, tabla and deep african drums are accurately and clinically deep without any smear and harmonic concomitance.
You can connect it to an MBox 2 via spdif and monitor your session on Protools.
The headphone gain is characteristically clean and unfettered at its limits.  You get more music without anything extra.  Separation, placement and colored trademarks of each instrument are heard and felt with uncanny sharpness and definition.
I will comment after another 100 hours of burn time.
Love the simplicity and starkness of a well-designed device that sounds so good.
Ordering with Nuforce online was smooth and trouble -free. 


500+ Head-Fier


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Excellent pre-amp, headphone amp and dac for a great price
Cons: Nothing I can think of
After having a few dacs and amps , I wanted an all-in-one package that would leave me happy for a very long time. The size of this thing is small and portable which is an added bonus. I didn't like dealing with interconnects with amps and dacs so this thing was a blessing.
I only owned a handful of amps but I compared this Meier Corda Arietta and from what I was hearing out of my RS1 was better attack and speed. It is not as warm as the Arietta but for me this is a good thing. The transparency and soundstage depth is improved over the Arietta as well. I felt the HDP amp is a better match for my RS1 than the Arietta. If there was one thing that I wished it could improve on would be the width of the soundstage but this is minor for me since my AD700 already offers a huge soundstage.
I did not get a chance to compare with my other DACs since I sold them all betting that the HDP would triumph them all
. Clearly it does not disappoint when I received it.
There is no hissing on my unit with my AD700 and RS1. The unit runs cool all day and never gets hot, but lukewarm leaving it on 24/7.
Overall I'm impressed by the price and the features of the HDP, it's hard to find anything with all the features at the same price. I feel as an headphone amplifier, it could very well be worth the entire price of the HDP at $449 but Nuforce managed to fit an excellent DAC packed with features all for the price of one. Like some have already said, this entire package offers a lot of bang per buck.


New Head-Fier
My first headphone amp. No experience with others, so my impression of this one is in comparison to regular output from MP3-players and receivers. With this in mind I still feel the value is high (even though I realize I need to spend some time with other amps in order to justify my praise to this one in particular).
I'm very happy with the HDP.

Price paid 3879SEK(VAT excluded) ~$500