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

  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. 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.
  7. 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

  8. 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.
  9. harpua
    NuForce Icon HDP
    Written by harpua
    Published Nov 9, 2010
    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.
  10. Stekos
    Great headphone amp/DAC - from a newbie point of view
    Written by Stekos
    Published Nov 8, 2010
    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.
    1. weissshay
      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
      weissshay, May 19, 2014