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

  1. 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
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. gPope
    My First Headphone Amp and it's Great!
    Written by gPope
    Published Aug 10, 2010
    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...[​IMG]
  9. crumpler
    Great product for the price!
    Written by crumpler
    Published Jun 17, 2010

  10. kite7
    All around package for the price of one
    Written by kite7
    Published Jun 17, 2010
    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 [​IMG]. 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.