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

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. TheWuss
    not exactly what i wanted, but i can see why folks like it
    Written by TheWuss
    Published Sep 2, 2010
    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.
      gevorg likes this.
  4. 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

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Ceja-Blu
    Nuforce Icon HDP
    Written by Ceja-Blu
    Published Jul 30, 2010
    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. 
  8. trallala
    By week’s end ...
    Written by trallala
    Published Jun 17, 2010
    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

  9. 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
  10. 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!