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New Audio gd NFB-27 Sabre ES 9018 DAC and Headphone Amp

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by mtntrance, Oct 6, 2012.
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  1. mtntrance
    Releases October 10th.
    Considering giving up my Phoenix, NFB-8 DAC (Wolfson) and DSP-DI w/power supply for the NFB-27.  Going from separate components consisting of 5 boxes and associated cables to a Sabre DAC headphone amp/pre amp in one box.
    Will I regret losing the separate power supplies in the DAC and headphone amps?  Primary headphone is a LCD 2 rev. 2.  Thoughts?
  2. V3ng3anc3
    Heh I'm also considering selling off my NFB-2 DAC and C2.1 amp to get the NFB-27 for my LCD 2 rev 2. If you do get it, let me know what you think. :]
  3. justaguy
    I'm interested to get it, but cannot find any review/info on NFB-27 in internet[​IMG]
    It's quite a step to throw 1.5k without any information. Should be great though..
  4. mtntrance
    It's new so there are not many out there yet.  I guess you have to look for NFB-7 reviews but there are not many of those either.
  5. OneSec
    Looks like this is not getting a lot of interest :D
    bump topic...
  6. mtntrance
    I went with Ref 10.32 which is the same DAC/Pre Head Amp combo with the 1704 chip versus the ES9018 Sabre of the NFB-27.  I am very impressed with the Ref 10.32.  Regarding its Pre- head Amp section its better than my Phoenix.  Seems to have opened the LCD 2.2s up dimensionally and improve sound stage.  In addition there is more detail and forward highs.  Of course that difference could be the DAC as my former DAC was a NFB-8 Wolfson.  King-wa did mention that the ACSS had been updated from that of the Phoenix in the Ref 10.32, NFB-27 and Master 8.  The NFB-27 and Ref 10.32 pre/head amp per King-wa are designed based on the Master 8 and the DACs of the NFB-7.32 and/or Ref 7.1. I know the new Schitt products are all the rage right now but I can't imagine being more satisfied than I am with the Ref 10.32.  The NFB-27 was definitely my second choice.
  7. customNuts
    bump. Any impressions from the nfb-27??
  8. Clemmaster
    If kingwa accepts, I might upgrade my defective Reference 5.32 to the NFB-27.32.
    It's not a sure thing yet though.
  9. turokrocks
    And still no reviews anywhere!!![​IMG]
  10. Clemmaster
    I have one: this thing is a beast!
    You don't need to know anything else [​IMG]
  11. turokrocks
    OK..Thank you for the update.....
    But I like to know "Something" about it....from you for example...[​IMG].
    As the info is really scarce about it! (from the consumer point of view)
    Like how it sounds with your Headphones/speakers.
    Any bit of info will do (I am thirsty ......)
    Some pictures will be also nice...
  12. Clemmaster
    I'm at work now so I cannot write a lot.
    Instead, I will C/P some PMs I wrote that contain information on the NFB-27.
    The first one is from March 28th, 2013. This was the first time I really enjoyed the NFB-27 when I solve the hardness issue. I know I posted some comments here and there (mostly on the Metrum Octave thread) where I stated that even though I noticed the NFB-27 was more technical, I much preferred the Quad for its non-fatiguing and natural sound. While these characteristics of the Metrum did not change (the "Metrum Magic" as I like to call it), I could solve most of the hardness (even harshness at times) I heard with the NFB-27 and my thoughts on it changed (I just sold the Concero + Quad yesterday). In contrary to the Quad, the NFB-27 is very sensitive to poor power cable. In my case, the very cheap power strip seemed to be the real culprit more than the supplied no-name AC cable. I recently ordered a DIY cable (YARBO SP8000 cable and ELECAUDIO plugs, <60€ total) and a BADA LB-5600 power filter (as per the recommendation of Tini who got good result with his Reference 10.32).
    Hi there,
    A quick follow-up :wink:
    I tried the NFB-27 with a laptop (JRiver) using Kernel Streaming (I installed the Concero's driver on this laptop, so no ASIO but it doesn't matter) instead of my Squeezebox Touch (EDO).
    This time, I plugged the NFB-27 directly on the wall outlet with nothing else (the laptop is on battery). I'm still using the cheap power chord but, at least, I'm avoiding the cheap power strip.
    Guess what? Most of the hardness that put me away from the music is now gone and I could discover most of the goods this little big beast has to offer! IMPRESSIVE is the word that comes out.
    It's much more technical than I initially though. I suppose even through USB the Squeezebox Touch is not a good transport and was causing this hardness (even harshness at times)! The Coaxial is ****, I noticed that a while ago when I switched to USB, but I think the OS needs to be tweaked in order to achieve good performance (using TT3.0 or something similar, playing with buffer size, etc.).
    Anyway, JRiver is an excellent player and I was wowed by the NFB-27 for the first time.
    The extreme treble extension without a hint of harshness or sibilance is brilliant!
    Honestly, for the first time, I'm actually considering selling my other rig (Concero -> Metrum Quad -> SA-31), which I was enjoying A LOT for the past 6 months (well, the Concero is brand new but I used to own a Stello U3 before it).
    I don't want to take a hasty decision, I still need to decide if I'm ready to live without the musicality of the NOS + Diamond Difference setup (Quad + SA-31). Technically, the NFB-27 is in another league, that's for sure.
    Here is a short summary of some highlights I got in my journey in the Head-fi world. This explains were I come from and what gear I like:
    First, let me note that I greatly value voicing and headphones can be excellent technically, if their not voiced to my liking, I won't listen to them... I also like warm(ish) sound (neutral as well, actually, but not bright/lean) but I seem to use a different strategy with regards to Headphone/Source: my headphones are more on the bright compared to yours and my amp/DAC are on the warm side of neutral. I'm more in the K-701/M-Stage camp than the HD-650/Centrance one ^^ (exaggerated here, I cannot stand the K-701/601 anymore on my current setup :D)
    Entry setup (in "Head-Fi world")
    Cowon S9 + iBasso D10 Cobra + AKG K240mkII - "I could hear all the details" (well, that's what I thought until my first upgrade. Now I know I can get even more with each upgrade. Now that I think of it, this setup sounded very nicely balanced!
    AKG K701 for a very short time with this setup (I quickly realized the source was sub-par) - Much better for some specific genres (jazz & acoustic mainly). Lacked bass for Rock (my main genre). Better definition and (much) bigger soundstage
    1st Evolution
    Airport express + Matrix M-Stage + K-701 - Much better control thanks to the M-Stage and higher level source (more dynamic). Still, the K-701 really were genre specific, even with the (very) warm m-stage that is an ideal match for them in term of taming the upper mid harshness. The Airport Express though bigger sounding and more dynamic was still an mediocre source on its own (grainy, not black background ^^).
    2nd Evolution
    Squeezebox Touch + Audio-GD NFB-3.1 + M-Stage + HE-4 - Wow! First step in the "ortho sound", never looked back since! In essence, the HE-4 are quite similar to the K-701 in that they have lively treble (which are tamed by both the M-Stage and the NFB-3.1 in this case) and an airy sound. To that, the 4s add warmth and BASS IMPACT! In the end, they are the planar equivalent to the DT-880 but with better texture, technicalities and no "acid" mid-range.
    3rd Evolution
    Here come the HE-500... Another big wow moment. The 500s were just magical on this setup. Definitely an Evolution here because of the "easy-to-drive" factor that suited the ("weak") M-Stage more than the HE-4. Sound stage was bigger and the lush tone of the 500s was an excellent match for the M-Stage (yet restrictive in musical genre, again...). Pretty much like LCD-2 lovers like them on the V200, even though they're both given the same description in their respective realm (warm, impact-full, relaxed treble and quite intimate presentation).
    4th Evolution
    Metrum Quad + Audio-GD SA-31 (+ HE-500, again). - Probably the biggest jump in technicalities so far. The 10W of the SA-31 plus the crystal clear sound of the Metrum made wonders with the HE-500. The bass slam was impressive and put my experience with the HE-4 (2nd Evolution) into perspective. The sound-stage was MUCH bigger than with the M-Stage (on both the 500s and the 4s that I gave to my DAD and happen to use frequently). The Metrum Quad is an impressive DAC that:
    - Greatly benefits from the source feeding it; to the point of actually getting the "sound" of its source (call it pure transparency) and impart its "magic" to it (immediacy, smoothness and organic tone)
    - Greatly attenuate the "digital nastiness" (glare, harshness, etc.). This is actually the only DAC that sounds good off my cheap power strip (think of it as "anti-digital"). I later discovered that power was an important factor of what was making my NFB-27 sound glary!
    5th Evolution
    NFB-27 + (later) HE-5LE - Paired with the SA-31 amp, I reached my audio nirvana (for now ^^) and can tune the sound from "analog/50s jazz-club" (w/ SA-31) to more lively/dynamic (NFB-27 standalone). I tried the HE-500 for some times (before I solved the power-supply issue) and was not satisfied with the upper-mid glare the combo exhibited. I sold the 500s and got the 5LEs: this was a very nice move towards more balanced sound!
    Some notes on the NFB-27 vs Reference 5.32
    In my case, it was just plugging it directly on the wall outlet instead of the cheap power strip I was using so far.
    This removed the hardness that made the experience not so enjoyable. This is was I needed to enjoy this beast.
    I think I can play with better cable and a conditioner to improve the sound even more but for now, I really like the NFB-27 for the first time.
    How would you compare the Ref 10.2 to the NFB-11 in terms of voicing?
    I had the Ref 5.32 but found it too dark for my taste and on my setup (SA-31 -> HE-500 back then. I now have the 5LEs instead). The NFB-27 is pretty much perfect for me when paired with the SA-31. It's slightly north from my neutral when used standalone, though for some genre, it's a nice addition that offer a really dynamic and engaging sound.
    I suppose the NFB-11's voicing is quite similar to the NFB-27 (maybe a tad brighter due to it not having the refinement of the NFB-27). I suspect the Ref 10.2 has a similar voicing to the Ref 5.32, which is why I went the Sabre route (though, back then again, I was more a R2R kind of guy, with the Metrum Quad).
    Finally, some notes on the NFB-27 vs Concero
    I just had a very quick listen with the Concero + SA-31.
    There's no competition, the NFB-27 clearly is in a different league, both technically and in term of voicing (organic tone, by comparison the concero sounds lean and, dare I say, digital).
    Note that the organic tone is common to all Audio-GD TOTL DACs (3x r-core design). I'm not sure how the NFB-1 would fare here. Note also that I run the NFB-27 single ended to the SA-31, which might not be optimal.

    As far as voicing goes, the NFB-27 has much smoother treble (yet more extended, which is one impressive trait of this DACs). The Concero is not smoothed out so it has more presence here (which is a tad to much for the HE-5LE, IMO). Treble aside, the overall balance is quite similar between the 2.

    Technically, the NFB-27 has much more authority and sounds bigger and more dynamic. A different league, as I said.

    If I interpolate my experience with the Ref5 and NFB-27, I'd guess the NFB-1 has the voicing of the latter and the technicalities of the former. In that case, it makes for a (much, IMO) better DAC than the concero.

    Now, back to music!
  13. turokrocks
    Thank you for the reply.
    I am a big fan of the Quad..this is something...
    I just got this couple of days ago..will this do???
  14. Clemmaster
  15. turokrocks
    I got it for a bargain as a package deal buy with my friends....VERY GOOD BARGAIN[​IMG]

    Please keep me posted for any update or new finding.
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