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NuForce Icon HDP

Headphone amp/USB DAC/stereo preamp (Silver)

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  • NuForce Icon HDP

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  • NuForce Icon HDP

  • NuForce Icon HDP

  • NuForce Icon HDP

  • NuForce Icon HDP

Item #: 773ICNHDPS
 

Review Summary

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Original price $349.99
 
 
 
 

Our take on the NuForce Icon HDP

by Dave Bar
Nuforce

Turn 1s and 0s into sweet sounding music

Why buy a separate DAC? These devices are all about getting true high-fidelity sound from digital sources like computers, streaming music players, smartphones, and more. While these kinds of sources usually have their own digital-to-analog converters built in, you can expect a separate DAC to give you much better accuracy and finer detail.

Rock your headphones
Great headphones are like race cars — they need high-octane fuel to perform their best. If you're driving your 'phones straight off of your PC or stereo system's headphone output, you could be missing out on a lot of music enjoyment. That's because computer and audio manufacturers frequently use low-cost, low-performance circuitry to power their headphone jacks — resulting in thin, lifeless sound. NuForce's HDP solves the problem by employing high-current, low-distortion amplification designed especially for headphones. This pint-sized powerhouse lets you make the most of your headphone investment by rendering your tunes with richer, deeper bass, clearer highs, and explosive dynamics.

Cool features for a top-notch compact audio system
The HDP is more than just a great headphone amp. You're also getting a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and a stereo preamplifier, all in a single compact component you can use as the centerpiece of a killer desktop audio system.

The HDP's sophisticated DAC can accept digital music files from your PC via USB — bypassing your computer's built-in soundcard for a far more exciting listening experience. You'll hear layers of musical nuance previously obscured by the noisy environment inside your PC — reverberations echoing in a concert hall, or the natural decay of an acoustic guitar chord. On good recordings, every instrument and vocal will stand out clearly and distinctly in its own separate space, allowing you to follow each one note-for-note. It's audio detail at the molecular level.

Versatile connections for your music sources
You can connect multiple music sources to your Icon HDP:

  • Input #1 gives you three different ways to hook up components. Its coaxial digital input is ideal for connecting a CD player and taking advantage of the HDP's high-performance DAC for better sound. Then there's a stereo minijack, which accepts the headphone output from your smartphone or MP3 player. This input also doubles as a 3.5mm optical digital input for connecting components with optical out, such as some computers. Nuforce even includes a Toslink optical to 3.5mm mini optical adapter for your components that use a full-size optical digital out.
  • Input #2 is a pair of RCA jacks, ready to take on an iPod® dock or other audio components with line-level output.
  • Input #3 is a type B USB jack, which feeds the output of your computer into the Icon HDP's onboard digital-to-analog converter. This lets you bypass your computer's soundcard to enjoy much higher resolution audio.

A pair of high-quality, gold-plated RCA outputs lets you connect the Icon HDP to an amplifier of your choice for a full-blown audio system, or a pair of amplified speakers for a high-end, compact desktop stereo.

Easy to set up and use
Operation is simple — just plug the NuForce into any USB port on your computer, where it will automatically install itself and be ready for use in a matter of seconds. The included external power supply helps keep any noise or interference away from the HDP's circuitry. The top knob turns the amp on and controls volume. The bottom knob is the music source selector. A sturdy non-slip silicone stand is included to keep your Icon HDP firmly planted on your desktop.

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Highlights:

  • low-distortion, high-current headphone amplifier (drives headphones up to 600 ohms)
  • THD+N: 0.001% at 1 kHz
  • frequency response: 10Hz to 100kHz (-0.5dB)
  • signal-to-noise ratio: >100dB
  • built-in high-resolution DAC (192kHz/24-bit for optical and coaxial digital input, 96kHz/24-bit for USB input)
  • digital inputs:
    • RCA coaxial or 3.5mm optical
    • USB Type B
  • analog inputs:
    • 1 pair line-level RCA stereo audio
    • 3.5mm minijack (overrides RCA inputs when connected)
  • 1 pair high-quality, gold-plated RCA analog outputs
  • full-size stereo headphone output (3.5mm minjack adapter included)
  • Toslink to optical mini adapter included
  • external power supply
  • removable non-slip silicone stand
  • high-quality analog volume control for improved channel tracking at low listening levels
  • high-voltage 2V analog output
  • digital inputs use no capacitors in the audio signal path for cleaner sound
  • 38" USB (Type A to Type B) cable included
  • 1-5/16"W x 6"H x 4-3/8"D (3-3/16"W x 6-3/8"H on stand)
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
  • If connecting to a TV, please make sure you can select "PCM" output in its audio menu. This DAC is not compatible with Dolby® Digital signals.

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • Headphone amp
  • Power supply with attached 5' DC output cord (15 volt/1.6 amp)
  • 6' AC power cord
  • Silicone stand
  • 38" USB cable (USB Type-A on one end and USB Type-B on the other)
  • Female 1/8" to Male 1/4" Headphone adapter
  • Female Toslink to male optical mini adapter
  • Manual

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Features

Overview: The icon HDP is a headphone amp, digital to analog converter, and preamp. There are USB, optical and coaxial digital, and analog inputs, along with RCA and 1/4" headphone outputs.

USB Input: The USB input is designed to connect between your computer's USB port and desktop audio system, or your primary audio system if you prefer. The input is a USB Type-B port and a USB Type-A to USB Type-B cable is included.

Digital Inputs: There are two digital inputs, an RCA coaxial digital and a 3.5mm optical digital mini-jack (Toslink to optical mini adapter included). There is no way to switch between these two inputs, so only one or the other should be used.

Outputs: The outputs are analog and include stereo RCA preamp outputs on the rear panel and a standard 1/4" headphone jack on the front panel. Both outputs are controlled by the rotary power/volume knob and the rear panel RCA output is muted when headphones are plugged in. A small LED on the front panel lights when the unit is turned on (the color changes based on the input selected).

Controls:

  • Power: rotary power/volume control on the front panel; controls the volume for both the rear panel preamp and front panel headphone outputs; turn fully counterclockwise to turn the unit off
  • Input: rotary input selector switch; three position, USB, Digital (optical or coaxial), analog

Connections:

  • Front: standard 1/4" headphone; stereo
  • Rear:
    • Power: DC input for use with included power supply
    • Analog: stereo RCA inputs
    • Coaxial: single RCA coaxial digital input
    • Optical: 3.5mm optical mini input
    • USB: USB Type-B input
    • Preamp: stereo RCA preamp outputs; muted when headphones plugged in

Specifications:

  • USB: rear panel USB Type-B; compatible with USB 1.1 and 2.0 (full speed and high speed); USB cable included; 8-96 kHz sampling rate; 16-24 bit resolution
  • Digital Inputs: up to 192 kHz sampling rate and 24-bit resolution
  • Analog Preamp Output: 2.0 volts RMS
  • Headphone Output: compatible with headphones up to 600 ohms; 96 mW x 2 @ 600 ohms
  • THD+N: 0.001% @ 1 kHz
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 100 kHz
  • S/N: greater than 100 dB
 

Product reviews from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Sennheiser HD 650 headphones

Sennheiser HD 650 headphones

by Ralph Graves
 
Sennheiser HD 650 headphones

I spent some time with the Sennheiser HD 650 high-performance stereo headphones recently. I think I was most impressed with the impression they didn't leave. Sometimes headphones...

 
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NuForce Icon HDP Reviews

Average Customer Review:

11 people say:

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2 out of 5

No improvement at all

Written By Pangtju, Los Angeles on Sunday, October 06, 2013
 
I compared listening thru my Sony Studio quality headphone direct from the headphone jack on my 12 years old Sony Home Theater amplifier and through the NuForce Icon HDP connected direct to the output from my Pioneer Elite DVD player, I was listening to Diana Krall SACD,the sounds coming out from my old Sony Home theater amplifier is much richer in hi frequencies and bass and midrange, and I consulted Crutchfield team, and the team said it is obvious that a processed sound from home theater amplifier will produce much better improved sound. I was kind of disappointed to buy this product after hearing so many inputs that the NuForce Icon HDP is such a very good product.
Pros:
None
Cons:
Sounds is dull compared to what I used to listen from my hometheater amplifier direct headphone jack.
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5 out of 5

Great Deal! Great Sound! Goes PERFECT w/ Senn HD650s

Written By pohlevj, Little Falls, NY on Thursday, December 06, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
To start off I want to let everybody know that I have been a true audiophile for many years. I've had several home and car audio setups that I have spent a lot of money on over the years and I am confident when I say that I know good sound. I recently purchased a premium set of headphones for home use (Sennheiser HD650s). When i received them I used them with my home theater's headphone jack and they sounded fantastic! but when i plugged them into my computer they just bottomed right out! they had no guts to them... no oomph! They lacked the power and clarity that they are supposed to have when ran properly. After speaking with a Crutchfield representative I decided on purchasing the Nuforce Icon HDP headphone amp. Let me tell you what... this headphone amp makes such an incredible difference with ANYTHING you listen to. Whether its rock, rap, country, jazz, you name it. As a matter of fact I feel that these two items go incredibly well together, like they were almost made for each other. And since it is a headphone amp, DAC, and preamp all in one, I sometimes hook it up through my home theater system to give it even more power! I highly recommend this item to anyone who is looking to power those high-impeded headphones the RIGHT way and not just settle for your computers stock headphone jack...believe me, this thing makes a world of difference and is totally WORTH the price. After all, a $500 pair of cans deserves a $500 amp, don't you agree?
Pros:
Powers up to 600 ohm headphones extremely well. Goes perfect with the Sennheiser HD650s. Extremely versatile headphone amp that also acts as an external computer DAC and preamp. Several connectivity options, including optical, coaxial, and RCA in and outs. Small and lightweight, but feels and looks very solid. Comes with a white silicone stand and looks GREAT with any setup you choose to incorporate it into.
Cons:
A little on the expensive side, but totally worth it when you look at what you are getting for the price you're paying. Do some homework on headphone amps and DACs and you will see very quickly that this headphone amp is a great piece to add to your setup. Sure, there are ones out there that are the next level up, but they are well over $1000. The Nuforce Icon HDP is perfect for anyone! Whether you are an average listener, or a true audiophile, you will absolutely love this product by Nuforce!
2 out of 2 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

NuForce Icon HDP

Written By Gerald, Boston MA on Saturday, May 26, 2012
 
This was was a remarkable addition the my audio equipment. Before I purchased the NuForce Icon HDP I didn't get much satisfaction listening to MP3 files and I listened to mostly vinyl LP records when I was at home. It was purely a listening convenience that was used as an out of the house on the go type of arrangement for me.The music lacked so much depth until I hooked this little baby up to my Sennheiser HD-650 headphones and ran my iPod Classic through it. Now I listen to my iPod and iPhone a lot more at home. The sound is is amazing, vocals are clear and each instrument can be easily singled out and heard the way it's supposed to be. If you plan to listen eo your music collection using MP3's or other compressed sound files through either a portable player or over you computer than you can't go wrong with the NuForce Icon HDP in fact you owe it to yourself to hear what you've been missing. I will be purchasing a portable headphone amp next for my on the go solution.
Pros:
Clear rich sound. USB DAC hookup sound is amazing. You MP3 Player never sounded so good.
Cons:
None other than a little pricey but worth every penny.
1 out of 2 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

Written By KYFHO69, Misawa, Japan on Friday, May 18, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I am using the Nu Force HDP with a pair of PSB M4U 2 Headphones (totally killer headphones BTW). The sound is unlike anything I have ever heard before! I have a $10K home stereo that doesn't sound as good as this. The music is much more dynamic and the details of each instrument are very easy to hear on each song. I know it's a cliché, but seriously I am hearing stuff I never heard in songs that I have listened to for 20 years. Strong bass, super clear mids and highs. I am using Audioquest cables for the analog and USB. I have played this with my PC as well as a Cambridge Audio ID100 via analog - outstanding sound! I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to hear the best sound possible from their music. Yeah a One may think this unit is a little pricey, but I guarantee you it is a total bargain for what you get. Pull the trigger and enjoy yourself!
Pros:
Ease of use and absolutely fantastic sound.
Cons:
NONE
6 out of 7 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

gods creation

Written By derekB, Syracuse, NY on Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
This product makes even cruddy youtube songs sound alive. The clarity is unreal, ZERO distortion. I can say that the combo of this bad boy and my hd 800s are UNREAL. music is transparent and soundstage is amazing. must have for a true audiophile!!!
Pros:
EVERYTHING
Cons:
NOTHING. maybe a litle to bulky thats about it
2 out of 3 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

More than what you paid for

Written By CDSc, Aurora, IL on Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I've been into music and high-end audio for 22 yrs now and can say that all of the online reviews (look them up and see what I mean) and the ones below are accurate and spot on. This device is WAY beyond a great value. To most, 449.00 is too pricy. Only each individual can determine what's a 'great value' to them or not and they have to determine if spending this much is worth it. Would I recommend this to someone with a $50 boom box? No. However, for what its features are: headphone amp, DAC and preamp, it is OUTSTANDING! Sound quality, build quality and ease of use is great--especially the sound quality!!! The only thing that might slow some down is getting all of the settings on your computer correct for the DAC input. However, Crutchfield has a great staff willing to help out. PLUS: Nuforce's customer service is great, too. If your system can allow one to hear what this device can do, this thing is a steal! Highly Recommended!!!
Pros:
Sound quality! EVERYTHING is better: highs, mids, lows, detail, space, ease of listening, better delineation of everything on your recording (given your recordings are good), everything is smoother sounding with a greater amount of detail without being etched. If you're not used to real high-end gear, you'll hear things on your recordings that you never heard before. Build quality. Small size. Upgradable (check out other Nuforce products) Lots of gain to drive virtually any cans
Cons:
If you are a cave man with computers, let Crutchfield or Nuforce help you with the DAC part of it. Or, find online/youtube guides to help you.
5 out of 5 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great product

Written By dhmosquito, Rapid City, SD on Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Since the only audio output on our HDTVs is optical-digital, I needed a means to convert to analog for headphone use for my wife while she works out on a treadmill. Though it's not cheap, this DAC performs perfectly. The sound is crisp and the device is well-constructed. Setup is simple with an optical cable. Thanks to Zac at Crutchfield for suggesting this unit.
4 out of 4 people found this helpful
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4 out of 5

NuForce Icon HDP

Written By Steve Walker, New York, NY on Friday, February 11, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Very good thing to have connected to one's computer. It's a good DAC, and a decent
headphone amp, too. I use it connected to my powered Audioengine A2s and my various
headphones, including a pair of four figure cans. The sound is eons better than what I got
from my stock soundcard (but that is a very unfair comparison). This is not a product I
would use for my main rig, but it is not far off. The incredibly small footprint, and combo
DAC/Headphone amp are perfect for a second system with one's computer. I am very
pleased. Black background when quiet in b/w songs, and clear, crisp sound. I enjoy
listening to tunes through the NuForce Icon HDP mucho. Highly recommended.
7 out of 7 people found this helpful
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4 out of 5

NuForce Icon HDP

Written By MaryC, Lincolnton NC on Monday, January 31, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Puchased on recommendation of sales person to boost clarity and volume of TV audio
headphones for father with severe hearing impairment. Substantial improvement over
previously used stereo amp in clarity, limited improvement in volume. Kept.
4 out of 6 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Gorgeous Sound

Written By Seattle Musician, Seattle on Monday, January 24, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Wonderful sound and craftsmanship at a very reasonable price. I'm extremely happy
with my purchase
3 out of 3 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great portable amp Dac combo

Written By Paul, New Jersey on Thursday, October 21, 2010
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
The dac on this thing is amazing for the price it sounds better than dacs costing twice as much and you get an amp that does a great job with All the headphones i tried. I had the Dennon Phones on this and they sound great the shure 530 sound great as well . All in all this amp does the job, the dac sounds good, Its nice to be able to use usb for 96/24 Music in such a small package and sound so transparent it is trully a great piece!! For the money this thing cant be beat If you want music to sound the best it can and still be portable buy this!!
23 out of 24 people found this helpful
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Add accessories for the NuForce Icon HDP

Connect your computer to your headphone amplifier/DAC with a high-quality USB cable. See all categories & accessories

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For a more in-depth review and enhanced detailed information on the NuForce Icon HDP, please visit the Crutchfield website product page (/ISEO-rccbcspd/p_773ICNHDPS/NuForce-Icon-HDP-Silver.html ).