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NuForce Icon Mobile

Portable headphone amplifier/USB DAC (Silver)

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  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

    Silver

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

    iPhone not included

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

  • NuForce Icon Mobile™

Item #: 773ICOMOBS
 

Review Summary

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Our take on the NuForce Icon Mobile™

by Dave Bar
Nuforce

Why buy a headphone amp?

High-performance headphones need high-quality amplification to perform up to their full potential. If you connect them directly to the headphone jack on your computer, iPod®, or stereo receiver, you may be disappointed. A separate headphone amplifier sends a stronger, cleaner signal to your headphones.

Add some punch to your tunes
Smart phones and portable music players are pretty amazing devices, but sometimes the sound quality of their headphone outputs can leave you a little flat. That's because cost constraints and power consumption issues usually rule out the use of high-performance headphone circuitry. That's where the NuForce Icon Mobile comes in. Small enough to take almost anywhere, it connects between your music player's headphone jack and your headphones to restore the punch and clarity your tunes deserve. This potent little headphone amplifier's rechargeable battery supplies the power you need to pump out bigger, bolder sound. You'll immediately hear greater bass extension and low-frequency impact, along with more dynamic, detailed sound.

Read more

Outstanding sound from your PC, too
The NuForce Icon Mobile can also give your computer's audio performance a shot in the arm. Just plug it into a USB output on your PC and it automatically installs itself in seconds, bypassing the sound card inside your computer — a noisy environment prone to producing poor sound quality. From there the Mobile decodes your music files through its own high-quality, digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Your tunes will be output as fantastic-sounding analog audio signals ready for playback through your headphones, or even a pair of amplified desktop speakers. If you've never heard your digital music played through a high-quality DAC, you're in for a big treat. Every instrument and vocal stands out clearly and distinctly in its own separate space, allowing you to easily follow each one note-for-note. And you'll feel immersed in sound, with a greater sense of ambient space around you.

Highlights:

  • built-in USB DAC supports 44.1kHz and 48kHz native sampling rates
  • high-performance headphone amplifier (12 ohm to 300 ohm headphone impedance recommended)
  • tiny, pocket-sized design for great portability
  • built-in, rechargeable lithium ion battery with charging through USB connection (2.5 hour charge-time provides 13 hours of continuous playback with maximum power)
  • external line-level input (3.5mm stereo mini-jack) for connection to portable music player
  • two headphone/line-level outputs:
    • 3-pin stereo mini-jack (3.5mm) for driving standard headphones and line-level sources such as powered desktop speakers
    • 4-pin stereo mini-jack (3.5mm) for headphones with in-line microphone
    • both outputs can be used simultaneously
  • rotary analog volume control
  • gain select switch provides compatibility for a wide range of headphones and earphones
  • 8" mini-jack cable (3.5mm stereo mini-jacks on both ends)
  • 20" USB (Type-A to mini Type-B) cable included
  • 2-3/16"W x 3-1/2"H x 9/16"D
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

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

Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • Portable headphone amp
  • 20" USB cable (USB Type-A on one end and mini USB Type-B on the other)
  • 8" mini-jack cable (3.5mm stereo mini-jack on both ends)
  • Plastic gain tool
  • Silicone band
  • 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 mobile is a portable headphone amp and digital to analog converter. There are USB and stereo 3.5mm analog inputs, along with two 3.5mm headphone outputs.

Battery: The internal Lithium Ion battery is charged using the USB port. After the initial charge (4 hours), subsequent charging should take approximately 2-1/2 hours and provide approximately 13 hours playback.

USB Port: The USB port is designed to connect to your computer to charge the internal battery. The icon mobile can also act as a computer soundcard, providing high quality sound to headphones and/or powered speakers.

Headphone Outputs: The two 3.5mm headphone outputs are active simultaneously; both outputs are controlled by the volume control. One of the headphone jacks supports an in-line microphone for use with internet voice applications (Skype, Messenger, etc).

Controls:

  • Volume: rotary (thumb wheel) volume control on the side panel
  • Gain: two position switch; set to (+) for full size headphones, (-) for in-ear monitors; tool included for adjustment

Connections:

  • Side: mini USB Type-B input; connect to charge the battery or use the icon mobile as an outboard soundcard for your computer (which also charges the battery)
  • Top:
    • Headphone: two 3.5mm outputs; one supports microphone input
    • Line Input: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack input; plugging a cable into this input overrides the USB input

Specifications:

  • USB: side panel mini USB Type-B; compatible with USB 2.0 (high speed); supports audio input and output (microphone support for computer voice applications); USB cable included
  • Headphone Outputs: compatible with headphones from 12 to 300 ohms; 80 mW x 2 @ 16 ohms
  • THD+N: 0.054% @ 25 mW, 1 kHz
  • S/N: 98 dB @ 40 mW

Status LEDs:

  • Power: blue LED illuminates when unit is on; power is turned on automatically whenever headphones are plugged into either output, turned off when headphones are unplugged
  • USB: white LED indicates a USB connection is active; blinks when the USB port is transmitting data
  • Ext: yellow LED illuminates when any cable is plugged into the line input
  • Battery Status: dual color LED; red when the battery is low, green when the battery is charging, not lit during normal (portable) use

Dimensions:

  • Width: 2.174" (3.361" including USB cable)
  • Height: 3.460" (3.924" including mini cable)
  • Depth: 0.517"
 
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NuForce Icon Mobile™ Reviews

Average Customer Review:

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4 out of 5

NuForce Icon Mobile™

Written By PaulC, Mason,Wv on Monday, September 26, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
The ICON MOBILE is a great DAC and headphone amp. I use it on my Acer Laptop via USB connection thereby bypassing the laptops converter in favor of the NuForce's Dac. I have a set of BeatsT by Dr. DreT Tour in ear headphones and they perform very well with this dac. For the price its an affordable upgrade to your computer, or Ipod...Good Buy
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5 out of 5

Better Sound Overall

Written By MrFranc, Guaynabo, PR on Monday, May 02, 2011
 
Overall sound much better from the iPod Classic and iPhone. More detailed
bass and mid range at lower volume. I also use it with my netbook and the
difference is night and day. The only thing missing is support for 96/24 like the
uDAC2 that i use for my desktop. But then again maybe I'm asking too much for
a portable.
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5 out of 5

If you like quality sound, you NEED this!!

Written By Richard, Cottonwood, AZ on Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I have iPod nano 2nd gen. and just got a 3rd gen iPod touch and they both
sound much better thru the DAC. The hum and sometime buzz is gone and
overall sound is better, better highs, better mid-range and better bass. If you
have an ipod, get yourself a line out dock cable to by-pass the ipods amp and
dac and go right into the Icon Mobile. The out-put sound has a much more life
like sound and quality.
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4 out of 5

Improvement, albeit subtle

Written By Myles, Denver, PA on Sunday, November 14, 2010
 
I purchased this for a 3 uses, listed below 1-3 based on importance.

1. Headphone amp for my Ipod
2. DAC for my New computer (replacement for a creative sound card)
3. DAC for my old, old, old computer with no sound card.

I used my Ipod constantly on the go with a pair of Shure SE420 earbuds, so I finally decided that I would go for a portable headphone amp to drive my earbuds cleaner than the built-in Ipod amp ever could. Upon first trying this amp, I didn't quite know what to expect, and it was somewhat hard to hear an improvement. However, upon listening for a little while, I began to notice some things that were bviously different. The subtle bass guitar grooves in alot of my music started to show through more. Also, entries and precussive hits seemed a bit more defined. As for the midranges and trebles though, I would have to say that I found only very slight improvements in those ranges.

On the computers, when using the USB DAC, I found that it improved clairty and definition greatly.

Overall,

Ipod: Improvements in bass definition and impact
Computer (w/ sound card): Very slight improvement in definition
Computer (w/o sound card): Huge improvement in clarity

I would recommend this amp, however... given the choice between this and a better pair of headphones or earbuds, I believe there would be greater improvement with the latter.
8 out of 9 people found this helpful
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For a more in-depth review and enhanced detailed information on the NuForce Icon Mobile™, please visit the Crutchfield website product page (/ISEO-rccbcspd/p_773ICOMOBS/NuForce-Icon-Mobile-Silver.html ).