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Just ordered a new USB DAC
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April 16, 2012, 09:42:35 AM
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  • BSD2000
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I've been looking for a USB DAC for a while now since I wanted a better way to evaluate my LP recordings in high definition since most of my PC's have mediocre sound cards that default to a lower resolution when playing back files. Plus, I wanted a way to evaluate my analog to digital converters, directly from their digital output.

After doing some research, I ended up ordering an Audio-GD NFB-12.1. My budget was around $300, so most of the name brand DAC's were out of the question. It really came down to the Matrix Mini-I or the Audio-GD NFB-12.1. I chose the NFB-12.1 because I really like the design philosophy of no feedback in the output circuit and discrete components for the amplification - much like my Burson Audio HA-160 headphone amp. Plus, I really like the sound of Wolfson DAC's and the Mini-I uses ADI1955 chip. Also, the NFB-12.1 allows you to change the digital filters to alter the sound and the USB input accepts 96k/24bit audio.

It shipped today, so it should be here by the end of the week.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2014, 01:20:34 AM by BSD2000 »
Rega P25 Zyx Omega G Zyx R100H Audio Research PH5 Denon DP-52F Denon DL-103D Burson HA-160 Sennheiser HD-650 and HD-800


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April 23, 2012, 06:46:01 PM
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It's here and it sounds incredible! I'm playing a few songs on repeat to let it break in, but so far, I'm very impressed. Very neutral and clean, with a nice touch of sweetness in the midrange. It sounds very good through USB but it sounds fantastic through the coax input. I'm using it with my laptop, which is running Windows XP and it seems stuck in 44.1/16bit mode - I'll have to see if that's a driver issue or a Windows setting.

It's still early on in the evaluation and testing but so far, I'm blown away.  ;D

I'll take some pictures and post them later tonight.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2012, 06:48:22 PM by BSD2000 »


April 24, 2012, 07:06:33 PM
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Here's a few pictures I took earlier today.

I left the DAC on overnight playing a bunch of songs on repeat. It's been about 20 hours or so and it's beginning to fill out and sweeten up. Here's a few observations so far:

Out of the box:
  • Using the USB connection, the highs were a bit overpowering and the bass was weak. The highs were a bit harsh and sharp sounding.
  • Using the coax or optical, the overall sounds was more relaxed and enjoyable to listen to with a wider frequency response and smoother highs.
  • The sound-stage is very wide with a pinpoint center image.

After 20 hours of break-in:
  • Through the USB connection, the bass filled out and is very deep. The midbass is beginning to give instruments and voices body and fullness.
  • The highs are loosing the sharpness and the brightness is vastly improved.
  • Coax and optical inputs sound very pure and pristine. Imaging and sound-stage placement is superb.
  • The headphone amp has plenty of power and sounds very good, but not quite as good as my Burson Audio HA-160.
Note: To take full advantage of a USB DAC, make sure you use a program capable of playing higher resolutions without any processing. I recommend Foobar 2000. Compared to a program like Winamp, it was night and day - the default settings in Winamp sounded thin, harsh and 'shouty'.

I'm going to put it back on repeat for the next few days and continue the burn in process. I'll post more observations once it hits 100 hours.  8)
« Last Edit: August 10, 2017, 06:07:03 AM by Admin »


April 25, 2012, 07:31:19 AM
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OK, now I officially got lost! ;D What is and how is arranged your complete setup, counting this, the Rosetta and all the other stuff?

It has Wolfson DACs. The WM8741 should be their top of the line. I recently got a Sony Bluray player that has Wolfson DACs, albeit lower quality, and it sounds very nice. Your DAC should be the real McCoy.

For the best media player, check out VLC. Not user friendly, but best sound quality.
Pro-Ject RPM 5.1 Denon DL-110 Sony BDP-S373 Fred Nachbaur High Precision Tube Phono Preamp Nuova Elettronica FET preamp Nuova Elettronica IGBT power amp Mission 701 Clicktronic cables Norstone Loudspeaker Cable


May 12, 2012, 04:10:40 PM
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OK, now I officially got lost! ;D What is and how is arranged your complete setup, counting this, the Rosetta and all the other stuff?

It has Wolfson DACs. The WM8741 should be their top of the line. I recently got a Sony Bluray player that has Wolfson DACs, albeit lower quality, and it sounds very nice. Your DAC should be the real McCoy.

For the best media player, check out VLC. Not user friendly, but best sound quality.



For recording, my setup is: Rega P25 -> Audio Research PH5 -> Apogee Rosetta -> Focusrite Liquid 56 interface (digital audio (Blue Jeans coax with RCA's) and word clock cables (Blue Jeans coax cable with BNC's) from the Rosetta) to either Cubase or Reaper for recording software.

When I want to listen to vinyl with my headphones, the output of the Audio Research preamp goes to my Burson Audio HA-160 or Musical Fidelity X-Can headphone amps. Nothing beats hearing vinyl right from the phono preamp.  :D

To listen to digital audio, either from my PC through USB or from my Sony DVP-E9000ES DVD player (or DAT recorders), I use the Audio-GD NFB-12.1. To connect them, I use a Wireworld gold coax cable from the source to the NFB-12.1. To record digital audio to analog gear (reel to reel to cassette), I use the NFB-12.1 as a source.

I also use the NFB-12.1 to monitor analog to digital recordings. I use the optical output from the Rosetta (or Ross Martin PCM4222) into the NFB-12.1 (coax output goes to my recording interface) and use it as a DAC/headphone amp. Sometimes I connect the NFB-12.1 to my Burson Audio HA-160 and use the NFB-12.1 as just a DAC since the DAC outputs sound a bit better than the built-in headphone amp of the NFB-12.1.

So far, I'm really happy with the NFB-12.1, though it's not quite as detailed as I would like it to be through the USB input. It sounds fantastic through the coax and optical inputs when used with a good source. The bass was weak when it was new (which scared me at first), but now, it's deep and powerful - almost overwhelming on some tracks. It's a very musical sounding DAC with an emphasis on a smooth, flowing and forgiving type of sound, which can sometimes overly blend the details together and bring the apparent resolution down a notch. It's very clean, effortless and smooth - it sounds fantastic through speakers, but you can hear the slight glossy and smooth sound through headphones, but it's a minor flaw. Some people prefer DACS that smooth out the audio, which usually makes for a pleasant and musical experience and I think that's the audience the NFB-12.1 is targeted for. If you're looking for a hyper-detailed DAC, the NFB-12.1 is probably not for you.

I'm really splitting hairs here, since the problem only appears to happen on the USB input and it's almost non-existent on the coax or optical input. It's really a fantastic sounding DAC, especially for the price.  8)
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 06:43:52 AM by BSD2000 »



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