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NuForce DDA-100, High-End Audiophile-Grade Sound Quality Digital Integrated Amplifier for Computer and Home Audio (Silver)
A design innovation you have to hear to believe. The NuForce DDA-100 is a Direct-Digital Integrated Amplifier that marks a new juncture in digital sound. The innovative new design converts the digital audio signal into analog form at the last possible stage-the PWM amplifier output-giving listeners the same level of performance as far much more expensive audio gear. The DDA-100's inherently low distortion and noise floor remain in the digital domain from beginning to end, resulting in a remarkably wide dynamic range, crystalline clarity and amazing detail-all for an affordable price. The DDA-100 doesn't require the typical DAC stage found in most of today's digital audio products. Rather, its PWM power amplifier stage is modulated directly by the incoming signal, and the digital-to-analog conversion takes place at the speaker outputs. In effect, the PWM power amplifier stage operates as a power DAC. This effectively eliminates the DAC-related problems that have plagued serious listeners in the past. Fewer parts result in a more direct signal path, resulting in benefits passed along to you: exquisite sound at an affordable price. More digital audio "bang" for your buck. We've designed the DDA-100 as a digital-only product for today, and tomorrow's digital playback components. The DDA-100 accepts four digital sources via one USB, one coaxial and two optical inputs that provide exceptional flexibility for your home audio and A/V needs. And with the included remote control, you can control inputs and volume from the comfort of your listening chair. Along with its convenience and an innovative design, the DDA-100 will drive your loudspeakers via a robust 50-Watt RMS and 250-watt peak capability per channel for superb dynamics and transparency. If you're seeking a moderately priced integrated amplifier that offers true high-end quality, features, convenience, and performance, the DDA-100 is the ideal choice.
96kHz input sampling rate, 3GB/s over-sampling rate for smoother, more natural reproduction.
An on-chip clock reference signal for synchronizing incoming digital audio data. Data re-clocking results in ultra low jitter performance.
100% linear frequency and phase response (+/- 0.1dB from 20 to 20kHz)
Signal-to-noise ratio > 95dB A-weighted
High-quality, audio-grade parts throughout
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3 of 4 found the following review helpful:
NuForce DDA-100 integrated amplifierDec 09, 2012
Let me begin with the five stars. I'd have possibly given the NuForce amp a six star rating if other components of similar kind were available for me to have compared it with. I know of the existence of only one other make that costs substantially more and a sample of which I do not have on hand.
Accordingly, I did not have the opportunity to test the DDA-100 against another component of a similar feature set. And no matter what, I'd have given a six star rating for value no matter what, or have I repeated myself? Considering the DDA-100's sound is on par with more than a few very high end amplifiers that cost thousands, if not tens of, the reader will clearly understand my take. I had on hand Nelson Pass' handbuilt single-ended class A amps that put out 100 watts @ 8 ohms and another amp I chose in the same price range as the NuForce, the Audiosource 90W stereo amp @ $650 used by many home theater installers.
At the outset the reader should appreciate that it is difficult to get a handle on a component that is not just a new generation of existing technology, but rather a new technology that may be the wave of the future. Being a power amplifier first, the NuForce DDA-100 cannot be directly compared with conventional power amplifiers or DACs driving conventional power amplifiers because a. more wires would need to be inserted into the signal path, b. more electronics will be inserted into the signal path, the actual characteristics of which cannot be assessed independently; and c. there are no RCA (analog) or XLR (balanced analog) inputs.
This means that we cannot "know" the actual sound of a cable, wire or DAC without their being used simultaneously and in combination with other audio components. No audio component can be assessed independently of others, there always will be interactions and each will have a "sound" of its own. Accordingly, to assess the sound of the DDA-100, one can only evaluate its sound in context of the known quantity of one's own system as a whole, and how that system has been used before the insertion of the subject component.
The DDA however is easy to compare with what came before it on a desktop system, meaning music stored on your PC or Mac which is USB wired to the DDA-100 and two desktop speakers. They will simply sound, in this configuration, as good or better than anything you had heard before. Provided the speakers have high enough efficiency, the inherent colorations of this amplifier will be very low to almost non-existent.
The new technology is simple. Or complex, depending on your understanding of this technology. I'll make it simple: A conventional amplifier is used with a DAC, or DAC/preamp at its input. The signal is then amplified after the DAC or preamp only in the analog domain, the digital storage (CD or downloads) first having been converted to analog at the DAC's output. The conventional amplifier "magnifies" the low level signal in the analog domain internally and at its output, and that signal is wired to your speakers. The amplifier operates in the analog domain from input to output.
The DDA-100's signal arrives at the amplifier's DIGITAL ONLY input, these are USB or SPDIF optical and coaxial. Meaning you have no analog inputs and no means to normally input, let's say, the signal from an LP-preamp, unless you had first converted that signal to analog. So the DDA-100 is meant to be used in an all-digital system. Moreover, unlike the typical digital ICE amplifiers which usually convert an analog signal to digital and then back to analog at the output, the NuForce will have few of the ICE amp's shortcomings and distortions because the signal remains in digital until conversion takes place to analog at the very output of the amplifier, keeping the signal in its original form - ones and zeroes - unpolluted (theoretically), until it is converted to analog. The fact is the performance of the DDA-100 proves the point of the theory handily. Lastly on this matter, the DDA-100 is not just an amplifier, but it is too, a Power DAC. It'll convert to 24 bit 96 Khz through the USB input and through SPDIF to 176K....but not 192k.
For my review I employed the DDA-100 for a two speaker (stereo) home theater system using a new 65" Samsung ES6500 Smart TV and a new Samsung BD-E5900 3D Blue Ray player as the source, the set top box and Blue Ray connected to the TV with 1 meter lengths of Audioquest Carbon HDMI wires; the amp to the Samsung TV via a 1 meter high end Monster Optical SPDIF (Sony-Philips-Digital-Interface) wire. Testing the DDA-100 for its USB input, via Macintosh, will be gist for another review at a later time.
The DDA-100 (TV. Blue Ray and set top box) were connected to AC power with PS Audio's in-floor 20 amp line conditioners; and the NuForce with a PS-Audio top line AC cable to the PS receptacles, the AC wire's model number I can't remember. It is audibly better than the stock AC wires supplied by even very high end amps, but likely not state-of-the-art by today's top-of-the-line standards. Close enough. the speakers were connected with ARC Litzlink and Nordost wires.
The speakers I have are the 6 ft. line source RADIA ribbon arrays from Boehlender-Grabener - similar technology to Wisdom Audio's, Carver's Amazing, and Magnepan's latest. The advantage of line source speakers are low floor reflections, superb phase coherence, wide dispersion at all frequencies, extraordinary full scale imaging of the soundscape, and no sidewall reflections of consequence - all attributes I need for my peculiar listening room. More importantly for home theater use is their great speed depicting transient and explosive sounds, especially rewarding in this application.
The RADIAs are 4 ohm speakers which allow extra power from this tiny amplifier - the specs say 75 watts @ 4 ohms. The extra power was needed as for most films I have to run the amp at 90-95 on a scale of 100 (this number is a readout on the amp's front panel and has nothing to do with power output per se or dB sound scaling - nor the loudness capability of the amp.) The amp can go much louder than I would care to listen, but the Netflix output cannot. So not to be misunderstood, in this application I am limited to the loudness by Netflix, not the amp or system. In any event, the system is operating at the limits of my tolerance for loud.
NuForce supplies a credit card sized remote with the amp that has volume, mute, input and on-off switching.
With the right speaker this amplifier sounds colorless, neither warm nor cool, bright nor dark, but mostly neutral. It doesn't glare or create etched-sounding instruments.The human voices in choral works are clearly delineated, one from the other. The bottom line: At the price the DDA-100 by NuForce is a remarkable achievement that is clearly - pun intended - a glaring insult to amplifiers costing far more and to amplifier designers who know much less than NuForce's.
For many of you contemplating on spending mega bucks for another amp, I advise that you think twice about it and take a listen to the DDA-100. With the money saved you can buy your mom a nice Mother's Day gift or for yourself a great assault rifle. If you need more power at this time using a similar technology, you can get it and you can also expect to pay much more for it. Also, as I was writing this review, I received The Absolute Sound's latest. Do read my old colleague Steven Stone's review in The Absolute Sound and the 6 Moons Audio review for more information. Reflections: I had a month or so to live with this amp before the TAS review arrived in my mailbox, so I have no problem with going along with Stone's enthusiastic remarks and seconding the motion on his impressions for this amp which won TAS' Entry Level integrated amplifier component award for 2012.
It damned well deserved it.
Look. This amp is not a bargain. It's almost free.
Minmalist design but priced within reachMay 19, 2013
Truly delighted that I have a clean minimalistic looking video/audio system in my living room with sound quality I can really live with which wouldn't be possible without the DDA100 which is saying a lot coming from someone who has never heard a digital amp that sounded good for two channel audio.
Had a revelatory experience last week after I downloaded Jplay onto my Toshiba Ultrabook with USB out to DDA100. Using Mediabridge speakercables and Monoprice usb cords. Speakers are Linn Kan Mk1. The sound quality rivaled my $20k audio system (Origin Live, 47Labs, JM Reynaud w/ home brew OCC wires throughout).
Price of entry into truly satisfying 2 channel audio is dropping at lightening speed. This NuForce amp is a god send.
Oh, and whoever designed the input selector/volume knob should get a serious raise.
Great straight forward productMar 19, 2013
By Dr. Thomas Hartung
Just does the job right. Very good sound (with Martin Logan Electromotion) from (only) digital sources. Nice simple design, somewhat simple remote.
RECOMMENDED BY THE ABSOLUTE SOUND MAGAZINEJan 10, 2013
I'm a music lover but not an expert on components for a music system. I bought this integrated amp and am very satisfied with it. One of the main things you need to get the most from this unit are good speaker wires and a good coaxial wire to go from a CD player to the DDA100. I have been using Naim and [...] speaker wires and Morrow and Kimber Hero interconnects. These, along with the DDA 100, provide a "they are here in my room" holographic listening experience. One thing I learned about a "digital coaxial cable" is that you do NOT need to buy one if you have good interconnects like the Kimber Hero or Morrow Interconnects ($50). Just use one strand of a good interconnect and you'll get great sound. There are some "audiophile coaxial cables" for sale but I didn't try try them. But, I think a cheap coaxial cable might degrade the sound. Any comments write to boland7214 at aol dot com