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DAC - Nuforce HDP

Since we have started our quest to find the best audio headphones, we have worked hard to find a DAC that could match our needs, meaning: the best possible musicality an easy to use device requiring the smallest space as possible (most of the people using headphones do not have a lot of available space for the other devices), etc...
For every review, we always selected the NuForce devices. This manufacturer permanently surprises us with the quality of its products and the various advantages bundled with any of their device. Consequently, we have been using a µDAC2-SE for more than a year and it really delivers a lot for its price.

First of all, it is self-powered via the USB cable, it supports the 24bits/96kHz on its USB input, and in addition it incorporates a high quality DAC as well as a good quality headphone amp.

But even the most valuable devices have their own limits, which appeared during the review of the truly excellent  HIFIMAN HE-500 headphones. The µDAC2-SE is a true bargain with very good sonic qualities but it is not able to driver the HIFIMAN HE-500 with enough autority: the HE-500 requires a more powerful amp able to cope with a more difficult load.

Because we had been surprised  by the overall performance of the « small » NuForce, we decided to continue to explore the range of amplifiers made by this manufacturer, and therefore decided to review the NuForce HDP. This device exactly matches what we were looking for: a full featured DAC, with a high quality headphone amp supporting a USB input, and not required too much space...

The NuForce HDP is quite as small as the µDAC2-SE, and is provided with a plastic packaging and a few interesting accessories such as a Jack converter 6.35mm → 3.5mm:


NuForce has kept the HDP small enought to be still very small even if the µDAC2-SE is even smaller. The electronic card is highly integrated with a lot of CMS parts; please note that the CMS parts are nowdays sounding as good as the regular parts, at least for the integrated circuits (it is not always true for the other parts such as the resistors or capacitors for example):


From a design point of view, the NuForce HDP is available in blue, black, red and silver:


The NuForce HDP offers a various possibilities of connections, particularly in regard with its compact size: RCA analog input for those wanting to use it as a preamp, a digital SPDIF coaxial input for those wanting to use it as a DAC, a USB digital input supporting up to 24bits/96kHz (whereas the 4 internal DACs belong to the 24bits/192kHz generation).

Here is a photography of the rear panel:


The system setup that we have used is of course the same than the one we used for the previous reviews, except that the HDP takes its place:



The recent reviews of the AKG K-701, GRADO SR-125i, GRADO PS1000 and HIFIMAN HE-500 provide us with a great advantage: we are able to quickly identify the differences between the various devices.
To date, we had lessoned to the µDAC2-SE from NuForce which was used as both DAC/USB and headphone amp and we did not expect a huge improvement with the conversion to the HDP. But we were wrong. Totally wrong.
The HDP runs 4 DACs instead of one (and they are of higher quality). We have to say that NuForce has achieved a damned good device, and you know that we never exagerate our positive feedbacks. It has an outstanding definition, the sound is both neutral and excellent. I do not see what we could ask more from a sonic viewpoint.
But this very positive feedback generates a question by itself: can the ultimate NuForce device, the DAC-9, be even better ??...



  • excellent volume knob
  • the mids are wonderful
  • the dynamic is incredible
  • details are excellent
  • able to drive the 600 ohms headphones
  • price is very acceptable, lower than its competitors, and pretty incredible versus its performance: around 450€
  • the internal DACs belong to the 24bits/192kHz generation
  • the USB input accepts the 24bits/96kHz
  • can be used as a preamplifier
  • its weight is low: 450g, so it can still be considered as a mobile device



  • the power supply 15V 1.6A looks a bit small
  • the USB cable from the PC to the HDP is of the highest importance
  • the burn in period is very long


This article was written by Florent (Provence13 on our Forum) and Nounours18200. June 2012.

Creation date : 17/05/2012 @ 12:17
Last update : 12/01/2016 @ 19:45
Category : DAC
Page read 820 times

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