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An (almost) Comprehensive NuPrime IDA-8 Amplifier Review


nokitsch
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Hi all,

 

I wanted to share my review of my recently bought NuPrime IDA-8 amplifier. It seems that there is a dearth of information on this product and a dearth of physical stockiest as well, so I thought I'd do my bit of public service :-)

 

Some disclaimers - I am not an audiophile whose life is hi-end audio, but I do love music and I do love listening to it on a good system. The reason I picked Computer Audiophile (I've been to a bunch of other forums) is that this seems like a passionate community and also because the amplifier has a small foot print (good for desks) and a built-in DAC (good for streaming).

 

I have spent days on end researching amps and settled on this one for a combination of quality, features, specs, and price.

 

NuPrime Audio - IDA-8

 

So, here it goes:

 

Look and Feel

 

The first thing you notice about the amp is how tiny it is compared to most hi-fi components. Here is a photo of it sitting on top of my BluRay player.

 

jqdgr6J.jpg

 

I admit that I was initially skeptical of how such a tiny thing can boast the advertised 100wpc in stereo, but read on. A friend of mine who is an audio engineer and builds audio circuit boards and amps for a living told me that the unit is so small because class D amplification takes up little space (this is a class A+D amp).

 

The materials of the unit are top notch - it's very solidly built and it's a heavy little beast. Also, it (inexplicably) comes with two remote controls - a regular slim and lone one, and a "credit card" one.

 

Inputs

Another thing that attracted to me is the variety of ways you can listen to music on this digital amp. Despite its small size, it accommodates RCA for your CD Player or turntable, an optical audio in (for your Apple TV/Chromecast Audio or whatnot), and it has built in BlueTooth module (which you can replace at an additional cost by a WiFi module), so you can listen to music straight from your phone. Rounding off is a USB port for your computer and another coaxial port. So, you can hook up pretty much anything to it. Most amps costing many times more don't have these options.

 

Outputs

High quality gold plated outputs for a pair of speakers - very comfortably spaced in such a small backplate - plus a sub out.

 

DAC

The amp has a built-in DAC. I am not a DAC expert, so I don't know the model, but here are the specs for bit rate handling

 

 

  • USB Sampling Rates: 44.1KHz, 48KHz, 88.2KHz, 96KHz, 176.4KHz, 192KHz, 352.8KHz, 384KHz and DSD 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz, 11.2MHz
  • S/PDIF Sampling Rates: 44.1KHz, 48KHz, 88.2KHz, 96, 176.4KHz, 192KHz, 384KHz (Coaxial)
  • Maximum Sampling Rate: 32-bits
  • Bit Resolution: 16-32-bits

THD/Frequency Response

NuPrime shows a very impressive THD of 0.005 and a frequency response of 10 hz - 50 khz (way more than a human ear demands). I admit that I was skeptical about these claims until I heard the thing.

 

Pairing

I paired the amp with a pair of floor standing Focal Aria 926 speakers. These speakers are on a bright side, just the way I like it, and provide a fantastic dynamic range and sound stage. My transports are a Yamaha CD Changer and AAC over iPhone/BlueTooth.

 

Comparative Listening

Before I went with NuPrime I auditioned with the same speakers a Rotel amp (I forget the model, it was at a store) Rogue Audio Sphinx (also A+D amp) and a more high end Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum class A tube amp. As well as, just for the hell of it, and mostly to see the not so subtle differences (as most of you know subtle differences sometimes are pure placebo) I compared it to my Yamaha RXV-900 receiver with a THD of 0.4 and BurrBrown DAC.

 

The NuPrime held its own splendidly against both of the Rogues (I'd say it's better than the Sphinx, which I almost bought ($1,295), but I was not satisfied with its sound at low volumes), and it completely blew my Yamaha out of the water, which basically was all I wanted it to do.

 

Sound - CDs

I listen to a lot of demanding music - industrial, electronic, with plenty of distortion and a full sound spectrum that is not easily separable by an inferior audio system. The reason I hate 90% of professional reviews is that they are written by old guys who seem to think jazz and Norah Jones are sonic bliss. Please, kill me.

 

Speaking of killing, sonically the NuPrime killed in every respect. First I put on my go-to test CD - the remastered Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. The reason I use Nine Inch Nails, besides it being my favorite band, is that Trent Reznor is a known sound engineer enthusiast and he takes his recording quality extremely serious. He is also an early adaptor of major new audio technologies (plus, I've seen his home studio ;0). Pretty Hate Machine is his most clean recording (meaning, clear separation of instruments, not as much guitar distortion). The NuPrime drove my speakers effortlessly - the bass was punchy and dynamic and the highs were absolutely piercing in a very lifelike way. It revealed sounds that I have not noticed before, which is exactly what an excellent amp should do.

 

Next I stepped it up with the remastered The Downward Spiral CD. NuPrime held its own without any problems - the recording sounded crystal clear with deep bass and a fantastic sound separation. Closer, besides its reputation for notoriety, is a very demanding track with many different sounds layered onto each other. Again, I was hearing some sounds for the first time at the highs.

 

I switched it up to Nirvana: Unplugged. Here, I was really impressed how NuPrime brought out the nuanced sound of the acoustic guitar. It was very lifelike - I was hearing for the first time those ends of notes, the "tsk" sound that an acoustic guitar makes in real life.

 

I finished with Chelsea Wolfe's CD Pain Is Beauty. Track 4 begins with just one high note, so on my Yamaha, with the volume turned up I could definitely hear a hissing sound because the rest of the sound spectrum was unoccupied. That hissing sound was completely gone with the NuPrime, which made me believe in their THD of .005 measurement. The sound was clean as a bell.

 

Sound - AAC (iPhone/BT)

Obviously the sound coming via a lossy format and BlueTooth will be inferior to a directly connected CD player, but even here I was very pleasantly surprised how clean the music sounded. It did not sound flat and tinny the way a lot of lossless recording does. The NuPrime's impressive soundstage really shone here. I was listening to Aphex Twin's latest album, Syro, and again, the bass was deep and clean, and the highs extremely clear. I also streamed some Daft Punk using the Amazon Prime Audio app with the same satisfying results.

 

I was also impressed how clear and full the NuPrime sounded at low volumes. This is important for me because I live in an apartment building. On the flip side, it can play quite loud without any loss of quality. It won't shatter the glass on your photo frames, but I doubt many people need that. It's been a pure joy listening to music the way it should be listened to.

 

Next Steps and Problems

I understand that I did not cover an important aspect here - computer audio. Obviously, I was going to do that. I was planning to hook up my Apple TV via TosLink and stream FLAC files from my iMac using Fidelia and AirPlay to Apple TV and then the NuPrime.

To my chagrin the NuPrime refused to recognize the Apple TV (I think mine is 2nd Gen). I reached out to NuPrime and they explained to me that they have built in a high-end transistor to take the TosLink signal, while the one in AppleTV is a consumer grade one. They advised me to send the amp to them to replace the transistor free of charge. I have not done it yet, as it's a minor headache and I hate to let the amp out of my house for a couple of weeks.

 

Therefore, consider this review a Part I, with part II to come when I resolve the TosLink issue. ALSO, I am all ears if you can recommend another way of streaming lossless music from my iMac!

 

Overall, at $995, I think this amp punches way above its weight and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. In the audio world full of stratospherically priced equipment, this is a bargain. Save your money and spend it on music instead!

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The reason I hate 90% of professional reviews is that they are written by old guys who seem to think jazz and Norah Jones are sonic bliss. Please, kill me.

 

Outstanding review!

 

Please be aware that the ATV resamples your music to 44.1 and then 16/48 kHz, so if you can find a different way to get the data to the amp, you will be doing yourself a favor.

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Thanks for the review. I am also considering the Rogue Audio Sphinx but I failed to pay attention at a recent audition to how it sounds at low volume - what did you notice were the particular differences between it and the NuPrime at low volume?

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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USB or toslink directly from the iMac would be optimal. The ATV resampling is transparent to my ears, so it isnt a terrible option

 

Unfortunately, my iMac is in the bedroom and my system is in the living room with a long hallway in between.

 

Thanks for the review. I am also considering the Rogue Audio Sphinx but I failed to pay attention at a recent audition to how it sounds at low volume - what did you notice were the particular differences between it and the NuPrime at low volume?

 

To my ears the NuPrime had fuller sound stage and better definition at the highs and lows. The different sounds came through more clearly at low volume whereas the Sphinx struggled to bring out the treble and the bass. I did some research and apparently the human ear is wired to pick up midrange at low volumes to better perceive voices (people whispering to each other), which kind of make sense.

 

Also, I am not sure if it was this particular unit or the set up, but every time I touched the knobs on the Sphinx the thing electrocuted me :-) Also, the Sphinx is a bare bones amp - you'll need a separate DAC (or use the ones in your setup) and it only has the RCA in, I believe. One of my other goals is to minimize a number of components in my system (next stop is swapping my existing CD changer and a B-Ray player for an OPPO - one box less). Technically, with the NuPrime, if you go the wireless route, all you need is it and a pair of speakers.

 

The guys at NuPrime are confident in their product and give you a 30-day no hassle return policy. That's what convinced me to purchase it blind, as I had no way of auditioning it (you'd think someone would be selling it in New York!).

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I'm curious about the toslink issue. I have a NuForce DDA-100, and it works great with an ATV-2. What did NuForce (Nuprime is the same guy) change in the toslink connector and why?

Bluesound Node 2-->LFD LE Mk V-->HSU VTF-1 Subwoofer (via high-level inputs)-->Harbeth P3ESR

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Unfortunately, my iMac is in the bedroom and my system is in the living room with a long hallway in between.

 

I don't have experience with this, but it might be worth checking out: D2 24-bit Wireless DAC

 

or DAC 2 Wireless USB Digital-to-Analogue Converter - NAD Electronics

 

In both cases presumably use the digital out to your digital input.

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I have never tried this, but you could consider using JRiver Media Center on your Mac and configure it as a DLNA server (presuming this is available on the OSX version). Then you could use a smartphone app as a controller and stream over WiFi to a Chromecast. That is, if your amp/DAC would accept a TOSLink connection to a Chromecast. Just a thought.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

- Einstein

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I'm curious about the toslink issue. I have a NuForce DDA-100, and it works great with an ATV-2. What did NuForce (Nuprime is the same guy) change in the toslink connector and why?

 

This was their reply "IDA-8 is designed for high precision devices and we think that some Apple TV devices (this has been discovered with Airport Express) send lower level SPDIF signals then IDA-8 can sync up with. But we have a fix by simply changing a resistor on the toslink input."

 

Thanks for your input, everyone.

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This was their reply "IDA-8 is designed for high precision devices and we think that some Apple TV devices (this has been discovered with Airport Express) send lower level SPDIF signals then IDA-8 can sync up with. But we have a fix by simply changing a resistor on the toslink input."

 

Thanks for your input, everyone.

 

Their explanation is as creative as their grammar. Sounds like they fucked up the input and know it.

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Their explanation is as creative as their grammar. Sounds like they fucked up the input and know it.

 

I'm inclined to agree. I always noticed that the Apple TV 2 had a rather "hot" (louder) signal, especially compared to my OPPO Blu Ray player. So the "lower level SPDIF signals" can't be right.

Bluesound Node 2-->LFD LE Mk V-->HSU VTF-1 Subwoofer (via high-level inputs)-->Harbeth P3ESR

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Maybe they are smaller 1s and 0s.

Perhaps after Jonny got rid of all the serifs...

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello again. My NuPrime saga continues, and I wanted to get your advice. I sent the amp back to NuPrime and here is their response. What course of action do you recommend?

 

Response 1

 

"We have received the amp and here's the problem (there is still a solution we can try) - we can only change the impedance of the coaxial input and not the optical inputs (the engineer didn't tell me this until we asked for parts). So he suggested that we replace the DAC board on IDA-8 just to give it a try hoping that it will work with the noisy Apple TV. Apparently we are not the only one with connection issue with Apple TV or Airport Express. Airport Express optical digital output | Naim Audio ForumsAudiolab M DAC and Airport Express problemshttps://discussions.apple.com/thread/1837487https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6853159

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4276807

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4104819?start=60&tstart=0https://discussions.apple.com/message/20314917#20314917

 

Actually it is the Apple TV that should be replaced with luck that you get a new one that has less jitter. We have tested some Airport Express that work and others that don't. Regardless, we are getting a replacement DAC board as spare parts just in case you want to give it a try - i.e. wait another week for us to replace the board. There is no guarantee that it will work. Have you tried Apple TV with all the optical inputs of IDA-8?"

 

Response 2

 

"We can update the coaxial input with different impedance to handle more jitters and then you can purchase this Optical to Digital converter to work with the Apple TV:Robot Check What do you think? We can still replace the DAC board anyway so if the digital input works with Apple TV, you can return the converter to Amazon. It is a pretty cheap and good gadget to have around anyway."

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Don't go down this rabbit hole. I have 3 ATV2 units. One works flawlessly with a Peachtree Nova, one works flawlessly with a B&W first gen Zeppelin, one works flawlessly with some sort of $100 cheap Chinese DAC/amp I bought for the garage. So that is 3 out of 3. I don't think the problem is the jittery ATV. (The new ATV4 only does HDMI out, so that won't help, but you can get the ATV3 for $65). The optical to coax converter doesn't look like a viable option.

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Don't go down this rabbit hole. I have 3 ATV2 units. One works flawlessly with a Peachtree Nova, one works flawlessly with a B&W first gen Zeppelin, one works flawlessly with some sort of $100 cheap Chinese DAC/amp I bought for the garage. So that is 3 out of 3. I don't think the problem is the jittery ATV. (The new ATV4 only does HDMI out, so that won't help, but you can get the ATV3 for $65). The optical to coax converter doesn't look like a viable option.

 

+1 .. I agree with Bill. I have 2 ATV2's and an ATV3 which all work with a myriad of gear (cheap and expensive).

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I think I would return it, or find some other solution that doesn't involve optical toslink and ATV if you keep the current amp.

 

Even if you got it to work, the ATV will downsample high-res and will resample redbook to 48kHz, and streaming via Apple's protocol is rarely flawless.

 

I was really hoping the NuPrime IDA-8 would be the ideal all-in-one.

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If you are really reluctant to part with the amp, another solution might be a Wyred4Sound Remedy S/PDIF reclocker. Even if you end up getting the amp modified, the Remedy is excellent for correcting the ATV's inherent jitter, at least according to the above review. I've got one arriving in the next couple of days, so I'll try it with my friend's ATV and post back if it really seems to make a difference.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

- Einstein

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If you are really reluctant to part with the amp, another solution might be a Wyred4Sound Remedy S/PDIF reclocker. Even if you end up getting the amp modified, the Remedy is excellent for correcting the ATV's inherent jitter, at least according to the above review. I've got one arriving in the next couple of days, so I'll try it with my friend's ATV and post back if it really seems to make a difference.

 

Cool, keep me posted!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, I finally got the amp back with the new DAC board and now I can stream audio from computer to my ATV to the NuPrime through optical audio. Can't say I am impressed with the quality (streaming FLAC from Fidelia), but I am not sure it's the amp's fault, as there are so many moving parts now (also, I only tried a New Order album, and those are not the best records to test sound quality). Will play around more and report. The audio via BlueTooth from my iPhone sounds great.

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The reason I hate 90% of professional reviews is that they are written by old guys who seem to think jazz and Norah Jones are sonic bliss.

Hey!

 

afeb88c226d9810cf4348d8292ec2915450bd5f38b3f89b709179f8ac9e167f4.jpg

 

...except for the Norah Jones part. Great write-up and very useful! I bought a Wadia 151 "powerDAC" for the features you praise in the NuForce, which adds 4 times the output power and an analog input stage to an already great concept. It may be time to take the next step, sell the Emotiva Stealth and Wadia, and go to the NuPrime single box solution. I love their stuff - my first piece from them was an iDo DAC-preamp-headphone amp for iStuff, which I still keep on my bedside table for headphone listening. And now that we're downsized to an apartment, "I'll never need more than 100WPC"......(oh, how many times my wife's heard a statement like that!)

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  • 1 month later...
Yeah. You should stick with Joy Division for all fidelity tests.

 

Appreciate the cuntiness, but all good :-)

 

Sorry for the delayed reply, all - finally tried streaming Syro by Aphex Twin FLAC from Fidelia via Apple TV connected by an optical cable to the Supreme with disappointing results. And you know THAT recording is top quality. The same album sounds better streaming AAC from my iPhone via the Nuprime's BlueTooth adapter. All in all, I still think for $1k it's a brilliant machine, but not quite perfect.

 

Perhaps it's time to rebuild my CD collection :-)

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