Reviews

Review: NuPrime IDA-8

NuPrime IDA8

This week we’re testing the NuPrime IDA-8 integrated amplifier, a “digital” model with numerous digital inputs, developed along the same lines as the NuForce DDA-100, NuForce DDA-120 and above all the NuPrime IDA-16 amplifier.

As you will have probably noticed, digital amplifiers are currently thriving. Denon DRA-100, NAD D3020, Yamaha A-U670, Sony UDA-1 –  the range of “power DACs” features new amps every month. Compact, low in energy consumption, inexpensive to manufacture (but not to design), these integrated models operate differently to traditional amps.

NuPrime IDA-8

The supplied Bluetooth receiver is compatible with the CSR apt-X transmission mode

NuPrime IDA-8: what is a power DAC?

To understand what a power DAC is, it is necessary to explain how a  traditional integrated amp with a DAC operates. As a quick reminder, a DAC (Digital Audio Converter) is an electronic chip which converts a digital signal (CD stream) into audible analog signals. In an integrated amplifier, the digital signal is immediately converted into audible analog signals. In an integrated amplifier, the digital signal is immediately converted into analog signals, whose range can be reduced using a volume potentiometer before amplifying them again to convey them to the speakers.

The problem lies in this roll off, which moves the music closer to background noise, resulting in severe damage to the audio signal.

With a digital amp, incoming digital signals are no longer converted into analog signals immediately but are amplified in their digital format, hence the label, power DAC (or digital DAC). The conversion to analog only occurs at the very end. A traditional DAC can be found in these amplifiers but it is used for oversampling and only produces outgoing digital signals.

NuPrime IDA8

NuPrime IDA-8: overview

This is the case for the IDA-8 amp, which is compatible with PCM 32 bit and 384 kHz audio stream as well as DSD up to 11.2 MHz. In other words, all the CD or studio quality files that a computer or network player can read, the NuPrime IDA-8 can convert them. Its USB input is driven by a specific processor, which regulates transmission from any computer in order to get rid of any jitter. The same applies to signals coming via S/PDIF Toslink coaxial and optical connectors, from a CD or Blu-ray player for example or from a USB Bluetooth receiver.

The power output stated by NuPrime is 2 x 100 W at 8 Ohms, without indicating if it’s at 1 kHz or from bass to treble.

NuPrime IDA8

NuPrime IDA-8: connection possibilities

The NuPrime IDA-8 features four digital inputs. The first is a USB B input and is compatible with all PCs, Macs and computers operating in Linux (including most NAS and Android Box models). It is 32/384 and DSD compatible. The S/PDIF input is in Toslink format, common in HD TVs and most CD/DVD/Blu-ray players. The S/PDIF coaxial RCA input should be used for high quality digital connections up to 24 bits/192 kHz and even DSD (using a  DoP format). The type A USB port is reserved for the supplied Bluetooth apt-X receiver. A single analog input for connecting any stereo source can also be found on the NuPrime IDA-8. A variable level RCA stereo output is also present for connecting an active subwoofer. HP screw terminals are gold plated and compatible with banana plugs.

NuPrime IDA-8

Four rubber support feet are used to insulate the NuPrime IDA-8

NuPrime IDA-8: set-up

We paired up the NuPrime IDA-8 with Triangle Elara LN05, Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-280FA and Focal Aria 906 speakers. We used the Sonos Connect player as a digital source (Deezer Elite). This was connected using a Viard Audio Premium S/PDIF coaxial cable, as for the speaker cable, we used a Viard Audio Silver HD12. We also used a laptop as a source and connected it using an Audioquest Carbon USB cable.

NuPrime IDA-8

Not the most extravagant of remote controls but its controls are clear

NuPrime IDA-8: listening impressions

Despite a slight audible background noise if you press your ear up against the speakers’ tweeter, it is difficult to find fault with the performance of the NuPrime IDA-8. The sound placement is very appealing, like the NuForce DDA-120, both deep and spacious. The similarities, however, stop there, as the IDA-8 has better control and is more compact. The mid range is well layered and voices stand out easily in the audio message. Listen to My Funny Valentine by Chet Baker (Chet Baker Sings Again, FLAC 16/44) and you’ll hear this amp’s qualities (Chet Baker Sings Again, FLAC 16/44) – the piano is full, the double bass “pure”, the cymbals sparkle, the trumpet in the background and not overpowering and Chet Baker’s voice well placed. With Duel of Fates by John Williams, the same impression of control can be heard even if the bass range lacks a bit of drive.

Even when the Klipsch RP-280FA and their four 8-inch drivers are pushed to the extreme, the NuPrime IDA-8 holds firm.

With the atmospheric Bad News by Melody Garot (The Currency of Man, FLAC 24/44) and its low rolls, the IDA-8 can handle the audio message at high volumes. Bells and brass are delicate despite the deafening rolls. Mediums are very convincing, the artist’s phrasing is well emphasised. When listening to DSD files, a slight rise can be heard. On The Eagles’ New Kid in Town (DSD 64), Don Henley’s voice along with singer Glen Frey’s stand out, making it all very melodious. The acoustic and electric guitars’ strings are well balanced. Great vibes all in all.

NuPrime IDA-8 – what we liked

  • digital technology
  • compact format
  • analytical but warm sound

NuPrime IDA-8 – what we would have liked

  • additional S/PDIF inputs
  • tone correction
  • a bigger remote control

NuPrime IDA-8

The input selector switch allows the NuPrime IDA-8 to be switched on and off. It is possible to mute the amplifier by pressing the volume control. Each input is memorised. 02.14 means optical input 2, volume 14.

NuPrime IDA-8: conclusions

Let the amp warm up for an hour and you’ll hear what it’s capable of, even with CD quality sources. Its sound signature is characterised by a deep, soft medium range without any sharpness. This is well supported by a deep and measured bass range. Treble is smooth when using our Triangle, Klipsch and Focal test speakers. This is an amp for demanding listeners and those with compact or small column speakers, even low impedance models. The NuPrime IDA-8 is one of the best digital amps in its category.

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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