Having installed the very best hi-fi equipment in an acoustically optimized music room, the arrival of the mobile music player was perhaps of marginal interest to the dedicated audiophile. With its Icon iDo digital iDevice amp, however, California's NuForce may well persuade said audio junkies that its time to invest in one of Apple's portable entertainment centers. The iDo sneaks behind the scenes of the device soundstage and grabs the original audio data, runs it through its own 24-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and offers listeners audiophile-grade CD quality tunes via headphones or home hi-fi music system.
We've seen many, many iDevice docks here at Gizmag - from those offering raw power or wireless streaming to those that pretend to be room fittings or kitchen accessories but few (if any) have offered to bump up device sound quality to a level that will even please the most discerning of audiophiles. The Icon iDo promises to do just that - taking the audio signal from an iPod, iPad or iPhone and converting it to audiophile-grade CD quality analog and coaxial output.
Output from the device is only as good as the default DAC found on the music playback device but the iDo bypasses the built-in DAC, grabs the audio data in its original Apple Lossless encoder (ALE) format in USB Host mode and then runs it through built-in 24-bit resolution digital-to-analog converters which operate at the incoming data's native sample rate (up to a maximum of 48kHz). The result is said to offer bit-perfect, low-jitter audio.
Users connect the 6 x 4.5 x 1-inch (152.4 x 114.3 x 25.4 mm) iDo to an iDevice via the supplied USB/30-pin charge/sync cable and can then either hook up the box to a home hi-fi via left and right RCA outputs (2 Vrms) or a coaxial RCA output (75-Ohm) to the rear, or through headphones via a 3.5mm jack that has a built-in headphone amplifier capable of driving cans up to 300-Ohm. There's a digitally controlled analog volume dial to the front, with a volume level indicator and IR remote sensor underneath. The audio outputs and USB port bring up the rear.
The iDo has a total harmonic distortion of 0.01 percent/1kHz/1.2 Vrms, with a frequency response from 10Hz to 20kHz and is said to allow users to listen to music as the artist intended it to be heard. Although the company says it hasn't yet found an application that won't work with iDo, the device was designed to work with Apple software.
The Icon iDo is available in blue, black, silver or red for US$249.