Nuforce Air DAC Review

9/6/2012 9:24:46 AM

Collectors can be reassured to forget CD player and use this device to connect with computer and enjoy various versatility as well as advantages of music players.

Though the world is being digitalized, analog has still dominated. For audiophiles, it is a common formula which consists of bulky devices occupied a lot of space, complicated connections and consumes a great account of money and time. However, some audiophiles begin to trust in digital technology and replace their cumbersome analog system with digital devices that are more compact and multi-functional. Nuforce, among many manufacturers, has caught the trend by its devices, like Air DAC, with renovated technology.

Description: Nuforce Air DAC pack

Nuforce Air DAC pack

Nuforce Air DAC first appeared in CSE 2012. This is a pretty little device smaller than even an Apple’s Wi-Fi transmitter having audio output (Airport Express). The case is plastic-made and easily opened as well as assembled. The model uses external 5V power supply via a rectifier. The pack also includes a Wi-Fi USB transmitter, in a very small size, for PC connection. Besides, there is another version owning iTX transmitter with contacts for Apple’s products: iPhone, iPad, iPod.

Its most remarkable feature is great Wi-Fi connectivity developed by SKAA technology from Eleven Engineering, a Canadian manufacturer of Wi-Fi applicants in sound industry. Based on the new HPX codec, a Wi-Fi router connected to PC or Apple’s devices will encode then compress 16-bit audio data into 5-bit signals and transmit them to the device via Wi-Fi. Signal receiver will decompress and return 5-bit signals into original 16-bit data. With this typical protocol, transferring audio data via Wi-Fi will become easier without interruption which often appears in other devices. To protect the quality of compressed audio data, Eleven Engineering uses some special technics to maintain minimum latency and THD+N (total harmonic distortion plus noise) parameter which is equivalent to that of CD standard. Moreover, despite operating on common frequency (2.4GHz), Wi-Fi technology of SKAA, thanks to WFD protocol, doesn’t violate other Wi-Fi routers. For users interested in streaming, this is very important.

SKAA technology allows the main device of Air DAC system to link with 4 Wi-Fi transmitters. As a result, Air DAC functions as the center of audio systems, easily connecting with source devices such as: computers, iPhone, iPad…

Description: USB Wi-Fi transmitter connected to PC

USB Wi-Fi transmitter connected to PC

The interior of Air DAC is quite simple. It is mainly occupied by SKAA audio decoder plus Wi-Fi antenna of Eleven Engineering. After decoded and turned into digital format, audio signals are transferred to IC DAC (AKM4426 of Akashi Kaisei from Japan) to turn them into analog signals. AKM4426 is a next-generation 24-bit DAC with compact design, powerful features and especially ability of reproducing sounds with details and good dynamic range. 2Vm audio output is directly transferred to RCA connector through no condenser. The compact circuit utilizes all components to make room for shortest signal lines wherever possible.

Description: Main component of the product pack is Air DAC

Main component of the product pack is Air DAC

Connecting Air DAC to computer is rather simple with no configuration of Wi-Fi parameter. Users just need to insert Wi-Fi transmitter in to USB port then the device will be automatically recognized.

In our test, we used laptop as power supplier, connected Air DAC to NuForce Icon 2 digital amplifier transferring signal right to AKG 701 headphone, and ran software Foobar 2000 to test some favorite songs. This system gave an excellent audio output relative to the investment and completely satisfied hard-to-please listeners. NuForce Air DAC sounded slightly clear, steady in good dynamic range. The regenerated sound of Piano and Violin appeared rather vivid.

In another test, we linked Air DAC with an old mid-level receiver of Marantz and a choosy pair of Dynaco speakers. We realized output sound was less than that of Arcam 72 CD player.  Arcam 72 CD player is quite good, but when compared with Nuforce DAC system on the same music record, Arcam CD72 appeared faded. Through this example, the cheap device can not only replace a mid-level CD player but also retain hi-fi audio quality with no bulky and inconvenient configuration.



Compact design

Friendly usage

Detailed output sound and good dynamic range


The device slightly slower broadcast source


At a price of $185, Nuforce Air DAC perfectly replaces other streaming devices having poor sound quality like Airport Express and Logitech Bluetooth Audio Receiver. For technology lovers, they can feel pleased forgetting their CD players and, instead, use this device to connect with PC and enjoy the versatility as well as other benefits from music players.


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