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NuForce DDA-100 digital amp ditches DAC for smoother sound

Check out our full review of the NuForce DDA-100 digital amplifier.

Now that the novelty of the MP3 has worn off, lovers of digitally delivered music have come to realize that low bit-rate music files sound terrible. The good news is that, as a result, there is more high-resolution digital music available than ever before. But a problem remains in that high-res digital music files don’t translate into excellent-sounding tunes if the digital to analog converter (DAC) destroys the information on its way to our ears (we’re looking at you, iPhone!). That’s just the conundrum NuForce is targeting with its new DDA-100 Direct-Digital Integrated Amplifier. The DDA-100 gets rid of the DAC in an effort to deliver high-res digital music in all its glory, all at a price that makes this kind of technology available to more people than ever before.

Traditional amplifiers need information in analog form, and the conversion from digital can affect audio quality in a big way, for better or worse. The DDA-100 yanks the DAC from the signal path and converts the audio at the speaker outputs. Since the audio signal travels through fewer parts, following a more direct path to the speaker, the sound should be cleaner.

That luxury comes with a price. The DDA-100 has an MSRP of $550, but for Direct-Digital Integrated Amplifiers that’s actually on the cheap side, with competitor’s prices in the thousands, not hundreds. This is one way to clean up audio without cleaning out a bank account at the same time.

The DDA-100 can handle four digital sources – a USB 2.0, a coaxial and two optical inputs line the rear of the amp. It drives speakers via a 75-watt RMS/250-watt peak (per channel) amplifier. Also included is a remote control to change inputs and volume while lounging comfortably and a pretty sleek design just nine inches wide.

The DDA-100 looks promising for computers, Blu-ray players and anything with digital audio outputs. But it’s not compatible with the most popular digital music devices in use today–specifically,  iOS devices. To get a digital stream from your iOS device, you need a  something like NuForce’s Icon iDo, which bypasses an iOS device’s built-in DAC and extracts the stored audio data in its original form via USB host mode. The DDA-100 simply isn’t designed to do that. 

On paper, the DDA-100 seems like a quality product, but we’ll be reviewing NuForce’s latest to see if it can deliver on all its promises. Check back with Digital Trends for the full review.

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