For a while there Super Audio CDs along with audio DVDs were getting pushed as the next big evolution in terms of music playback at home. Fortunately, the tech never took off and the market shifted to a digital format, large in part due to iTunes. However, many an audiophile will probably still wax poetic about the upsides of those formats, despite their archaic like delivery system. Nevertheless, the smartphone has to a large degree replaced all other music playback devices despite its shortcomings. So what’s an audio snob to do? Simple. Invest in Nuforce Icon iDo.
It’s a standalone box that bypasses the iPhone’s digital to analog converter. So instead of the iPhone (iPod or iPad) performing the heavy lifting, which can only sport so much audio hardware muscle given its diminutive size, this box takes over the process and in turn prevents as much loss as possible from iDevice to your home theater’s speakers; it can support 24-bit HD DAC audio. Put a little bit more elegantly “you’re only as strong as your weakest link,” which is further echoed by their press release:
ALE files only sound as good as the default DAC (digital-to-analog converter) found within the mobile digital device. Icon iDo bypasses the built-in DAC and extracts the audio data stored on the device in its original digital form in USB Host Mode. It then converts the high-quality files for bit-perfect and low-jitter music playback.
We’re a bit surprised that it only supports iDevice since the interface is a USB port. But perhaps there is a room for a firmware update, or a version that supports other smartphones, such as Android. Despite that one shortcoming, they have included a headphone amp and input, which is probably where this device will really shine. An RCA and digital coaxial input rounds out the feature set, allowing you to connect it to your home theater equipment.
The Nuforce Icon iDo is available now for $249.