When the NuPrime IDA-8 integrated amplifier first arrived at my home, I immediately had a good feeling about it. Initially, that positive impression was based on its packaging. The outer shipping box the amp came in was not any larger than it needed to be, and inside was a smaller box with a plastic carrying handle on top—almost like a little briefcase. More than just a cute or superficial add-on, it represented smart design for those who would be handling the amp—from the distributors to end-users. It also came in handy because I needed to repack the amp before moving house a couple of months ago.
As I’m a relative newbie to the hi-fi scene (though I was raised in an audiophile household) and a fan of great design in all its forms, I appreciate this kind of attention to detail. But the real point here is that those outer elements reflect the care and thoughtfulness that went into the IDA-8’s design on the inside.
First, a bit about NuPrime’s heritage. Its recent history is slightly complicated, so I’m going to borrow a couple of key points from Steven Stone’s review of NuPrime’s DAC-10H DAC/pre and ST-10 power amp (Issue 255). In 2014, NuForce’s cofounder, Jason Lim, with backing from the OEM factory, bought the assets of NuForce’s high-end division, obtained the rights to NuForce technologies, and formed NuPrime Audio, Inc. (Shortly thereafter the NuForce company was sold to Optoma.)
Since NuPrime’s founding, Lim has continually sought to improve sonics through the application of innovative technologies—in addition to offering high performance and value with respect to pricing. The IDA-8 exemplifies this approach. Here’s how Lim summarizes the IDA-8, “It is as if we combined the ‘perfect’ ST-10 and DAC-10H, made it sound like a high-end Class A amp, and brought the price down to $995.”
Sonically and functionally, there’s plenty to love about the IDA-8. Essentially, it’s a sleek-looking, small-footprint hybrid Class A/Class D integrated amplifier/DAC—that combines Class A warmth and resolution with Class D speed, power, and efficiency, and delivers both with remarkably low noise, thanks in part to ultra-low-noise JFETs in its input stage. Its DAC supports USB 384kHz/32-bit and DSD256, and is also capable of decoding DoP (DSD over PCM) via coaxial and optical inputs. NuPrime’s SRC (sampling rate conversion) IC chip provides FPGA processing with ultra-low jitter and distortion.
There’s also a wireless port (for which an optional dongle is available) in addition to an impressive array of inputs and outs (especially given its rather diminutive dimensions) that allows users a great deal of functional flexibility. The IDA-8 is remarkably user-friendly to boot. The best part? Not only does it work and sound great, but this petite, yet powerful amp is also a stone-cold bargain at $995.