There's More Than One Way (NuForce Icon iDo Mini-Review)

  • There's More Than One Way (NuForce Icon iDo Mini-Review)

A few months ago, the Meggitt corporate IT put a tighter polity in place for non-work related uses of the internet. No more personal email, no more Imgur, no more Dropbox and, saddest of all, no more Spotify. So, I've had to resort to a different method of streaming, mainly from my iPhone.

Unfortunately with the advent of the new and improved, all digital lightning cable, Apple has left the Line-Out functionality out of the picture. This is really unfortunate, as the only easy way to get audio out of the device is using the amp'd headphone output.

Some people on Head-Fi have used the Camera Connection Kit (CCK) with various DACs, and success was found with many. I resorted to a setup with the CCK, a powered USB hub and my Fiio E17 DAC/Amp. This setup was clunky but worked. The biggest caveat however is the phone can't be charged while it's acting as a USB host through the CCK. The repeaters in the building (because we work in a giant Faraday Cage) don't provide a strong signal, so my phone was chewing through battery life like crazy.

I again searched Head-fi, Mac Rumors forums, and Apple forums for someone who had come up with a solution to get quality audio out of the iPhone, with a limited number of extra devices, and charge the device at the same time. Every idea that looked relatively promising ended up being overly complicated or expensive. Using the Apple dock, which has a DAC in it, could have worked, but then I'm using my Fiio as just an amp. Lightning to 30pin adapters could work as well, but it's a similar story. Niche devices that do what I want, but way out of my price range.

NuForce Icon iDo Mini Review

In my search this past week however, I happened upon a device by NuForce called the iDo Icon for $99. I thought, for the price, I'll give it a shot. I received it Saturday, plugged it in and started listening.

Visually, the Icon iDo does present itself as a quality piece of hardware. The nice aluminium shell and a simple series of LEDs to indicate the status of the connection and the volume level. As for the interface, it consists of simply a power button and a digital volume knob. The outputs are plenty, with an amped 3.5mm jack on the front and three RCA connectors on the rear, L/R analog out and a S/PDIF output. I'm not one to really judge DAC vs DAC, so as far as sound quality it's as much as I could have expected for 320kbps OGGs from Spotify.

NuForce doesn't officially support generations above the iPhone 4/4s, but I can report that the iPhone 6+ with iOS 8.1 currently works. Overall, for $99, I think the device will do for the time being.

-Tom