When I compared the signal coming from the NuForce analog board with that coming from its S/PDIF digital outs to my Anthem AVM-20 processor, I preferred the Nuforce feed, due to its much lower noise floor and superior dimensionality. Also the Oppo/Nuforce was able to handle all the newer multi-channel formats that aren’t supported by the AVM-20.
I have a small collection of CD doubles, which allows me to play the same selections on two players simultaneously. For this review I used these two recordings in particularly heavy rotation: William De Rosa’s Cellist’s Holiday (Audiofon CD 72046) recorded by Peter McGrath, and Begona Olavide’s Saltero (MA MO 25A) made by Todd Garfinkle. Both employ acoustic instruments and were made in natural acoustic environments. They also exhibit wide dynamic ranges, accurate dimensional recreations, and are among a small handful of recordings that are both highly revealing and musically involving.
From early on in my listening sessions it was obvious that the two NuForce boards do not sound identical. The NXE delivers a more logical soundstage. Through the NXE I could locate each player’s exact location in space with much greater confidence than through the NE. Acoustic details, such as how the sound of William De Rosa’s cello reflects off the side of Noreen Cassidy Polera’s piano, were more obvious, as were the dimensions of the instruments themselves.
The NE board also failed to deliver as much low-level detail as the NXE. Room sounds on both recordings were more obvious and more easily separated from the instruments through the NXE. In the lower midrange I could hear more information and additional detail from Saltero. This subtle yet pervasive difference added to the NXE’s believability.
The NXE board also generates greater dynamic contrast than the NE version. Percussion instruments’ dynamic peaks on Saltero seemed louder and also measured louder even though the levels between the two players had been carefully matched using steady-state test tones. The piano’s forte passages on Cellist’s Holiday also displayed greater contrast through the NXE.