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Audiophonics DA-S250NC DAC & Power Amp Review

Rate this Amplifier and DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 6 2.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 20 7.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 170 64.4%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 68 25.8%

  • Total voters
    264

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Audiophonics DA-S250NC class D amplifier (hypex NC252MP) and stereo DAC/Bluetooth. It was requested by a member and supplied by the company. It costs 582,50 € (tax excluded) (US$641).
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC review hypex class D.jpg

I really like the front panel display. It has large font and super responsive rotary encoder that is a delight to use. The power switch and input selections feel good as well. Back panel shows the fact that only digital inputs are provided:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC review back panel NC252MP Remote control hypex...jpg


In use the unit was robust in operation and recovered automatically from overloads.

Audiophonics DA-S250NC DAC Measurements
Using pre-out, I measured the performance of the DAC. Let's start with our dashboard:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC Measurements.png


I was surprised that I could not get more than 0.8 volt out of the pre-out. Like to see 2 volts. Likely this is optimized for the gain setting of the integrated amplifier. Distortion is below -110 dB but because output level is rather low, noise drags that down to SINAD of 103 dB. This is still competent performance:
Best amplifier DAC digital review.png


SNR is good enough for 16 bit content:

Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC DNR Measurements.png


Linearity is near perfect:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC Linearity Measurements.png


Multitone is quite good until you get to upper registers:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC Multitone Measurements.png


IMD vs level shows that impact of noise level:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC IMD Measurements.png


There were regular pulses at 1 KHz which is the USB sub-packet buffer size:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC Jitter Measurements.png


I tried changing the filter settings but they seemingly made no difference:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC Filter Measurements.png


Might as well as this is a fine choice anyway. Attenuation could be better, hurting THD+N vs frequency:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier and DAC THD vs Frequency Measurements.png


Overall performance of the DAC is not bad. Question is, is it good enough to not impact the amplifier performance?

Audiophonics DA-S250NC Amplifier Measurements
Using the same USB input, I measured performance by setting the front panel volume control to -16.5 dB to get 5 watts and change output:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Measurements.png


This is very good performance, landing the amplifier well above average of all products ever tested:
Best stereo amplifier review.png

Zooming in:
Best stereo amplifier review zoom 2023.png


Noise performance is very good, almost meeting my 16 bit minimum SNR at 5 watts:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier SNR Measurements.png


Frequency response is nice in that it doesn't show any load dependency:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Frequency Response Measurements.png


Crosstalk is better than average of all amps tested:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Crosstalk Measurements.png


Multitone test shows very good performance with almost no frequency dependency:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Multitone Measurements.png


I could barely get the amplifier to clip at max digital input/volume control:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Power 4 ohm Measurements.png

This tells me that we could have a bit more output voltage from the DAC to drive the amplifier. This impacts 8 ohm more:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Power 8 ohm Measurements.png

Note that you want to operate in clipping region but a bit of power is left on the table as far as measurements are concerned.

Since the amplifier barely distorts, I could not run my standard max and peak power using 1% THD metric. I had to dial that down to 0.3% get max power:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Max Power 4 ohm vs frequency Measurements.png


I was not able to run burst power due to same issue. Note again that this is a "good thing" in that the amplifier just doesn't distort enough to get more burst power.

Let's switch the load now from 8 to 2 ohm while also changing the phase angle as to represent capacitive and inductive loads:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Complex Power Testing Measurements.png


I am impressed that it handled 2 ohm at all but 60 degrees capacitive. Output voltage dropped though so you don't get to keep "doubling down." Likewise we lose output voltage at the extremes of ± 60 degrees at 4 and 8 ohm.

Finally, as I suspected, you get double power on glitch with the amp and DAC powering on in sequence, resulting in some noise:
Audiophonics DA-S250NC Stereo Amplifier Pop On Off Power On Measurements.png


Conclusions
The DA-S250NC caught my eye from the moment I looked at the website. The combination of a DAC and class D amplifier just makes sense to me for most people who only want a digital input. Many "smart" amplifiers exist in this domain but they are usually compromised. Seeing a DAC married to hypex amplifier and combined with a nice front panel/remote seemed to be the ticket. In testing, the DAC performance is just good but seems to be mating well enough to the amplifier. Any more performance and it would kind be wasted there. So I can't complain much. A version of this with higher performance DAC and amplifier would be just dandy! :)

Overall, I like and recommend the Audiophonics DA-S250NC.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Looks great for the price.

I wonder if the lack of HDMI eARC/CEC is going to be an issue for 2 ch going forward the same way it was for home theater? It used to be that any audio company could make an AVR since you just had DTS and Dolby Digital AC-3 and delays/distances to worry about. Once video processing got involved, it really narrowed the possibilities.
 
Thanks for the review, @amirm
I was sure this would be a complete bargain the day I saw it announced (in a world where some NAD M10 and Cambridge Evo 150 share the same amplification and retail for 3k€). Honestly, the DAC performance is not quite what I would expect from an ES9038Q2M, but the line out would be mostly used for subwoofer purposes, IMHO. <1Vrms, is simply not enough anyway...:confused:

The NC252MP is... an NC252MP, so no surprise here. A bit disappointed that it doesn't reach its max power because of insufficient feeding from the DAC.

At 699€ (VAT inc.), and if you don't need analog inputs, this could be the endgame integrated <1k€/$. There is also the DAW-S250NC, with an integrated Linkplay streamer, at 899€.

@Audiophonics, is this particular product also assembled in France, as the rest of your nCore amps? The information is lacking.
Edit: My bad, it is:
audiophonics-da-s250nc-class-d-integrated-amplifier-ncore-dac-es9038q2m-bluetooth-50-2x250w-4-...jpg
 
Last edited:
Thanks Amir!! this review was incredibly anticipated and this package is a tremendous deal for the price, i just really can't fathom the choice not to include an analog input, it would have been absolutely perfect for me at that point
 
Even better if it’s a pre out. Then you can use it for subs.
I wouldn’t complain for lack of features. Some people need very little of it and this might fit the bill. More features, more money! More money, more problems…
 
Thanks for this review !.

@amirm
Sorry if I ask a stupid question, but did you check the attenuator was not switched on in the menu ?

Seems there are several settings (and they don't affect the displayed level).
Default is 0dB, so if unit was shipping from factory, it should be OK,
but one never knows...
 
@amirm
Sorry if I ask a stupid question, but did you check the attenuator was not switched on in the menu ?
That was the first thing I checked. All testing was done at 0 dB as the others lowered the pre-out even more.
 
DAW-S250NC, with an integrated Linkplay streamer seems to be a tempting all-in-one box device. But no ROON support I suppose.
 
Thanks for the review.
The DAC level was intentionally limited because as a digital amplifier, we felt it was comfortable knowing that with maximum signal (0dB), and maximum volume, you reach the max power (or almost), without distortion .
 
Thanks for the review.
The DAC level was intentionally limited because as a digital amplifier, we felt it was comfortable knowing that with maximum signal (0dB), and maximum volume, you reach the max power (or almost), without distortion .

Thank you, this is quite the remarkable product.

My only remarks are the lack of analogue inputs and an auto-on feature.
 
No idea why the preamp output needs to be so low, but it does seem to be a trend as many amps of old only needed 775mV or so for full output. Maybe we here are spoined by superb amps needing a couple of volts or more and other preamps (of old especially) offering several volts or more, I do understand if the feeling here is that it's a bit of an afterthought on this model.
 
No idea why the preamp output needs to be so low, but it does seem to be a trend as many amps of old only needed 775mV or so for full output. Maybe we here are spoined by superb amps needing a couple of volts or more and other preamps (of old especially) offering several volts or more, I do understand if the feeling here is that it's a bit of an afterthought on this model.

Amps not subscribing to the SINAD race don't need a ridiculously low gain, even thousands of watts of power can be driven with less than 2 volts on all hypex modules.
 
Tear down please!

I know these Class D amps are using the same building blocks, but it’s interesting to see how manufacturers put their twist on layout, connections, etc.

IMHO, Audiophonics seems to be making a name for themselves as a manufacturer of quality, aesthetically tasteful audio products. I bought a Purifi amp from them last June - and living in the US, I was honestly a bit hesitant about buying from a French company (shipping/ support, etc.) - but couldn’t be more happy with the amp. C’est magnifique!
 
I really like this. Good package, good price, looks pretty nice (not a huge fan of silver) and only clear room for improvement is the output level of the pre-amp (but I guess you can always turn up the gain on your sub).
 
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