Audio-gd Reference 10.2 DAC/pre-amp/head-amp (TONEAudio review)


I’ve reviewed Audio-gd’s PCM1704-infused Reference 7.1 DAC and I’ve covered their C39-MK3 pre-amplifier. What happens when Kingwa gene-splices the two* together and adds a dedicated headphone stage to form the Reference 10.2? The short answer is you get the tonal richness and PRaT of a multi-but DAC implementation chrome-plated by the cleanliness of an ‘accurate’ pre-amplification stage.  Bi-winning!

The new Tenor USB receiver chip is far better than the lip-service currently paid to the universal serial bus by many other DAC manufacturers. However, those wanting to juice the BEST sound from the Reference 10.2 unit are still advised to go with a good S/PDIF feed.

Read the full story in my review of Audio-gd’s Reference 10.2 DAC/head-amp/pre-amp (US$1850), my second for TONEAudio.

Want more photos? Help your ocular self…

*Actually, the Reference 10.2 is probably closer to the Reference 5.2 [than the Reference 7.1].

Further information:  Audio-gd / Addicted To Audio

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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  1. Nice comments John. I have the Audio-gd Master-6 amp & NFB-7 dac and they are stunning.
    I have to say though in response to your comments that ‘that newer delta-sigma (single bit) chips can’t reproduce the rhythmic impact and dynamics of their multi-bit forerunners’ I have to disagree.
    My NFB-7 uses the Sabre32 chip and PRaT,dynamics and impact are stunning. I have always felt that the Sabre32 has greater speed,detail and better dynamics than the PCM1704 and Kingwa stated the same to me when I asked about which of his DAC’s he recommended for my tasts.
    You have heard the Sabre32 Anedio D1 was that lacking in PRaT and dynamics?

    • Hi Nigel

      You’ve quoted me out of context. I wrote “A common view among some more senior digital audiophiles (those that remember the CD spinners of the 90s) is that newer delta-sigma (single bit) chips can’t reproduce the rhythmic impact and dynamics of their multi-bit forerunners.” I was careful to say it was a common view amongst other digital audiophiles. I didn’t say whether or not I ascribed to such an opinion.

      If you find your Sabre32 to provide all the PRaT, dynamics and detail you need, then that’s awesome, right? I’ve not heard the NFB-7 but I’m sure it’s a killer unit.


      • That’s fair enough but when you make a comment like that and then seem to ‘agree’ with it by praising the PRaT of a multi bit DAC then you are giving the impression,at least that was the way I read it, that you agreed with the comment. The dearest PCM1704 chipped dac I have heard was the Naim who are famous PRaT and it did not impress me as much as the NFB-7 does, although in totally different systems.

        Anyway thanks for the review.

        • Hey Nigel. I guess I was saying that this unit does nothing to contradict the aforementioned opinion. It’s great that you find that the NFB-7 meets your PRaT needs more than the more expen$ive Naim DAC. John.

    • Dear Nigel,

      I used to have a DACMAGIC PLUS and did not like too much (jitter and not too clear), now i am in the hunt of a new much better DAC than the DM+, a DAC which has the better USB input and for music like rock, Sting, Rush, The Police some Modern jazz and latin music among others also for loud volume, good soundstage, Black background dynamic, clear neutral and realistic.

      My preferences has been into Calyx 24/192 (very well reviewed), W4S DAC-2, Audio GD NFB 7.32 or 1.32.

      Any feedback could help me decide…

      Thank you!


      • Each of those on your shortlist are solid choices. However, you’re better off going for a slightly cheaper DAC *and* then buying an Audiophilleo2.

        • Hello John,

          I WROTE BEFORE:
          “i used to have a dacmagic plus and did not like too much (jitter and not too clear), now i am in the hunt of a new much better dac than the dm+, a dac which has the better usb input and for music like rock, sting, rush, the police some modern jazz and latin music among others also for loud volume, good soundstage, black background dynamic, clear neutral and realistic.
          my preferences has been into calyx 24/192 (very well reviewed), w4s dac-2, audio gd nfb 7.32 or 1.32.
          any feedback could help me decide…
          thank you!”

          NOW i would like to add the Anedio DAC2, Any suggestion on this one and perhaps how does it compared to the others, i mean could it be the way to go instead of Calyx or NFB 1.32 or 7.32?

          Basically my choices have been between the Calyx 24/192, the Audio-gd 1.32 and NFB 7.32 and now the Anedio D2.



  2. Hello John,

    I have the ref 7.1 and the D.I Audio G.D v2,on the motherboard (asus )there has an output spdif and of course usb,In your opinion it is better to use the spdif or the usb in connection with the D.I (usb asynchrone chip Tenor 8802).

    • Difficult to say really. I can only advise to try each and go with whichever sounds better to you.

    • Hi clsid,
      I use the USB input with Foobar2000 and Kernel Streaming (better then ASIO). I can recommend it!

  3. Hi John,
    I listen to the Ref 10.2 for almost 2 weeks now and I am more then pleased with it. I liked reading your piece about it.
    I always try to separate taste and quality and that’s very hard with stuff you listen to, specially if the gear you want to judge is part of a chain.
    What I really think stands out in quality with the Ref 10.2 is the soundstage and image. You briefly mention soundstage and image in your review but I would like to ask you to be a little more detailed about your experience with this for the Ref 10.2.

    • Hey Tini. Sorry dude, I didn’t take any further notes beyond those that were fashioned into the review itself. JD.

      • Hey John,
        Thanks for your reply.
        If you get the change to listen again to the Ref 10.2 It would be nice to read some more about this subject. It says a lot about quality I think and contributes a lot to the music experience.