Audio-gd update NFB-3 DAC with ESS Sabre 9018 chip, DXD/DSD


It’s been a while since we checked in with China’s Audio-gd but it looks like they have a new budget DAC design coming to the boil. The original NFB-3 was a Wolfson-centric affair but the 2014 iteration revolves around ESS’s Reference Sabre 9018 decoder silicon. This 32bit chip’s current (I) output is tapped before seeing passive I/V conversion and then a fully discrete output stage. No op-amps required.


As is common with most of King Wa’s DACs, current-domain ACSS outputs sit alongside standard single-ended RCA connectors. However, if you’ve no need for ACSS connectivity, you can specify a second set of RCAs at time of order.

Inputs? There are three: optical, coaxial/BNC and USB. The latter is hosted by a VT1731 receiver which Audio-gd claim to be “one of the best USB interface chips in the world” with “15x less jitter than the TE7022 [chip]”. Regardless of copywrite hype this is another budget DAC manufacturer taking USB input quality as seriously as Schiit.


The 2014 NFB-3’s USB input is fully UAC 2.0 compliant – driver-less on Linux and OS X – and it can handle PCM up to 32bit/384kHz (DXD) and DSD (although the specifics on this are a little vague at this stage). Windows users will need to download the Audio-gd driver. Coaxial and BNC inputs hit a glass ceiling of 24bit/192kHz.

Other order time options include 1) a switch-up from the “warmer” WM8805 S/PDIF module to the “more neutral” DIR9001* for US$22.50 and/or 2) Twin TCXO clock upgrades, ordinarily $20 each but free for a limited time.


The 2014 edition of the NFB-3 sells for a super-keen US$499.

Further information: Audio-gd | Addicted To Audio

*Limited to 96kHz

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.

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  1. NFB-3(2014)
    Dedicated Discrete DAC built in ES9018
    32bit / 384K Asynchronous Transfer USB input
    24bit / 192K Coaxial inputs
    Support DSD,DXD

    I have a question:

    Decodes DSD directly or uses the same hard / soft as for PCM?


    “Loki sounds better than a lot of DSD decoders, even megabuck ones. Why? Because we’re not trying to decode both DSD and PCM with the same DAC and filter stage. Loki is optimised for one thing, and one thing only: to decode DSD.”, says Stoddard…

    • I didn’t mention the DSD angle here because website details are a little sketcky; am waiting to hear back from King Wa with more info.

  2. Looks like quite a nice piece of kit for $500! – Looks like China is not going to take this Schiit laying down!