In July 2016, we introduced you to the DS-DAC-10R from KORG: a USB DAC/headphone amplifier whose primary raison d’être was tandem deployment with the Japanese manufacturer’s AudioGate software for a vinyl-ripping ADC. (Line-level or) phono MM analogue inputs could be encoded to DSD (or PCM) with EQ (RIAA) curve correction applied in the digital domain, in the software app. Clever.
At the end of 2017, Srajan Ebaen introduced us to KORG’s Nutube: a solid state device with an ‘anode grid filament’ structure that, according to co-developer Noritake Itron Corp., operates exactly as a triode vacuum tube but requires substantially lower power injection (2% of a normal tube), dissipates less heat and can reportedly run for 30,000 hours. An English datasheet can be perused by tech heads here.
Now comes KORG with the Nu 1: a full-width USB DAC, headphone amplifier and pre-amplifier – with balanced and single-ended outputs on both – that does double and triple duty as an AudioGate-powered ADC, a standalone phono stage and, crucially, internalises a pair of Nutube 6P1.
The new model offers fully-differential analogue circuitry and is powered by a large toroidal transformer. Unlike the DS-DAC-10R, KORG has specified an analogue phono stage for the Nu 1. No need to first add a Mac/PC running AudioGate to the playback chain. Also new to this more luxurious unit is MC pick-up compatibility.
For those still wanting to digitise their vinyl, the Nu 1 will lay down a bitstream to a hard drive in (up to) Quad DSD — a maximum twice as data-dense as the DS-DAC-10R.
However, the inclusion of two Nutubes will likely stand as the Nu 1’s deal clincher when put in front of Japanese customers this October. An optionally digitising MM/MC phono stage with only audible warmth is sure to have strong domestic appeal where vinyl demand is as strong as the desire to not wear records out with repeated playback.
Price on the Nu 1 is TBC. As are details on the unit’s international availability. Early adopters will need to book a plane ticket.
Further information: KORG