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$249 baby amplifier wows audiophiles

The NuForce Icon breaks just about every audiophile stereotype--it's cheap, tiny, and digital--but sounds swell!

The Icon comes in four colors. NuForce

I heard the NuForce Icon (briefly) at theRocky Mountain Audio Fest last year, and the little bugger was astounding. The anodized aluminum chassis is available in four snazzy colors. It feels well made.

Stereophile's Wes Phillips reviewed it for real. He even had the nerve to hook up the teeny NuForce Icon to a pair of Definitive Technology Mythos STS SuperTower speakers, and Phillips was bowled over by the sound! The sheer incongruity of the match-up was disarming, but in the end Phillips heard the limitations of the NuForce Icon. Used as intended driving small speakers, it's tough to beat for its size and price.

It has USB, 3.5mm, and stereo RCA inputs; and headphone and speaker-level outputs. It's a 12-watt-per-channel desktop amp, so NuForce isn't touting the Icon as a giant killer, just that it'll sound sweet used in the context of a desktop audio system. Did I mention it's little, just 1 by 4.5 by 6 inches, and weighs one pound?

The S-1 speaker. NuForce

NuForce also offers a matching speaker, the S-1, for $249 a pair. There's also a subwoofer, the W-1, that goes for, you guessed it, $249.

The W-1 subwoofer NuForce