If you think all high-end products are stupid expensive or mammoth monstrosities, the MiniWatt vacuum tube integrated amplifier should change your mind. What differentiates high-end gear from mass market technology is performance; mainstream manufacturers know sound quality isn't much of a priority for most buyers, so they build their products to sound just good enough.
By high-end standards at least, the MiniWatt is dirt cheap, just $229 (shipping is $40). And measuring just 5 by 4 inches, the little guy can fit anywhere. Powerful it's not, just 2.5 watts for each channel, but that should be plenty for desktop applications with wee speakers, like the Audioengine P4s I recently wrote about.
Not convinced? Over at ToneAudio magazine, they hooked up the MiniWatt to a pair of $3,500 Zu Essence tower speakers and were blown away by the sound--so much so that ToneAudio named the amp "Product of the Year" in its budget audio category.
You can get yours in black, silver, gold, red, blue, or green.
Downsides: You get just a single stereo input, but you could add some sort of external switcher to accommodate more sources. You have to buy your own AC power cord; the MiniWatt doesn't come with one.
The mini wonder is garnering raves from a number of audiophile magazines worldwide, and I think that's just great. If you're curious about the sound of tubes, here's your chance to get in on the fun.