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A miniature speaker amplifier for your desktop

The Pro-Ject Stereo Box S is a tiny thing, but it's big enough to bring desktop speakers to life!

Pro-Ject Stereo Box S

I've long admired Pro-Ject turntables, but I was only vaguely aware of their electronics line so it was high time to check out one of their amplifiers. I requested their baby amp, the Stereo Box S ($299). It's the smallest power amp I've ever seen, a mere 4.1 by 1.4 by 4.8 inches, and the build quality of its all-metal chassis felt robust. The amp is available in silver or black finishes. A remote control adjusts volume and switches between two RCA inputs. The gold-plated speaker binding posts are really pretty small, and so closely spaced it's nearly impossible to connect bare wires to the amp. I finally managed it, but it took a few minutes to squeeze my fingers into the space. If you have banana plugs, use them instead of bare wires.

The Stereo Box S was designed in Vienna, Austria and built in the Czech Republic, with audiophiles in mind. That's a different mindset from what I see with most budget amps. The Stereo Box S actually sounds pretty good, like a mini-audiophile amp should. The Stereo Box line includes tuners, power amps, headphone amps, digital-to-analog converters, iPod docs, media players, and so on.

I did the bulk of my listening on my desktop, with the Pro-Ject Speaker Box 5 (speakers). The tonal balance is pretty flat, not bumped up or hyped in any way. That's another way of saying the amp and speakers sound crisp and clear with a wide range of music genres, but the bass was lightweight. If you crave a big, bassy sound, plan on adding a sub. The Stereo Box S amp is rated at 30 watts per channel, but it definitely doesn't sound that powerful. On the desktop, sitting 30 inches from the speakers, their power was adequate, but when I moved the amp out into the room with the same speakers, the sound didn't impress. Back on the desktop volume wasn't an issue. I think the amp is better than the Pro-Ject speakers, and if desktop space is really limited the Stereo Box S is a no-brainer.