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High-end audio on the cheap from NuForce

NuForce is a California-based high-end audio company, but it still manages to offer bona fide audiophile gear priced from $129!

The Icon-2 amplifier comes in a variety of colors.

NuForce makes pricey preamplifiers and power amps that sell for thousands of dollars, but it's one of the few American high-end audio companies that also offers truly affordable gear. Most of the products NuForce sells are upgradable; it provides its customers with the most up-to-date technology, as well as value.

The NuForce uDAC-2 is a tiny (2.75 inches by 1.5 inches by 0.75 inches) USB Digital Audio Converter (DAC) that connects your personal computer's audio with your home stereo, desktop sound system, or headphones. The uDAC-2 processes incoming data via a USB audio receiver, which sends it to a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) chip that produces a 2-volt analog output signal. NuForce claims the uDAC-2's performance equals or exceeds that of audiophile CD players. The mini component features three outputs: stereo analog RCA, digital coaxial, and a headphone jack.

The uDAC-2 uses a highly accurate volume control for improved channel tracking at low listening levels, and a high-resolution audio 24bit/96kHz USB DAC. The uDAC-2 is the successor to NuForce's original uDAC, but the company is planning to offer an upgrade path for uDAC owners after September 15.

The tiny NuForce uDAC-2 headphone amplifier. NuForce

If you're interested in running high-quality speakers in your desktop or computer audio system check out the NuForce Icon-2 stereo integrated amplifier ($349 MSRP). This second-generation Icon is an audiophile-quality amplifier featuring two 24-watt outputs, a 3.5mm stereo input for connecting to an iPod or other portable devices, a USB port for operation with a PC or Mac, and RCA inputs for hookup to a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray player's stereo analog outputs. The Icon-2 can also be connected to a subwoofer.

The Icon-2 weighs just a pound and measures a trim 6 inches by 4.5 inches by 1 inch. It and the uDAC-2 can be placed in either horizontal or vertical orientations. They're both available in a variety of colors.