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The Icon's engineering begins with its packaging. It fits precisely inside a DHL or FedEx box and contains all the necessary bits beautifully housed. As far as bare presentation goes, it's like, dialed, dog. I kid you not. The carrying handle conjures up images of urban chixters and city slickers sashaying out of a trendy inner city boutique.

And there's quite a number of bits in this box, too.

There's a universal 100-240V 50/60Hz wall wart; a USB cable to shake hands with the Burr Brown PCM2706 USB DAC; a pair of 1-meter Ethernet-to-banana speaker leads; an extruded aluminum stand with protective foam inside and underneath; a spongy mat to protect horizontal placement; and the thing itself, ensconced in an anodized soft-cornered aluminum extrusion with engraved branding on either cheek. The input selector knob actuates with confidence-inspiring detents, the volume control has the same solid feel and doubles as the on/off switch which confirms with a small blue LED.

To brutalize the Icon as promised, I went to the mattresses. 82.5dB and 4 ohms nominal should cut off a horse's head. The Mark & Daniel Maximus Rubies would make the irrefutable offer. Because the enclosed speaker leads were short, I plonked the speakers on the floor Pierre Sprey style, propped up with Grand Prix Audio Apex footers
underneath the fronts to tilt 'em upwards, then leashed them to my $10,000 Ancient Audio Lektor Prime top loader whose 6H30 output stage can swing up to 7V max in case my red dwarf needed a boost.

At 3:30 on the dial, the red dwarf turned super nova, no source boost needed. No, it didn't self incinerate. The Ruby did not rub it out. My room filled with standard-mode volumes in the listening seat, with bass you would flatly deny as possible if I told you - so I won't. Floor boost with already bass-endowed monitors like my infamous Rubies comes as quite a shock if you've never tried it. It's a cheap (no, make that free) trick if you can stomach the stumpy decor and slight hooding and thickening in the midrange. In this instance, it actually was too much of a good thing in the bass.

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But forget distortion, ill-defined bloat or other smoke signals of distress to indicate border-lining. Quite the opposite. The only time I had to back down the dial to 1:30 to prevent woofer distortion was on the final track of Mercan Dede's Nefes with its gnarly infrasonic heart beat. At higher levels, the amp lost control over the woofer. If you know the track, you'll appreciate the insanity on such a load. One meter removed in the nearfield -- I sat on a pillow with the speakers closer together and toed in to simulate a desk top scenario -- the upper comfort zone with this ambient bass torture track was louder than I'd want to listen to. Lost in translation? What this means spelled out is that a
s a desk top amp, the speaker the Icon cannot drive most likely hasn't been made yet. As a foot-of-the-bed movie amp flanked by two quality monitors while jacked into a laptop's USB output all perched on a hutch, the Icon is all you'll ever need for cozy, scaled-back flick watching. 17" laptop screen + Icon = just right. The li'l Anthony Gallo Diva Ti balls worked just fine, too.