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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: APL NWO 3.0-GO; Ancient Audio Lektor Prime; Raysonic CD-168
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Cabernet Dual; ModWright LS-36.5/PS 36.5; Wyetech Labs Jade; Almarro A318B; Melody I2A3; APL UA-S1; Woo Audio Model 5; Glow Audio Amp One

Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; 2 x First Watt F4; Yamamoto A-08s; Yamamoto A-09s; Fi 2A3 monos
Speakers: Zu Audio Definition Pro; DeVore Fidelity Nines; WLM Grand Viola Monitor with Duo 12; Rethm Saadhana; Zu Presence [on review]; Mark & Daniel Maximus & Ruby Monitors w. OmniHarmonizer

Cables: Ocellia Silver Signature loom; Crystal Cable Ultra loom; Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; double cryo'd Acrolink with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer; Stealth Audio Indra and Meta Carbon
Stands: 2 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular 4-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S fed from custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option; Furutech RTP-6 on 240V line feed
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Walker Audio Reference HDLs; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; Acoustic System Resonators and front wall sugar cube matrix
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 15' x 35' living room

Review Component Retail: $249 (special introductory offer $199)

iBom. iBiz. iBite. Apple has started a veritable iTrend. Don't blame NuForce for joining forces and christening their newest stable addition Icon. Mind the spelling though. iCon would suggest something quite different. While, at $249, one should suspect a con, NuForce assures us the Icon is no joke. Their Jason Lim is so serious about its seriousness in fact that he sent me an e-mail asking for my address. To send me one for preview or just to turn my crank. Unannounced. Unsolicited. No "are you interested". Just a "gimme address, I'm sending". Our resident NuForcist David Kan was already signed up to do the formal honors.
Jason jerked my chain just because. Actually, Jason's no dummy. He knows full well of my penchant for -- and resident harem of -- hi-eff speakers. And my concomitant habit for doing the unspeakable, namely converting affordable low-power desk-top solutions into big-rig drivers fronting expensive full-room speakers.

Needless to say, running a $249 ($199 special introductory offer) USB-input integrated into $8,000/pr Zus or Rethms or WLMs is nutz. We all know it. But as the owner of a website called 6moons, I can afford a certain amount of lunacy. You might even say, I'm expected to. Hence David will do the legitimate and formal review, his boss the illegitimate informal preview cum sidebar cum second opinion whatever.

Here's what interested me. The T-amp phenom has been a fantastic journey into the outer reaches of hifi. While serious mainstream companies like Bel Canto focused on the high-power Tripath modules, then abandoned them in favor of ICEpower (with other companies joining the fray with Hypex), it were the small but equally serious players who started the wave of 6 to 30-watt Tripath amps which continues unabated. Sonic Impact. KingRex. Trends. Winsome Labs. This is all well-known history. The question I had all along was simply this. If these bloody low-power T-jobs could sound quite unbelievable for the money -- or 'never mind the money' brilliant in the case of Red Wine and Firenze Audio -- how come none of the current engineers of class D modules had bothered to author their own low-power challengers?

As it turns out, Bruno Putzeys of Hypex just did with the iQube he designed for Qables and which Marja & Henk reviewed. Alas, that's 'just' a headphone amp. What if you have speakers that need to suck at least 5 watts of electron mother's milk?
Enter the NuForce Icon. At 2 x 12 watts, it's more powerful than a 300B SET, meaning there's the equivalent range of usable speakers - and a lot more in the actual desktop environ the Icon is really meant for. But that (reasonable, sane, laudable) part of the tale won't interest us today. We're going off the reservation into big bossy expensive speakers that so happen to sing on 2 watts of direct-heated triode juice. While I don't expect any buyer to follow suit, think of this exercise as the ultimate test against which to challenge Jason's smug self confidence. Insert smiley face.

I've done the same with the little $488 Glow Audio Amp One. I'm planning on another such excursion with the $749 Tecon Audio Model 55. Both are 5wpc EL84 jobs. With our outfit belonging to the anything-goes church of audiophilia, it's only fair to accord a 12wpc $249 transistor amp the same honors. Before we descend into unspeakables, a quick look at what we've got. Three inputs (RCA, USB and 3.5mm stereo); RJ45 speaker outputs (RJ45-to-banana speaker cables are included), headphone output (31.25mW max output into a 32-ohm load) and line out (to subwoofer or to convert Icon into preamp). Low THD, linear frequency response, monster S/N ratio of 98dB. Universal 12-14V power adaptor. Mini dimensions of 6" x 4.5" x 1". Finger weight of 1 pound. Technology, damn. It just keeps shrinking. Nutz. Or as the NuForce marketing machinery spins it:
"With the same patented technology that has won a string of prestigious awards, the tiny Icon brings NuForce's celebrated sound quality to the music lover's desktop." On our staff, two writers have gone nutz over NuForce - Edgar Kramer on his Wilsons, David Kan on his Mark & Daniels. David in fact biamps with 4 NuForce monos. So there's the preamble for another unlikely adventure with -- if we consider the published evidence on NuForce all around -- a very low-risk proposition to actually make out. Stay tuned while Jason pops my mini in the mail. Trigger-happy readers, don't expect a mass mailing of Icons quite yet. NuForce has to seriously scale up production for this item. It takes no brains to recognize that with this pricing, NuForce needs to move volume. Which first means, make a volume. That's a different ball game than high-end audio sales. Should NuForce be back-ordered by the time you contact them (or take pre-orders)... well, this is a new product roll-out right now, at the time of publishing this.