Published On: February 27, 2024

Audioengine N22 Gen 2: Good Quality Sound, With Aging Looks.

Published On: February 27, 2024
Last Updated on: February 29, 2024
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Audioengine N22 Gen 2: Good Quality Sound, With Aging Looks.

In 2024, Audio Engine N22 Gen 2 feels like an aging dinosaur in a rapidly evolving Hi-Fi world.

Audioengine N22 Gen 2: Good Quality Sound, With Aging Looks.

By Author: Indiana Lang

Indiana Lang, owner of Emptor Audio and A/V Integration in Orlando, FL, brings extensive AV industry experience from inside sales to custom installations. Starting in the field at 17 and writing about Hifi since 2016, he boasts over 25 certifications from top brands and is the current Editor-In-Chief of HomeTheaterReview.com.

Oh Audioengine, well known for their powered speakers but often breaking out into other realms like desktop amps released the N22 over a decade ago while the Gen 2 is the newest version of the so-so reviewed N22 Gen 1. A $70 price increase over the gen 1, but with the promise of added features like bluetooth and a built in DAC add to the value, but is it worth it? Let’s find out.

Specs

  • RMS Watts Per Channel - 50
  • THD - 0.055%
  • DAC Sample Rate - 48kHz
  • Min Impedance - 4 ohms
  • Inputs - RCA, Bluetooth and USB
  • Size - 4.1 x 7.3 x 8.25
  • Weight - 3.55lb
  • Warranty - 3 years

First Impressions

Desktop amps are very often shipped in simple packaging and are easy to open and install. The N22 is no different. My first thought was how light and hollow the N22 felt, most Chi-Fi amps on the market now are all or mostly all metal enclosures while the N22 is satin black painted MDF cab.

The stand up design is bold and keeps the volume knob at a great height for easy reach. I found the volume knob to be fantastic, a massive improvement from any other Chi-Fi amp I have tested to date. It’s buttery smooth and accurate as can be.

Highs

  • Good sound
  • Easy to setup Bluetooth
  • Built-in DAC
  • Built-in Headphone amp
  • Volume knob is best in class

Lows

  • Cheap feeling enclosure
  • Far more expensive than competition
  • Bulky

Connection and Setup

Audio Engine N22 Gen 2 Desktop Amp Rear View with ports and connection options

Moving to the back of the N22, setup was a breeze, as the connections had plenty of space and a well thought out layout. Something many amps make the mistake of doing is cramming in the connections far too close and making setup difficult, the N22 is a model of how it should be done. Also Bluetooth was simple, as it should. 

I did however find the light on the front to be odd, it flashes for Bluetooth connection mode…and then just turns off. There is no status light on the N22 and no visual way to tell if the unit is on or off. Not a fan of that. Once powered ON, the Bluetooth LED will blink and be discoverable for up to 5 minutes. If a pairing/connection is made, the LED will go solid. If no connection is made in that window, the light will turn off and it will stop searching for a new pairing until you tap the LED button, or power cycle it OFF/ON.

Design

The overall design of the N22 is very laid back, compared to the gen 1 the design is definitely better, but for nearly $300 the look is a bit disappointing. With so much competition from brands like Nobsound, Fosi Audio and SMSL, the N22s' shortcomings are very clear. 

Still, that doesn’t make it a bad amp. It’s actually pretty solid, with an updated feature set. However the increased price in my opinion, isn’t presenting enough added value to justify it, read on to find out why.

Listening Experience

Let’s jump into some listening. I got to listen to the N22 on a fresh pair of Episode 6” In Room Monitors in Walnut. I also tested out the headphone output with a pair of Sennheiser Momentum On Ear headphones. Interconnects were all AudioQuest and I also used a SMSL DO300 DAC to isolate the amp.

Caskets - One More Time (OFFICIAL AUDIO STREAM)

To start things off, the lack of EQ settings is a bit disappointing. However, the N22 does a fantastic job with male and female vocals. Listening to Caskets - One More Time really felt balanced and calm. The N22 holds a clean line balancing highs and lows together, I didn’t feel any part of the track take over or feel underwhelming.

ENMY - Fake (Official Video)

Taking a listen to ENMY - Fake the track packs a punch and this is where EQ adjustment would have helped, the lower end felt a bit weak compared to the highs and mids. But the chorus blended the vocals in nicely and it sounded clean. I tried this track with headphones on and I felt the headphone amp was good, but not awesome. It has detail, but lacks the bottom end in a noticeable way.

Amaranthe - Maximize

Jumping into female vocals, Amaranthe - Maximize is a difficult track to make sound how it should. The N22 kept the detailed highs intact with the heavy riffs. Bass on this track was better than EMNY, EQ settings were definitely less needed here. Again the headphone amp was, well just there. It's good sounding for what it is, but for nearly $300 I would expect better and it just felt like more of an afterthought.

Value for Money

Depending on what you're looking for in the sub $300 price, there is a lot to check out. Honestly, the N22 would have been a value king at around $100-150. 

Audio Engine N22 Gen 2 Desktop Amp on a desk next to a speaker

One of my favorite amps of the year, the Fosi Audio V3 as the N22 beat in sound quality for under $100, but lacks the features of the N22. The SMSL AD18 can go toe-to-toe with the N22, but I felt the N22 has ever so slightly better sound, but is also double of the price of the AD18.

The N22 really does shine over the gen 1, the added power (50 watts over 22 watts) and the addition of a DAC and Bluetooth help, but the added cost pushes it into better rivals. For example, for just a few bucks less you get SMSL AO300 with a much more advanced feature set, more power and more features. 

It’s a tough fight for the N22, but I can still see where one would choose the N22 and that's in the feel of the unit. The volume control is second to none and the rear connections, bluetooth and headphone amp all hold similar quality that most of the Chi-Fi brands cannot.

Final Verdict

What it all boils down to is value and I honestly can’t say it is a good value, but on sale, say it went down in price to around $150, this would be a definite winner. Overall it has good quality built-in, but it lacks the fit and finish of more affordable options and features like MQA and a XLR input. In 2023 it feels like an aging dinosaur in an ever evolving Hi-Fi world. It has its pros yes, but unfortunately at this price point, the competition may just eat it alive.

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