NuForce Icon / S1 Amplifier Reviewed

Published On: January 11, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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NuForce Icon / S1 Amplifier Reviewed

NuForce is one of the newest high end players in the audiophile game with a line up of Class-D "switching" amps that run cool and are small in size. This book-sized amp can put out a small amount of power but is perfect for desktop and other small audio applications. Read more here.

NuForce Icon / S1 Amplifier Reviewed

By Author: Brian Kahn

Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.

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NuForce has made a name for itself over the past couple of years by producing switched power supply amplifiers that have been getting rave reviews. One of the benefits of a switched power supply amplifier is that it can be much smaller than a similarly-powered conventional amplifier. This allowed NuForce to create the Icon, a 12-watts-per-channel integrated amplifier the size of a paperback book. The heart of the Icon is NuForce's own Class-D amplification circuit. The S-1 speakers were designed to accompany the Icon, the Icon and S-1. Each retails for $249.

The six-inch by 4.5-inch by one-inch Icon weighs about a pound and is housed in an aluminum case that can be had in four different colors. The tiny Icon has two knobs on the front panel: one for choosing between the RCA, USB and 3.5 mm inputs and the other for volume. The back panel has the above-described three inputs, a power jack for the supplied wall-wart power supply, headphone output, subwoofer line level output and a pair of Ethernet jacks. The Ethernet jacks are the speaker outputs. They work well. Also included in the box are a stand for vertical mounting of the Icon and two pairs of cables. One pair comes with RJ-45 plugs on both ends and is designed to work with NuForce's S-1 speakers and the second pair has RJ-45 plugs on one end and banana plugs on the other end so that you can use speakers of your own choosing.

The NuForce S-1 speaker is a diminutive waveguide speaker, featuring a single 3.5-inch titanium full-range driver. The driver was engineered by NuForce and has a die-cast basket, vented pole coil and a neodymium magnet. The driver is set into an enclosure 9.5 inches tall, six inches wide and 4.75 inches deep, weighing 5.5 pounds per side. The speaker's waveguide controls dispersion, reduces cone excursion and increases efficiency.

Listening to the system on my desktop, I had the speakers a few inches from the wall and about three feet from me. This system benefits from the bass reinforcement from the wall and sounds best with the listener in the near-field position. I found the Icon/S-1 system made a good desktop system that was able to handle a variety of sources and provide great bang for both the buck and the size.

Read The High Points, The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2

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High Points
• The versatile NuForce Icon can be used as preamp, headphone amplifier, USB DAC or a low-power amplifier at low cost in all sorts of creative applications.
• The Icon's compact form factor allows great flexibility on today's already overcrowded desks.
• Sonic capabilities are well beyond that of most desktop systems. Quiet, powerful and way beyond the scope of computer audio sound only starts to describe the NuForce Icon.

Low Points
• The NuForce Icon requires an outboard box if you insist on using your own non-RJ-45 terminated cables.
• The Icon's relatively low power makes it difficult to fill a medium-sized room for anything other than background listening. For most desktop situations, there is more than enough power, but if you want to light up a pair of MartinLogan's with the Icon, it might be a little underpowered.

Conclusion
This is a great system for someone who has limited space for an audio playback system, yet still wants better sound than the typical desktop stereo system can offer. If your room configuration does not allow for placing the S-1s in a position where they can receive bass reinforcement from a wall or partition, you may want to consider another pair of speakers.

Additional Resources
• Read more NuForce amp, Blu-ray and other reviews on HomeTheaterReview.com

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