Audioengine N22 Desktop Amplifier

I wonder if our expectations drop somewhat when walking into a room occupied by small, inexpensive, neatly organized gear. The contrast from the massive, overwrought, wildly expensive components found in some rooms is undeniably refreshing, and might allow the music to take center stage. Such is always the case with Audioengine, makers of adorable loudspeakers whose quality belies their small size. The more I learn about the company and the more time I spend with their speakers, the more it seems that they’re here to stay. In fact, I expect great sound from Audioengine. The company simply continues to surpass my expectations.

At Rocky Mountain, Audioengine introduced their first desktop amplifier, the 22Wpc, class-A/B N22 ($199; due to be available any day now).

It uses a Burr-Brown OPA2134 chip and has other nice features such as gold-plated binding posts, a pair of inputs, RCA outputs for a sub or Audioengine’s wireless adaptor, and a USB power port for iPod charging. They considered including a USB input, but that, Audioengine’s Brady Bargenquast told me, would have raised the price to something crazy like $249.

Most amps we've seen that are this small are class-D designs, but the Audioengine N22 runs in class-A/B. "How did you get it so small?"

"It's all about thermal management," Bargenquast told me.

Heat escapes from the top and bottom of the amp's chassis, which is made of MDF.

Even the music in the Audioengine room was refreshing. Streaming directly from a Macbook running iTunes via Audioengine’s AW1 wireless adaptor ($99), we heard pop princesses Feist and Gwen Stefani, and the sound was marked by taut bass and sweet, present vocals.