With its small size, modern styling, audiophile focus, and that oh-so-important USB connector, you'd expect the NuForce Icon to find a home next to a laptop on a glass topped desk in a high-rise office building with full length window views. You might be right – that's definitely one of the roles the Icon can play – but this amplifier displays a surprising amount of versatility for its size: in addition to a USB input that turns it into an external sound card like the Asus Xonar U1, the Icon includes a headphone jack for connection to a portable music player (iPod, Zune, CD player, etc.), a discrete headphone amplifier, a line out port for connection to a powered subwoofer, RCA inputs for connection to stereo components, and two Ethernet ports for use with CAT-5-enabled speakers (or standard speakers through special cabling).
All together, the Icon makes for an interesting package, but given the number of possible applications, we're surprised that NuForce doesn't make a higher-end version of the amplifier with tube amplification. After all, why can't we have our premium sound and miniaturization all in one package?