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Audioengine N22 Desktop Audio Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Monday, 06 December 2010
Article Index
Audioengine N22 Desktop Audio Amplifier Review
Listening Session and Conclusion

In Action

The N22's sound surprised me. I thought it would be thin in the lower end and more pronounced in the highs, but it's a nicely balanced unit that preserves the weight and substance of music without sacrificing clarity. The only time I encountered trouble was playing compressed audio at very high volumes, which resulted in some annoying buzz and hum through the speakers. With uncompressed audio, there were no such occurrences, just enjoyable music with a sense of bloom that again surprised me. The Black Crowes terrific cover of Gram Parsons' “She,” from the 2-disc Croweology collection, sounded very rich while preserving the delicacy of the song's arrangement. Chris Robinson's heartfelt vocal sat squarely in the breezy mix. Turning things up several notches, I went to the barroom busting beauty of The Pogues' “Bottle Of Smoke.” This sublime composition is the bridge between punk rock and traditional Irish folk, with a rollicking rhythm that builds to a fevered pitch carried by Shane MacGowan's rusty larynx. The N22 had me soon stomping my feet in ecstasy and looking for the nearest pint of Guinness. All the whoop and puckish energy of the band and music came through, leaving me wanting little more. Not bad for a desktop amp.

back of n22For even better performance, I ran HRT's MusicStreamer II DAC from one of my Mac mini's USB ports into the N22's analog inputs. This upped the ante, as I could stream music from iTunes through the DAC for independent processing before playback. The improvements to redbook CD were immediately apparent, with better imaging and detail; however, the DAC also makes it possible to play high-res files – up to 24-bit/96kHz – without the use of a DVD player. Digital music sites such as HDtracks and Linn Records are just two of several outfits that offer high-resolution audio files for download. One recent release from the latter that blew me away musically and sonically is British singer/songwriter Dan Arborise's Of Tide & Trail. Linn aptly describes Arborise as “John Martyn meets Nick Drake for the 21st century.” This scintillating collection of 10 songs is a warm and rich treasure of to-be classic Brit-folk. The ambience of Arborise's guitar and his woodsy, feathery vocals came to life through the N22 - mood and emotion captured in sonority.

Final Thoughts

Audioengine has another winner on its hands with the N22. For $199, you get an easy-to-use and musical amp that's equally at home in the bedroom, den or office. Its small footprint will be immediately welcome, but the sound is what will turn it from guest to permanent resident.

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