Amphion Helium 410 Speaker Plus Nuforce Icon 2 Amplifier Review

9/21/2012 9:19:49 AM

Helium 410 – Nuforce Icon 2 system was introduced at expos and showrooms as an optimized solution for inexperienced user desiring a compact system.

Description: The system includes Amphion Helium 410 speakers, Nuforce Icon 2 amp and iPad.

The system includes Amphion Helium 410 speakers, Nuforce Icon 2 amp and iPad.

Audio world is odd place where vague titles called audiophile and hi-end seem deceiving collector. People always find ways to upgrade and combine devices by linking inappropriate cables, build cramped rooms which are carelessly designed and locking themselves in without thinking that sound is just life’s embellishment. When most hi-end manufacturers are working with complicity to seduce users into such a world, there’s one whose mission is to create really loveable speakers which are easily joined, reasonable priced and able to deliver hi-fi quality to the public. That is Anssi Hyvoenen, the Amphion brand-owner from Finland. He did ally with Nuforce, an audio manufacturer having similar ambition, to develop excellent products.

Amphion Helium 410 speakers

Description: Helium 410 speakers are Amphion’s smallest models of entry-level series.

Helium 410 speakers are Amphion’s smallest models of entry-level series.

The Finnish is known as quiet and reticent one. This characteristic may partly affect Anssi’s sense of design. He said speakers devoted to music didn’t need to sound loud but have good appearance. For music quality, the company first aimed at making real “near field” speakers, capable of reproducing fully detailed sound in quite low volume. For design, he concentrated on creating elegant and modern models which are suitable for any space, easily connected, able to be put in any position with no consideration about processing the rooms. Those points have been represented during the design and manufacture of Amphion’s bookshelf speakers.

Helium 410 are the smallest vented speakers and of Amphion’s entry-level series. It is a two-way model plus 4.5inch paper mid/woofer and 1inch titanium tweeter. The vented box is made of composite and well processed in the surface. Besides, its narrow width occupies little space but the depth is increased and there is one rear air outlet for enhancing bass performance. Despite small size (26x13x22cm), thanks to composite finish, these speakers feel sturdy and fit. Treble is placed in a funnel-shaped structure which is invented by Amphion to guide sound. This funnel functions improving sound dispersion in treble range and the speaker’s independence on particular rooms, it also prevents treble and mid/woofer against dephasing. Both speakers are distanced by replaceable metal grills. The completed product comes in 2 colors (white or black) yet it provides various choices for color of the grills, according to user’s preference as well as room’s décor.

Helium 410 owns low sensitivity – 86dB. However, it is a near-field model thus this problem doesn’t matter much. It also features 60Hz – 20,000Hz (+/- 3dB) frequency response.

Nuforce Icon 2 Amplifier

Description: Icon 2 shares the same style with Nuforce’s audio devices.

Icon 2 shares the same style with Nuforce’s audio devices.

Nuforce is an American manufacturer whose headquarter is in California. Appearing pocket-sized, this product is versatile, including class-D amp with remarkable output power, 24W x 2 (4 Ohm) and 18W x 2 (8 Ohm), DAC USB and amp for headphone. The device is powered by external energy via an AC adaptor.

Apparently, Icon 2 shares the same style with Nuforce’s audio devices we mentioned earlier. It showed a compact structure in black metal finish plus simply rounded corners. Beside the concave brand name, there’s no special spot in the surface. In the front lie two control keys, one of which is to select input while another is to adjust volume and to turn power on/off. Headphone output is situated in a front corner. In the back lie inputs for USB and RCD jacks, speakers and lineout connectors for sub-woofer. Speaker output is RJ45-typed; coming with Nuforce’s specific lines whose have one RJ45 head and one banana head.

Nuforce Icon 2’s interior is quite complex, with 3 main parts: DAC circuit, headphone amp and class-D amp for loudspeaker.

DAC circuit is well processed with Sabrre’s latest 32bit encoder. A 12Mz impulsive clock is responsible for synchronizing data and reducing jitter which has been a chronic issue on PC platform. DAC circuit is separated from main board to prevent noise.

Class-D amp occupies most space. Components are made by Audio Grade to ensure audio quality. All essential capacitors are polypropylene-made with good parameters.

Headphone amp looks simple and Nuforce seemed deciding that the device didn’t aim at headphone’s quality. The circuit’s important part is a pair of NE5532 amps.

Like Nuforce’s previous products, Icon 2 has its circuits and components well arranged to ensure audio quality.

Sound quality

By looking at parameters, inexperienced users may doubt about the compatibility of two devices because speaker system has low sensitivity while Nuforce amp’s power is quite small. Though, it is when the system is played that all suspicion will come into light. Setting volume at 13%, this system delivered an extremely vibrant musical space in such a 20-meter-square area. Next, we lowered the volume but audio quality was still fully sharp and clear. This proved that Anssi’s confirmation about these near field speakers were no exaggeration.

The system’s audio quality may be influenced by Helium 410 speakers. It was clear that mid-range was very warm and appealing, making music seductive and enormous. We did feel the appearance of artists as well as bands clearly.

Acoustic of this system is an upside. Amphion’s funnel-shaped design directing sound became useful for creating spacious music. Treble was wide-spread and not too sharp, like that on titanium speakers. However, bass was remarkably a downside of this compact system. Though, bass was thick, it wasn’t deep enough.

Trying the configuration in various conditions, we did notice that the system was very versatile and independent of specific spaces. Nonetheless, a two-span distance from wall was most suitable for placing speakers as well as enhancing bass. Additionally, two speakers shouldn’t be too separated from each other because surround sound effect might decrease.

Description: This audio system suits small rooms.

This audio system suits small rooms.

Amphion Helium 410 and Nuforce Icon 2 make a compact and stylized system. It may suit an honest office or an elegant bed rooms and living rooms that bear modern décors. Besides, it can go with convenient kitchen and inspire housewives to make delicious dishes.

RRPs for Amphion Helium 410 speakers and Nuforce Icon 2 amp are $1,050 and $350, respectively.


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