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Griffin Twenty Airport Express Amplifier Preview

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Griffin Twenty Airport Express Amplifier

Griffin Twenty Airport Express Amplifier

Summary

  • Product Name: Twenty Airport Express Amplifier
  • Manufacturer: Griffin Technology
  • Review Date: February 13, 2012 04:25
  • MSRP: $TBA
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now

Amplifier:

  • Class D Stereo Amplifier - TI PurePath
  • Input: S/PDIF optical, TOSLINK connector (included)
  • Outputs: Spring-loaded right & left channel connectors; RCA subwoofer connector
  • Sensitivity: 0.34 dBFS for 20 watts (Volume control set to max.)

Speaker Output:

  • Power: 20 watts per channel into 8 ohms @0.08% THD, both channels driven
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 20kHz, +0, -0.34 dB
  • Signal-to-Noise ratio: 95 dB
  • Crosstalk: -71 dB

Subwoofer Output:

  • Left + Right sub-bass audio
  • Autoswitching when powered subwoofer is detected
  • Power: Line-level output (2V rms at 0 dBFS input)
  • High-Pass Filter: 80 Hz 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley applied to L+R channels
  • Low-Pass Filter: 80 Hz 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley applied to subwoofer output

AC Power:

  • 100 - 240 VAC @ 50/60 Hz supplies both amp and power connection for Airport Express.

We're going to be honest, when we first saw the Griffin Twenty Audio Amplifier for Airport Express, we thought, "Isn't there already something like that out there?" So we did a search. The short version, after a couple of hours hunched over our keyboards, is 'No, there isn't.' "But surely," we thought, "we could put something together for cheap." The Airport Express and Apple's Apple TV cost the same (just under $100) so all we have to do is find a small, integrated amp that will accept an optical input.

Yeah, we dare you to find that one.

To know what we need to build to compete against the Griffin Twenty, we need to examine it more closely.

griffin 20 back

As you can see, the Airport Express plugs directly into the the top of the Griffin Twenty and is powered by the unit. Using the supplied cable, you connect the audio out to the digital audio input. To the right of the optical input is an RCA subwoofer output. Two pairs of spring loaded speaker wire connections are available for your existing speakers. Only bare wire (or maybe pins) will work with these types of speaker terminals. Lastly is a port for the power cord (we're betting the power supply is housed on the cord as with laptops), and a power switch. The top has a large, silver volume control and a few indicator lights.

Inside the diminutive box is a TI PurePath stereo class D amplifier sporting 20 watts per channel into 8 ohms @ 0.08% THD, both channels driven. The subwoofer output is set with a crossover of 80Hz which, if you have a set-in-stone crossover point, 80Hz is where we'd put it. The Griffin Twenty auto-senses the presence of a sub to enable the crossover. We're a little leery of this solution and wonder why Griffin didn't just go with a switch. It isn't like people often take subs in and out of systems. Once they are in, they tend to stay. Maybe they think Apple-ites don't really understand how subs work (and, they're probably right for the majority).

The real question, when trying to outdo the Griffin Twenty, is how much it costs. Well, that hasn't been officially released yet, so it is hard to say. Of course, you'll need to provide your own Airport Express (we're sure, though they didn't specifically say that), so that adds $100 to the price of the product. But finding a small, integrated amp with an optical input is nearly impossible. Of course, a bottom-of-the-line receiver will do it (or a second-hand model) but then you are stuck with a huge receiver - most likely not what someone is looking for when shopping for the Griffin Twenty. On top of that, there is no reason to think that you HAVE to use an Airport Express with the Griffin. Any old CD player should be usable. You won't get the streaming but, if the Griffin's price is competitive, it may be the go-to tiny amp.

No, the Griffin Twenty is meant for a bedroom, office, or game room, powering a set of extra speakers that had been collecting dust in a closet somewhere. It is a plug and play solution and, provided it doesn't retail for too much, should pretty much corner the market (until someone releases something similar). With other companies releasing AirPlay enabled speaker solutions, we think allowing people to use their own speakers makes a great deal of sense. We look forward to seeing the retail price of the Griffin Twenty and how well the public accepts it.

Conclusion

We really wish we knew how much the Griffin Twenty was going to cost. A single unit, very compact solution for streaming music to your old speakers you now longer have a use for we think will be an attractive prospect for many consumers. But with the price of AirPlay-enabled receivers constantly coming down, the Griffin is going to have to have a very competitive price. The subwoofer output should give the Griffin Twenty the flexibility (and bass) serious music lovers demand, though the hardwired 80Hz crossover and subwoofer auto-sensing limit the control they may want. Overall, the Griffin Twenty looks to be a very interesting product.

For more information, please visit www.griffintechnology.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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