It ain't easy being small. Just ask Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS), which rides along on the success of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) like nobody else.

As the sole provider of audio chips for Apple's iPhones, iPods, iPads, and various laptops (including the just-released update to the Macbook Air), Cirrus outjumped Cupertino itself when Apple reported stellar earnings this week. That's because Cirrus is seen as a very specific yet indirect play on Apple and, being smaller, Cirrus stands to grow much faster than its symbiotic host on a relative basis.

Most of the other participants in the iStuff saga are much larger than Cirrus: The touchscreen controller in the iPhone 4 comes from Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN), and Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM) tends to provide Wi-Fi connectivity, for example. Even little Skyworks Solutions (Nasdaq: SWKS), which provides power amplifiers for 3G signals in iPhones, is about four times the size of Cirrus and also more diversified among gadget manufacturers. So Cirrus is just about the purest indirect play on Apple there is.

But then, that small size and tight focus also make Cirrus more vulnerable to the negative effects of its own missteps, including that production issue back in April. That's where the "not easy" part of the story begins. In this case, the Apple-fueled run-up to Cirrus' own earnings on Wednesday night were obliterated by the actual report.

Gross margins fell significantly in the first quarter because of that production-run issue. That ghost will linger into the second quarter to keep gross margins low, and that's where management expects the "residual effects" to go away.

Revenue rose by 13% year over year to $92 million and generated $0.24 of non-GAAP earnings per share. The results matched management guidance on every point, so you can't say you weren't warned of this relative slowdown.

Analyst firm Needham, which rates as an All-Star in our CAPS tracking system, reinforced its "strong buy" rating on Cirrus after this report, mainly because of an affordable valuation. Not that Thursday's drop did much in that regard, mind you -- Cirrus shares are now trading at prices not seen since, oh, last week. But that production issue kicked off about three months of soft trading and the low prices might persist for another quarter -- I'd expect a jump when Cirrus shows us that these slim margins are firmly behind it.

Fellow Fool Eric Bleeker put some of the Fool's real money into Cirrus at the start of the year. If you're not quite ready for that kind of commitment, don't worry -- like I said, I see the buy-in window staying open for about another three months here. Just add Cirrus Logic to your Foolish watchlist and keep a cagey eye on the stock until the risk-reward equation makes sense to you.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.