The acoustic quality of digital audio players is a controversial topic on the best of days, but so are the merits of tube amplifiers. Some old school audiophiles swear by them claiming tubes provide warmer, richer sounds than a transistorized amplifier. But many hi-fi fans simply swear at tube amps damning them for higher power consumption and distortion levels than transistors.
But of you're of the group that might consider a tube amp with your digital audio player this new iPod accessory might interest you. A UK based audio company has come up with a product that docked the most popular digital player of all with the warm amber glow of tube amplifiers with its new iTube iPod Dock. Yeah, yeah, I too am getting sick of iPod accessories, but this one has the greatest potential of any I've seen come along in awhile. I'd love the looks of something like this on my desk at the office.
Many claim the best sound quality of all iPods can be achieved from its fourth generation. These were being sold only about a year ago just before the iPods Nano and Video were released. The reason for the 4th generation's preference is its Wolfson WM8975 DACs only used in that particular model. Wolfson is a respectable brand of Digital Analogue Converter chip, a key component in reproducing sound from any digital source. Wolfson's DACs can be found in many respected names in consumer electronics including Arcam whose DVD players are among the highest rated in the Secrets of Home Theater's Benchmark. Using Apple's lossless codec through a docked 4th gen iPod connected to a high end amplifier surprised many of the most jaded golden ears at a demo by Wilson Audio at CES 2004.
Many have gone to extremes in the quest for better sound quality from the iPod. RedWineAudio provides mods for your iPod, for a fee of course. Their website details all the modificiations they'll make to squeeze every last drop of acoustic bliss from your Wolfson WM8975 by eliminating key "offending" components in the signal path. What you'll get back from RedWineAudio may arguably provide the best audio sound an MP3 player can provide, but it'll look like something crawled out of the Borg Collective.
Fatman's iTube iPod Dock is the stylish way to bridge the gap between digital and analogue audio technology with the coolest looking iPod accessory to come along in awhile. The iTube is compatible with every iPod except the shuffle, it'll even let you control sound and video through its included remote control.
iTube Vacuum Tube Amplifier
iTube Docking Station
Brush / Glove for cleaning
Audio cable to connect Docking Station and Amplifier
Banana Plug speaker cables
Aux source audio cable for connecting CD player etc
Video cable to connect from docking station to TV
Power Output 13Wx2
Frequency Response 20Hz – 20KHz (±1.5Db)
Harmonic Distortion 0.5%
Signal-To-Noise Ratio 86Db
Input Impedance 100K
Output Impedance 4ohm, 8ohm
Valve Type 2x6N1(ECC85) 1x6E2(EM87)
Power Supply AC100~120V/50~60Hz AC220~240V/50~60Hz
Amp (LxWxH) 260x145x130mm
Dock (WxDxH) 155x130x123mm
No word yet on exactly how good the iTube sounds until I can find a hands-on review. But at about $550 the Fatman isn't cheap so you may want to hold out for Jake's yet to be announced iPod dock.