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Fatman iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition 2 review



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Fatman iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition 2


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The more you think about it, the more surprising it is that nobody came up with Fatman's approach to the iPod speaker system any sooner. We all know that if there's anything you can accuse today's digital sound sources of, it's a coldness or even sterility of tone, and that if there's anything valve tube amplification can bring to sound, it's warmth. When the two are combined by a company with experience of valve amplification - and Fatman's parent company, TL audio, has just that - then you can create something really special. We had a few minor reservations about the original FatMan iTube ValveDock when we looked at it in November 2007, but came away feeling it was a great sounding, well-made and gorgeous looking iPod amplifier. Since then, Fatman has come up with several more variations on the same basic theme, the latest being the iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition Mk2, or as most people seem to call it, the Carbon Mk2.

Unlike the original ValveDock - and like Logic 3's clone, the Valve 80 - the Carbon Mk2 is a one-piece amplifier, consisting of a single black block with the iPod dock separated from those three gorgeous, glowing vacuum tubes by a hefty round transformer. As before, your iPod slots neatly onto the standard Apple dock connector, where it's supported by a rest which can be slid into the correct position then locked in place with a thumbscrew. The Carbon Mk2 is compatible with the iPod touch, iPod Classic and all four generations of nano, and while it doesn't match Apple's strict guidelines for TDMA noise - meaning it's not accredited for Apple's "Works with iPhone" programme - it will work perfectly well with the device if you switch your wireless connections off in use.

This is a higher-end product than the ValveDock, and there are other physical differences between the two. We now get two auxiliary stereo phono inputs on the back instead of one, and these are joined by a 3.5mm line-in, which is ideal if you fancy the amp but don't like iPods. The Carbon Mk2 also packs in S-Video and Composite video outputs, though on the downside there's no headphone output. Specification-wise, the main difference is the power output: 25W per channel as opposed to the ValveDock's 13W.

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February 12, 2009, 3:23 pm

I own the original Carbon and would recommend anyone to the iTube range. The sound is staggering through my Monitor Audio RS6s and though there are almost certainly amps on the market that could make my speakers sing a little better I love the "warmness" that the valves bring to my itunes collection.

I also use it now and again to crank up the volume when watching blurays. Admittedly the sound is let down at times but I would say it does a good enough job for the average Joe to appreciate. One thing for certain though, as the review states, DO NOT GET THE BUNDLED SPEAKERS. I did with the Mk I and regretted it.

Two final points. Firstly, the remote I got with the Mk I looks far better than the one shown with the Mk II. The new remote kind of cheapens the look of the kit a bit. Lastly, I also own the B&W Zeppelin and to decide between the two depends on personal taste. If you like your electronic based music stick with the Zep, if on the other hand you love a bit of rock/indie/blues/etc (ie. music with real instruments rather than computers) then definately go for the iTube option.


February 12, 2009, 3:26 pm

Great review although as a slight correction, this isn't Fatman's latest model. They have an iTube Red-i that was delayed for ages but I managed to get hold of one early last month and it includes speakers. The specification is the same as the Carbon mark II but has a silver amp unit and red cone speakers.

The sound is fantastic but as you say, the provided speakers do lack bass if not positioned close to a wall or the bass turned up. The best bit was that most retailers were out of stock and had a price of 𧹈 but I managed to find a company selling it for just 𧶀! I thought it was a joke but I ordered it and had no problems. It must have been a fluke as they don't sell it any more but it's a cracking iPod dock and perfect for my bedroom though not as a hifi replacement. The valves are so cool (warm) and sound lush. Just don't keep switching the amp off and on frequently.


February 12, 2009, 10:12 pm

no headphone jack? *sob*


February 13, 2009, 4:27 pm

Headphones wouldnt do the amp justice!


October 16, 2010, 3:06 am

i agree...no headphone jack! This is an amp, so already the clumsiness of having to have separate speaker units so you may as well give the listener something that most other amps will have!? surely.... if the amps adds quality then it's got to be better than sitting there with headphones hanging out of the ipod? it's a show-stopper for me.

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