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Fatman iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition 2 - Fatman iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition 2

By Stuart Andrews


  • Recommended by TR
Fatman iTube ValveDock Carbon Edition 2


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One thing carries across from product to product, however, and that's that the Carbon Mk2 looks stunning. It's gloss-black exterior and design are actually a little more understated than the ValveDock's illustrated chrome finish, and you can imagine the Carbon Mk2 sitting more comfortably with a wider range of décor and existing HiFi equipment. Build quality is extremely solid, and as before that translates to the supplied accessories. Our review unit came with a pair of rear-ported, two-way bookshelf speakers, and to connect them a set of thick, high-quality terminated speaker cables. Decent stereo phono cables are also supplied, and the bundled remote control is a huge improvement on the ones thrown in with lesser iPod speaker systems. The 19 buttons cover just about every navigation and control option you could want, though actually working your way through menus from across the room requires hawk-eye vision - even on an iPod touch. Fatman might also want to take another look at some of the button positions. Who expects to find volume up on the left and volume down on the right?

Still, any minor criticisms fade into the background once you get the Carbon Mk2 up and running. As with the iTube Valvedock, part of the pleasure is visual; there's something about watching those valves heat up and glow with life that warms the cockles of your heart, and most of us will rapidly remove the protective plastic cage that sits over them for shipping so that we can do just that. The long-term enjoyment, however, is all aural. Without the B&W Zeppelin here I can't tell you whether this is the best sounding iPod speaker system on the planet, but I can certainly tell you that it's in the top tier.

Admittedly, that comes with a pretty hefty caveat. If you buy the Carbon Mk2 as a system with the bundled speakers, you won't hear the amplifier's full potential. Even given some time to run in, the speakers are competent for rear-ported bookshelf jobs, particularly with some sympathetic positioning, but nothing more. The bass feels a bit boxed in, while the top-end feels slightly muffled. You get all the warmth you expect from a valve-based system, but not the clarity and refinement you'd expect from a half-decent HiFi, even at what we'd still call a budget level. What's more, you have to whack the volume up a fair way before you hit the sweet spot where your music sounds really good. Will the Carbon Mk2 with speakers knock most other iPod speaker systems or MP3-friendly micro systems for six? Undoubtedly. Could it replace your existing stereo components? Probably not.

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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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