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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.