Diana Krall, Stacey Kent and Frank Sinatra were all played in quick succession through the iTube, and in each case the iTube conveyed the music with a sense of enjoyment and listenability, coupled with an admirable sense of clarity and control. All of the recordings of these artists I own have the ability to turn your living room into something resembling a live venue with the right equipment and the ValveDock stacks up well here, producing a convincingly 'live' stereo image and feel.
With classical, too, the music really sings out of the speakers in a completely wonderful, ‘valvy' sort of way. Mozart's Clarinet concerto is handled deftly, with pace and subtlety, while Andreas Scholl's pure countertenor on his fantastic album, Arias for Senesino, sounds realistic without being piercing. You can really hear the valves coming into their own on this recording.
What the iTube can't quite mete out is the ultimate in bass control. Where more powerful amplifiers will provide grip and tight, tuneful low notes with my Sonus Fabers, the iTube tends to run out of steam. Firing up some Jamiroquai on the trusty iPod, there's not quite the thump and punch to notes on tracks like Capricorn Day and Deeper Underground that you get with more powerful amps, though more natural, less electronic bass tends to fare better.
It's similar, in this respect, to the Ferguson Hill FH007s - great with vocals and not so hot with electronic stuff. But the ValveDock has a much less forward, in your face kind of sound. For my money, the Ferguson Hills are the better all-in-one package, but coupled with a decent set of speakers, the ValveDock is a very good alternative if you're after a more laid back sound.
Despite this, you'd be mad not to consider one of these if you're after the ultimate partner for your iPod. The Fatman iTube ValveDock is not only fantastically well-made, absolutely gorgeous to look at, and extremely well integrated with the iPod's control system, it's also a very good amplifier in its own right - a world away from the rather compromised iPod Hi-Fi.
It might seem a lot of money to pay just to amplify your iPod, but trust me; it's a much better solution than the aforementioned iPod Hi-Fi and, coupled with a good pair of speakers, will unleash new life from your music collection.