Fine-sounding valve amplification, with an iPod twist
Striking style and smart build
natural, revealing vocals
Brightness at times
lacks the punch and dynamics of the best
Fatman Audio has made quite an impression on us, and the iTube 252 looks to keep up the good work. It uses the same iPod dock as the iTube valve dock, partnered with a stylish stereo valve amplifier. Fatman is keen to portray this kit as a stereo hi-fi amplifier first and foremost, with the bundled dock serving as an added bonus, rather than defining the product. Fine, but that does mean that for £649, our sonic expectations are high. Still, build quality and style certainly impress, the nine valves looking striking once glowing in action. Pumping out 25 watts per channel, the amp doesn't come with a remote control, but there is a fully functioning remote for your iPod. There's also a line-in on the dock for those of you who haven't yet surrendered to Apple, while the amp has three line-in sockets, alongside speaker terminals for 8 and 4 ohm speakers. Vocally competent from the off Listening to Regina Spektor's Fidelity on CD, it's immediately apparent that the Fatman has a way with vocals, delivering a natural, detailed sound with plenty of body and emotion. Kaiser Chiefs' Ruby provides something a little more raucous for the iTube 252 to get its valves around, and it remains an accomplished listen, with a solid midrange providing a good base from which to work. It's not perfect though: there's a slight harshness, so partner with care, and up against the best in this class, it lacks all-out drive and dynamic power. Still, throw in the terrific valve dock, and the iTube 252 remains well worthy of an audition.