Fatman iTube 182 / iTube dock review

When it was released, the Fatman docks were very orginal iPod accessories: the valves and chrome are fairly commonplace now, but they're still a draw Tested at £649.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Old meets new in yet another knockout iPod-dock-and-valve-amp one-two combination from Fatman


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    Detailed and articulate sound

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    highly musical

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    solidly built

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    looks awesome


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    Lacks the timing of the best

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Q: When is a £500 amplifier not a £500 amplifier? A: When it comes bundled with one of the best iPod docks around. A small difference, but one that makes for even better value for money.

Build quality is first rate, with the retro valve technology contained within a shiny, solid body. The cage-like front piece has the double effect of protecting the delicate valves, while also looking incredibly stylish. Plus, it lets the heat from the valves escape, because unlike most modern amplification, this baby runs hot.

The Fatman is hot to trot
It has three line-level inputs and an interesting selection of speaker outputs: each 18w channel is fed by three sockets, so you can drive your speakers at 4 or 8 ohms. There's no remote for the amp, though the dock's zapper lets you navigate your iPod.

This is a musical and enjoyable listening companion. It's easy to pick out the separate strands of Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke, but rather than being overtly analytical, the Fatman presents the sound as a cohesive and coherent whole. Vocals sound impressively natural, as does the tricky timbre of massed brass.

High bit-rates help
Meanwhile, with considerately ripped tracks the dynamic duo does MP3 proud. But be warned: scrimp on bit-rates and this system is good enough to make the error of your ways all too obvious.

This iTube 182 would be a very fine purchase even without the dock. It's walking a line between being the best iPod system we've heard, and an impressive £500-worth of stereo amplifier – even for those who would rather melt their LPs than listen to MP3.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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