Fatman iTube 252/iTube valve dock review

This unique and stylish system delivers a natural, detailed sound Tested at £799.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Fine-sounding valve amplification, with an iPod twist


  • +

    Striking style and smart build

  • +

    natural, revealing vocals

  • +

    solid midrange

  • +



  • -

    Brightness at times

  • -

    lacks the punch and dynamics of the best

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

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.

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.

Read more about how we test