Fatman iTube Valve Dock Mk II review

Although it has a tendency to be over-polite, Fatman's latest incarnation of its valve dock has a smooth, velvety sound that some will love Tested at £400

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A sound of valve-y warmth and intimacy, but not an all-round champion


  • +

    Intriguing specification

  • +

    smooth, unthreatening and well-integrated sound


  • -

    Has a comfort zone it can’t be coaxed from

  • -

    unnecessarily long-winded volume control(s)

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With a few minor caveats, we were big fans of Fatman's original iTube valve dock – the juxtaposition of the MP3 format and valve tech is appealing, and in the iTube it was executed to winning effect.

This mkII version is built to the same template - amplification, auxiliary inputs and volume control in one box, iPod dock in another – but features increased power (now 25 watts per channel) and a USB input for listening directly to a computer via the Fatman’s DAC.

The original remote control, with its mystifying deployment of a ‘volume up’ button to the left of ‘volume down’, is included (plus there’s an unnecessarily complicated rigmarole involved in getting maximum volume from the Fatman which concerns duplicated volume controls), and the mkII gains some rather florid decoration – but otherwise it’s business as usual.

With some price-appropriate third-party loudspeakers attached and with a Lossless file of Mazzy Star’s Ride It On playing, the Fatman delivers the sort of smooth, slightly soft sound its hybrid-tube technology would seem to promise.

Treble has benign sparkle
Low frequencies are generously proportioned, if not the tautest, and there’s plenty of expression and reasonable detail revealed in the midrange. At the top end there’s benign sparkle.

Switch to Fatman’s own speakers (included in the £400 price, although if you pay anything like that much money you’re not really trying) and the glossy, unthreatening thrills just keep on coming.

Integration is good, stereo imaging and focus is impressive and there’s reasonable dynamic headroom on tap too.

Try as they might, though, the bespoke speakers can’t bring any more bass discipline to bear than the best third-party partners. This smoothness and low-end waywardness easily becomes a rather cloying over-politeness, mind you, and music that requires meaningful attack will find precious little assistance here.

But if your taste is to the velvety and benign, then, you could do a lot worse than investigate this reworked Fatman.

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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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