Fatman iTube valve dock review

This valve-plus-iPod-dock took us by surprise way back in 2007 when we first tested it, but nowadays we're just happy to be old friends – it's quality Tested at £199.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

This Award-winner remains about the best-sounding dock around - add decent speakers for a superb system, and check your iPod for compatibility


  • +

    The valve amplifier looks fantastic

  • +

    sonically, still one of the best docks money can buy


  • -

    Nothing, now that the reliability issues seem to have been fixed

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In the words of Bill Hicks: “Who would have thunk it?” Valves and MP3, audio concepts from different time periods and philosophies coming together in harmony.

This is a two-box offering; a classic-looking valve amplifier is partnered by a dock connected via a line-level input – there's another for wiring up a CD player, and a cable for connecting a non-Apple MP3 player.

There are optional speakers (£100), though we'd always plump for a specialist hi-fi product like the Mercury Custom F1s from Tannoy, or Q Acoustisc 1010i.

Sonic fireworks
In action, the iTube sounds stunning, with incredible musical insight for such an affordable device. The amp sounds as rich as perceived wisdom tells you valves should. That, coupled with the occasionally thin sound of MP3 files, means the balance is spot on.

The richness doesn't come as a huge surprise, but where the Fatman breaks with valve tradition is in attack, because it has plenty of drive and thump on tap, and is capable of getting the best out of the likes of American Music Club's Patriot's Heart. Instrumentation and vocals are well served too. The only thing lacking from its sonic canon is out and out volume.

This Fatman design (without speakers) was good enough to win a Product of the Year Award in 2007, which just shows the high esteem in which we hold it.

If sound-quality is paramount to you, make sure it's on your audition list.

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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