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Move over Mikhail and Ray...the iTube has arrived!

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thought someone might get a kick out of this. Don't see any headphone jacks though!

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/bu...in&oref=slogin
post #2 of 26
Gah, you need a NY Times account to see it. Maybe you could post some of the more important parts of the article. (In quotes of course!).
post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
That's odd!. When I click the link I get the full article, and I know I don't have a NY Times acct.
post #4 of 26
I need an account also. I guess this is an exclusive post..
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Here is the article as quoted from the NY Times. Also, here is the site for Roth Audio in England:

http://http://www.rothaudio.co.uk/do.../contact.shtml


"Novelties
The iPod and the Vacuum Tube Sing a Warm Duet

The Fatman iTube, left, and the Cocoon MC4, right, use vacuum-tube technology to play play music off of iPods. At center is the Fatman’s docking station.

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By ANNE EISENBERG
Published: April 15, 2007
IPODS are fine for listening to music on the go, but sometimes people want to cast headsets aside and hear their playlists piped through the living room by a sound system.

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This Week’s Podcast (mp3)Manufacturers offer dozens of devices that do this: the iPod pops into a docking station in an updated version of a boom box, and can be flicked on from the sofa by remote control. But the quality of the music will depend in part on the system that amplifies the signal from the iPod.

Now, to create the special rich sound that audiophiles love, manufacturers are selling docking stations for iPods and MP3 players with amplifiers based on an old but resilient technology: vacuum tubes.

Most people think of vacuum tubes as relics, long replaced by transistors. But a pocket of audio enthusiasts still values the tubes’ warm tones. Guitar heroes favor vacuum tube amplifiers in their instruments, many recording engineers tend to use vacuum-tube equipment in their studios, and some listeners pay thousands of dollars for high-end tube-based stereo systems and CD players.

Now Roth Audio, a company based in Reading, England, is appealing to the inner audiophile of iPod users with its Cocoon MC4, a compact docking station and amplifier topped by four vacuum tubes that glow when the power is on. Pop an iPod into the dock, and you have an odd couple: The iPod, apotheosis of the slim, portable and digital, and the flanking vacuum tubes that are fat, stationary and utterly analog.

Despite the retro look of the tubes, their audio characteristics may give iPod-stored music an additional, welcome dimension. That’s because most people store their music in compressed formats rather than in “lossless” formats, where data is not removed. Given these limitations, said Mark Schubin, an engineer and media technology consultant, “a vacuum tube can deal with the degradation in a potentially better and more pleasant way than a non-vacuum-tube amplifier.”

To enjoy a full range of sound, it’s still better to use lossless formats — vacuum tubes can’t restore data that’s been stripped away. But regardless of the storage format, “if you put an iPod into a docking station with good pre-amplification, it’s going to sound a lot better than putting it into a cheap one,” said David Chesky, a composer and co-owner of Chesky Records in Manhattan, which uses vacuum-tube-based recording equipment.

The Cocoon isn’t cheap: it will sell for $649, said James A. Roth, managing director of Roth Audio. But in the costly world of high-end vacuum-tube audio equipment, that’s a relatively modest price. After the tubes in the Cocoon do the pre-amplification, the audio signal goes to a solid state amplifier for additional power.

The Cocoon has audio inputs at the back for a CD player or a generic MP3 player. The docking station handles all types of iPods except the Shuffle. The units began shipping this month, Mr. Roth said.

He has already introduced another brand of vacuum-tube amplifier to the United States market: the Fatman iTube ($649), distributed by Bluebird Music in Toronto. The Fatman has a different look than the Cocoon.

“The Cocoon goes well on a desktop,” Mr. Roth said. “The Fatman is more for the living room.”

The Fatman comes in two parts: an amplifier and a separate docking station. The vacuum tubes are covered by a grill that can be removed for an elegant look, but popped back on if fingers need to be protected from the tubes’ considerable heat. The Fatman has a 27-key remote control that handles not only standard functions like play and pause, but also treble volume, bass volume and even backlighting.

The Fatman has two amber vacuum tubes, as well as a green tube. “I added that third, green tube for fun,” Mr. Roth said. “It shows you the music level. The higher you turn it up, the more it bounces up and down.”

BOTH the Cocoon and the Fatman come with a pair of white cotton gloves, to be worn to protect the high-gloss metal surfaces from fingerprints during handling. To assemble and try out both machines, I donned a set of the gloves, as did a friend who helped me.

The Cocoon hooks up easily to speakers, by using the red- and black-ringed connectors called banana plugs that come with it. We selected 110 volts as the setting for the transformer, rather than the 230 volts used abroad, and plugged the transformer into the AC wall jack.

Then we turned on the transformer and started the machine. Gradually, the tubes began to glow. Then we popped my iPod into the dock and tried out recordings in both compressed and lossless formats. A Brahms sextet poured out in an impressive stream, even in the compressed version.

Then we hooked up the Fatman. Unlike the Cocoon, it has a built-in transformer, and it was already set for 110 volts. After we connected the dock and the amp to the stereo speakers, plugged both components into the power outlet and flipped on the switch, the power light illuminated on the amp, but not on the docking station.

After 15 minutes of testing the connections and manual controls, we finally noticed the remote control and tried it, feeling foolish not to have done this sooner. The blue indicator light on the docking station immediately flashed on, and we were in business.

Jay Rein, president of Bluebird Music, said that ours was a common mistake. “If the blue power light does not automatically come up when you plug in the docking station, press the Power On button on the remote,” he advised in an e-mail message.

The Cocoon, the Fatman and other vacuum-tube amplifiers for iPods are relative newcomers to the United States consumer market. For instance, Lyric HiFi in Manhattan, a center for high-end audio equipment, does not handle any vacuum tube-based docking stations. But Leonard Bellezza, co-owner, said the accessories might soon be popular.

“Everybody has an iPod,” he said. “So anything you can attach to an iPod sells.”

E-mail: novelties@nytimes.com. "

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post #6 of 26
The itube is old news but the other amp, I had not seen before. Here is a link to the Roth Audio website: Roth Audio
post #7 of 26
saw a different tube amp for ipods in Peter Jones on the King's road - it made me laugh at how much they wanted for it considering it was off the shelf and it didn't look very impressive.
post #8 of 26
It sounds pretty cool, but I'm sure it'll be more of a gimmick than a quality amplifier, just based on the fact that the company is marketing this to "iPod enthusiasts." The third green tube that Roth Audio is adding seems reminiscent of the MAD Eye monitor, designed to sit under the EAR+ HD. I guess someone's just gonna have to take the plunge, and then report on it of course.
post #9 of 26
You just have to register to see most NY Times articles. Usually, the only articles you have to pay for are big name columnists.
post #10 of 26
Hard-link here

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/bu...y/15novel.html
post #11 of 26

fatman = dared mp5?

Is it just me, or the Fatman looks like a re-branded Dared MP-5? I think someone posted a pic of a version that has that "wood trim", looking just like this pic on the WSJ.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by pkshiu View Post
Is it just me, or the Fatman looks like a re-branded Dared MP-5? I think someone posted a pic of a version that has that "wood trim", looking just like this pic on the WSJ.
yeah, it's basically a dared mp5 with a stupid looking logo and an ipod dock. dared makes them though so there's no foul play. i hate how their site makes it seem like they're outsourcing to china, when really the chinese company is letting them use the amplifier.
post #13 of 26
Wow, I just looked at the article through the hard link (thanks Fallenangel) and I have to agree that the amp on the far left looks extremely close to a Dared MP5. I doubt it has the same circuit board, or sounds as good however, but you could definitely be forgiven for mistaken the two.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Most people think of vacuum tubes as relics, long replaced by transistors. But a pocket of audio enthusiasts still values the tubes’ warm tones. Guitar heroes favor vacuum tube amplifiers in their instruments, many recording engineers tend to use vacuum-tube equipment in their studios, and some listeners pay thousands of dollars for high-end tube-based stereo systems and CD players.
wtf tube based cd players? lol
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by M0T0XGUY View Post
Wow, I just looked at the article through the hard link (thanks Fallenangel) and I have to agree that the amp on the far left looks extremely close to a Dared MP5. I doubt it has the same circuit board, or sounds as good however, but you could definitely be forgiven for mistaken the two.
it is a dared mp5. check out the fatman website, they cite their "friends in the far east".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ice Max View Post
wtf tube based cd players? lol
yep. shanling makes some pretty awesome lookin' tube cdps.
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