Logic3 Valve80 thermionic iPod dock and speaker set
Does pre-transistor technology make a difference?
Review Logic 3, maker of accessories for gadgets such as Apple's iPods, has gone up-scale with the launch of the Valve 80 amplifier.
Logic3's Valve80: not shabby looking
Ever since the invention of the transistor, valves have been somewhat sidelined. They're bulky, expensive and take time to warm up and become operational. That said, much as CDs never entirely replaced vinyl records, there's still some life in the old thermionic technology thanks to audiophiles who are happy to sacrifice some convenience for better sound reproduction.
As a result, a few devices have hit the market that use a combination of valve and transistor technology to help bring to life the sounds from our MP3 players.
We'll start with first impressions: the Valve 80 is a very pretty bit of kit. Wrapped in chrome and glass, the unit would make an attractive accompaniment to just about any setting.
The unit comes with a pair of shiny little bookshelf speakers. They have a good feel to them, and the yellow kevlar 10cm cones below the little 2.5cm silk tweeters maintain the trendy, but still understated vibe. The piano black high-gloss cabinets mean they look good if you keep the grilles on. There are sturdy semi-circular rubber feet underneath each speaker to minimise the effect of vibration on the sound.
Decent array of ports
Weighing in at a little under 3kg each, the 50W speakers are solid and can amply handle the 40W per channel output of the dock itself. The speakers are connected by some gold-plated banana plugs.
A remote control is also provided, but it's a little on the flimsy side, but it has all the functions you expect to control your music and iPod as well as the volume, bass and treble.
It's primarily an iPod dock, so one of Apple's music players is going to be primary source of music and video in the vast majority of cases. It has composite-video and s-video output ports for video, but there's also a pair of RCA audio inputs allowing users to connect other audio devices such as a CD player.
A prop for the 'mad scientist's lab' set?
Of course, if you're shelling out over £250 for an iPod dock, looking and feeling good is only a small aspect. The real question is, how does it sound?
A mid range Creative speaker system and a uncompressed source will do me and above all - p*ss on that supposed Valve amplifier and speakers.
No, rly, this is perfect.
At last, bona-fide audio fidelity for us Chosen.
The problem with sound reproduction from the iP[od/hone] has always been the clarity, realance, and texture of the output stage. This piece of kit solves all those problems in one fell swoop.
I tested it out in my depleted-uranium-lined-machanically-decoupled audio chamber just last week, and I was mesmerised, nay, entranced by the reproduction this unit is capable of. I could hear the rustle of Steve Job's shirt as he gave the famous 2002 MacWorld speech (I only put audio of or by Steve Jobs on my iP[od/hone] as anything else would ruin the delicate perfect audio balance). I could hear the sound of air swishing as He blinked!
If you demand the kind of audio quality Steve Jobs & Nathan Barley demand, you'll buy this amplifier NOW. Actually, buy TWO - and leave one sealed forever in pristine newness in it's box!
"Product of the Year"
It's been done before, and slightly better - without speakers too - albeit with slightly less power...
Over the last 25 years, I haven't read a single review of any type of domestic audio gear that wasn't completely pointless. One might as well read a fashion show review.
As far as this piece of kit goes, it may indeed well be that the valves are simply sitting there turning 'leccy into ordinary heat (and a tiny bit of orange glow). And even if the signal actually goes through them, you probably would't hear the difference. They might add in a bit of second harmonic (which some people like, 2nd harmonic tends to be "euphonic") but there are cheaper and less power-hungry ways to accomplish this.
The only place where valve circuitry really shines is in musical instrument amps, because it handles the tremendous dynamics (as in very high peak-to-average signal ratio) of most instruments fitted with magnetic pickups in a graceful manner, without the need for elaborate compresser/limiter circuitry.
...the snake oil these guys used came from that monster snake thing in Lewis' article. It would explain a lot.