Dazzled by a Fatman

[intro]Ah the valve amplifier – normally the preserve of beardy hi-fi enthusiasts who mumble away about the crackle of vinyl and warm analogue sound

Ah the valve amplifier – normally the preserve of beardy hi-fi enthusiasts who mumble away about the crackle of vinyl and warm analogue sound while the rest of us slowly die of boredom and browse through the 60GB of digital music we carry around in our pockets.

I've got to admit, the whole analogue idea appeals to me, but I'm just too enamoured by the convenience of digital tech to make the effort. You'll probably understand my concern, then, when I heard about the Fatman iTube Valve Dock. Have these people been listening to my inner most thoughts?

It's basically an iPod dock that's compatible with any iPod except the old style Shuffle, with just one major difference from the myriad of identi-docks you've seen before; it comes with a proper vacuum tube amplifier.

I've had one land on the Stuff doorstep this morning and on first impressions, it's utterly brilliant. Not only does it look very cool with the tubes glowing away but also the sound surpasses that of any dock I've ever heard. In fact, a lot of hi-fis would struggle to keep up.

Aphex Twin's Windowlicker sounds particularly pleasing with masses of detail and tasty bass, while the complexities of The Mars Volta's Deloused in the Comatorium are also unravelled by the Fatman's accuracy. Let's not forget these are lossy MP3s, too. When I fed it some of Apple's lossless files the difference was noticeable, but not mind-blowingly better.

Shame about the name and nasty little logo on the front but we're willing to overlook that in return for such stonking performance.

Keep your eyes on Stuff.tv for the full salivating review or for more details, head over to www.fat-man.co.uk.