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Two great tastes that taste great together
April 16, 2007 12:38 AM   Subscribe

ipod valve amp ipodfilter: plug your ipod into a valve amp. Best enjoyed with a refreshing Pepsi blue!
posted by asok (31 comments total)

 
Freshly compressed / crunched tunes feed thru some tubes - yummy? I doubt it.
posted by bigmusic at 1:17 AM on April 16, 2007


Even when playing .wavs, the iPod's DA conversion doesn't seem up to the task. Sending its results to a valve amp is absurd.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:19 AM on April 16, 2007


Freshly compressed / crunched tunes feed thru some tubes - yummy? I doubt it.

iPods store and play lossless formats.

Even when playing .wavs, the iPod's DA conversion doesn't seem up to the task. Sending its results to a valve amp is absurd.

The iPod can be modified to send a digital signal to the amp. Presumably, if you have the conspicuous income for this toy, you'd be able to get an iPod modded to support digital output, if that was important to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:30 AM on April 16, 2007


is it the red wine "imod" conversion you are referring to?
posted by cazoo at 1:42 AM on April 16, 2007


Eh.. this is just to target audiophiles who don't know better. I imagine this is more or less like all other ridiculously expensive purist analog crap out there.
posted by spiderskull at 1:50 AM on April 16, 2007


Well, minus the digital aspect of the iPod.
posted by spiderskull at 1:51 AM on April 16, 2007


The D/A converters on the older iPods really aren't too awful. They were surprisingly good for a portable device. Rumor claims that the newer ones (3g+, I think) aren't quite as good, though.

Regardless, even with the older, better DACs, I don't think an iPod's output is really worth routing into tubes. And if you're gonna mod it to output a digital signal, you'll need an outboard DAC as well; these tube things are analog only. And it defeats the purpose of the cradle, because you'll have to plug into the DAC and then route the DAC out to the aux in on the cradle. Presumably, you wouldn't be able to use the cradle itself at all, and you'd be running down your battery while in use.

Assuming you're willing to live with all that, if you load up your iPod with lossless music, you won't have enough room to carry very many albums. If you use compression, you can carry a lot of music, but there's no point in connecting it to a tube amp anymore.

If you want a good source to drive speakers, you're much better off using a network as storage, because you can easily hold a gigantic collection on a $200 hard drive. You'd connect that to a front-end unit of some type. If you like iTunes, the AppleTV should be an excellent choice; all the Mac products I've used have done bitperfect sound with ease. If you don't care about iTunes, then a Squeezebox would probably be even better. It has an excellent DAC, a big, easy to read display, and great server software.

Ultimately, this product looks aimed at those with more money than sense. If you want to drive an actual stereo stack, get an device designed to drive one. :)
posted by Malor at 1:58 AM on April 16, 2007


You know those little anti-theft devices, the square stickers with a little antenna printed in a coil on them? I hear if you stick one in the middle of your iPod screen, it improves the sound quality like 20%. Seriously! My friend showed me with his Black Sabbath MP3s.
posted by Nelson at 2:04 AM on April 16, 2007


Regardless, even with the older, better DACs, I don't think an iPod's output is really worth routing into tubes.

It's all ball bearings these days.

Actually, an iPod's output is not only worth routing into tubes, but it will probably benefit from it. Any signal subjected to lossy compression looses some harmonic content. If you think of a tube amplfier not just as an amplifier, but as a signal processor providing non-linear saturation characteristics with lots of even harmonic content in addition to gain there is every reason to believe that an MP3 pumped through one of these is going to sound better.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 AM on April 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hmm, that's a good point, TBM. Hadn't thought of that.
posted by Malor at 3:24 AM on April 16, 2007


I love pretty audiophile pr0n, but is it wise to park a plastic-wrapped hard drive in the middle of a cluster of heated tubes and a massive transformer coil?

> Ultimately, this product looks aimed at those with more money than sense.

You are not the target market. The target market has sufficient disposable income for this to be a casual purchase. If they're happy with it, there's no reason no to buy it and the difference in price does not affect them a whit.
posted by ardgedee at 3:50 AM on April 16, 2007


er. Difference in price between this tubed dock-amp and a garden-variety plastic Apple iPod dock.
posted by ardgedee at 3:53 AM on April 16, 2007


is it wise to park a plastic-wrapped hard drive in the middle of a cluster of heated tubes and a massive transformer coil?

All the product shots are of the iPod Nano which has been using flash for storage for ages now. Oh, and as long as you don't stick magnets on your hard drives you are generally pretty safe, unless you are sticking them inside MRI machines. Magnetic force drops off over distance really really fast.
posted by public at 4:10 AM on April 16, 2007


Oh dear. To borrow a Don Lancaster example, this is like using top quality photovoltaic solar panels to heat water via a resistive electric heating element. Unfortunately there's one born every minute who will think it's an elegant device.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:14 AM on April 16, 2007


is it wise to park a plastic-wrapped hard drive in the middle of a cluster of heated tubes

Those are only 12AX7 and 12AU7 pre-amp tubes. They warm up a bit and emit a nice little orange glow, but they don't get too hot. Now it we were talking EL64 or 6L6 power stage tubes, different story. Might turn your sleek Nano into a puddle of goo.
posted by psmealey at 4:21 AM on April 16, 2007


Is audiophilia in the DSM?
posted by kcds at 5:24 AM on April 16, 2007


Well, it's very pretty. If had an iPod and more money then sense I'd get one. But I don't.
posted by delmoi at 5:38 AM on April 16, 2007


I have mine playing through a SEX amp (probably NSFW) and it sounds sweet. Despite the naysayers upthread, I think the iPod has pretty good sound, at least with the lossless formats. I have even seen people using them as sources at audio shows. With mp3s etc. things are not so rosy, but it still sounds decent enough to justify using it with a nice sounding amplifier.
posted by caddis at 5:41 AM on April 16, 2007


You've probably all seen this by now but now, kinda surprising just how hard it is to tell the difference on a somewhat random selection of music.

I definitely remember there being a good collection of hard to encode samples on the LAME site somewhere where you actually could tell the difference though.
posted by public at 6:01 AM on April 16, 2007


Mine is sometimes hooked up to an old German tube radio (Saba Wildbad) from the late 50's or so and it sounds great to my untrained ears.
posted by Shike at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2007


I can tell the difference between 192k, 160k, and 128k AAC on my iPod, using Etymotics 6i earphones. And then ripped everything to 128k anyway, because the difference was subtle but the storage gain was significant. If I had a dedicated listening space and equipment to justify it, I'd prioritize differently.

I won't buy music at anything less than uncompressed quality, though.
posted by ardgedee at 6:51 AM on April 16, 2007


I kinda called it.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:12 AM on April 16, 2007


There is nothing magic about a tube. This is a gimmick that has been used in the home recording industry for years now. You take a cheap pre-amp and smack a tube on there, almost always the ubiquitous 12AX7, and you have GLORIOUS TUBE SOUND!! These fake tube pre-amps sound nasty compared to comparably priced models, because the money that could have been spent upgrading the rest of the pre-amp was wasted adding the tube instead of the cents' worth of solid-state electronics that would have done the job.

Please, if you think these look cool, by all means buy one. But don't delude yourself into thinking they sound better because of the magical warmth of the tube.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:14 AM on April 16, 2007


There's more than one of these things.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:19 AM on April 16, 2007


is it wise to park a plastic-wrapped hard drive in the middle of a cluster of heated tubes
-Those are only 12AX7 and 12AU7 pre-amp tubes. They warm up a bit and emit a nice little orange glow, but they don't get too hot. Now it we were talking EL64 or 6L6 power stage tubes, different story. Might turn your sleek Nano into a puddle of goo.


I would think there's more heat from the B+ transformer.
(Or don't these things use 300V plate voltages any more?)
In any case the iTube (second link) has the iPod on a second device away from the power amp.

This is the first thing I've seen that made me want to have an iPod.
posted by MtDewd at 8:26 AM on April 16, 2007


Can go right up on the shelf with this little guy. I wonder if you could just feed your iPod through that thing and get the poor man's version of the more expensive and shinier things.

Even better, just buy a T-Amp , find yourself some shiny stainless steel enclosure on ebay and pick the Make Magazine blog for tube related projects and just make yourself something that looks cool and does nothing except be an amp for your iPod. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 8:34 AM on April 16, 2007


It's all ball bearings these days.

If I had one of these I'd be listening to the Beatles' White Album on it. While drinking a cup of hot fat.
posted by dobbs at 9:44 AM on April 16, 2007


I've run my ipod through a pair of these and it sounds okay on average speakers. Too bad they don't make the Wave 8s anymore ($99 a pop). If you really want to hear what compression does to your songs, try running an ipod through a system that has a pair of JXR6s. Blech.
posted by ryoshu at 11:47 AM on April 16, 2007


*heh* If you want a tiny, not so aesthetically... huge, you can always spring nearly $750 for the ZVEX iMPAMP. Crazy.
posted by smallerdemon at 12:01 PM on April 16, 2007


And for the opposite unholy union: Stanton direct drive turntable with USB and S/PDIF output
posted by LordSludge at 1:54 PM on April 16, 2007


iMPAMPs are actually only about $600 in the wild (check on eBay for a few authorized dealers) and worth every penny . . . though not for an iPod. I tend to agree that pushing your 128K MP3s through tubes aren't going to do much for them. Of course if you use your iPod for Apple Lossless that might be another source. Me, I'm a FLAC guy . . .
posted by The Bellman at 12:44 PM on April 17, 2007


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