Why Samsung's embracing valve audio

Why Samsung is embracing valve audio technology
Samsung - amping it up

Samsung revealed at CES 2012 that it was getting into the audio dock market in a big way, announcing the DA-E750 – a piece of audio kit that uses valve amplification.

The 2.1 channel speaker dock is one of the most distinctive docks we have seen – and the first ever to come from Samsung – and is being pegged as the only to have docking support for both the company's Galaxy S smartphone range and Apple iOS devices.

TechRadar spoke to Chris Mosely, an AV product manager at Samsung about the reasons the company chose vacuum tube technology and he explained that it was all about an oft-overlooked element in the soundbar world: sound quality.

"The home theatre market is declining and one of the reasons for this is that the docking market is increasing. So we have moved into this area rather than just concentrating on iPods, we are concentrating on dual docking – both Galaxy and iPods," said Mosely.

"The competitors we are going up against have used design but haven't really used sound quality as a benefactor and that is what we are doing with our new range of docks."

Warm sound

When it comes to valve amplification, Mosely said the sound was superior but Samsung decided to go for a dual approach to the technology, mixing the old school technology with new school digital amplification.

"Valve amplifiers have been around 60-odd years and are proven to give off good sound. But there are good points and bad points," Mosely explained.

"The good points are that they are warm and there's a very natural sound to them; the drawback is that they are very inefficient – you have to put a lot of current in to get a lot of sound out.

"Solid-state amplifiers just don't sound as good but they are more efficient. Digital amplifiers are extremely efficient but don't sound great. So what we have done is use a valve amp in the pre-amp stage and a digital amp in the power stage."

There seems to be a push to the high end with audio docks – Samsung will be going up against the well received Arcam rCube – and Mosely reckons it is a change in tastes in the consumer that has leaned the market to the more premium end.

"The industry 15 years ago had a choice of moving from CD to something that sounded better – SACD and audio DVD – but what they chose was convenience with the MP3.

"It is easier to carry around but doesn't sound good. Now this has gone full circle and the market wants things to sound decent again, so there is a market for better docks that can offer this sound quality.

"The valve amp shows that there is something that is going on inside the dock which offers better sound quality."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.