Roth Audio serves up valve-based iPod amp

Roth Audio has launched an iPod dock with a difference - one that uses retro valve technology to add a touch of warmth and class to Apple's iconic audio player.

The Music Cocoon MC4 certainly looks distinctive thanks to four glowing valves that help the amp deliver its 13W per channel output.

To make the most of it, you'll need to team the MC4 with a pair of sensitive loudpeakers. However Roth Audio shies away from recommendations, saying: "the chosen monitors [should] look and sound, at least, half as beautiful as the Music Cocoon MC4."

As well as providing a secure, musical home for your iPod, the MC4 also comes with an S-video socket so you can watch your iPod movies on your TV. Fans of non-audio players will also be heartened by the presence of an MP3 socket, as well as analogue audio inputs, at the back of the amp. For the best quality sound, Roth recommends that you should encode your music on your iPod using a lossless audio codec.

Go Lossless

Apple Lossless format is the obvious solution here as it aims not to throw away any audio information, uses a variable bit-rate to allocate extra data bits in the parts of a track where it's needed most (i.e. the musically 'busy' bits); and promises file sizes that are roughly half the size of the original LPCM file taken from the CD. Apple Lossless is just one of the codec choices available to you in the iTunes software supplied with the iPod player.

If the idea of a valve amp - like the MC4 appeals - you may want to consider some of your other options. Good examples include the Vuum Audio VTi-B1 , the Fatman iTube and Sonic's Gear's i Steroid 2 .

The MC4 goes on sale in April for £399 and promises to be available from many specialist hi-fi shops. Roth Audio is also trying to get it listed on the UK Apple Store .

Tech specs

  • Power Output: 2x 13W
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-30KHz
  • Total harmonic distortion: less than 0.5%
  • Signal to noise ratio: greater than 90dB
  • Input impedance: 100K ohms
  • Output impedance: 8 ohms
  • AC Input: 110V/230VAC Selectable, 50Hz/60Hz
  • Power Consumption: 50 V/A
  • Tube Type: 2x 12AX7, 2x 12AU7 MOS FET
  • Input Selectors: iPod, CD, MP3
  • Dimension: 174mm (w) x 108mm (h) x187mm (d)
  • Weight: 1.8kg (amplifier only)