Vacuum Tubes and iPods: A Match Made in Retro Heaven

Dennis Faas's picture

While the iPod is unquestionably the most popular portable device currently on the market, sometimes users want to cast their headsets aside and allow those around them to share in their taste of music.

A number of manufacturers offer complimentary devices that allow music from an iPod to be played through a living room sound system. The quality of the music is dependent on the ability of the accompanying device to clearly amplify the tunes. In an effort to capitalize on the ever-increasing desire for clearer music, manufacturers are now selling docking stations for iPods and MP3 players with amplifiers based on old (but still very useful) technology: vacuum tubes. (Source:

While vacuum tubes have long been replaced by transistors, many audio enthusiasts continue to appreciate the warm tones and velvety music that the vacuum tubes are able to create.

In fact, thousands of people all over North America continue to pay elevated prices for high-end, tube-based stereo systems and CD players.

Roth Audio, a British-based technological company has created the Cocoon MC4, a compact docking system complete with an amplifier and topped with four vacuum tubes that illuminate when initialized.

When put together, the two devices create an odd pair. The iPod is sleek, portable and digital while the vacuum tubes are fat, stationary and retro-looking. (Source:

Most people store their music in compressed formats rather than in a format with irremovable data. The vacuum tubes are able to hold data longer than those stored in compressed format, but they are not able to restore any lost data.

Despite the poor storage format, the sound quality of music played through vacuum tubes cannot be compared with any other amplifier. (Source:

When the Cocoon MC4 is released to the public, it is expected to sell for $649.

According to Roth Audio representatives, Cocoon MC4's should begin shipping by the end of April.

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