Monday, July 03, 2006
Getting it right, getting it wrong
A-Zone International is a Taiwanese company that makes most of its money out of marketing collectable dolls. However, it has recently began to manufacture a valve amplifier, with a matching iPod dock.
A-Zone assemble the units using valve amps made in China, and other companies sell them as OEM products. The combination features a 2x15 watt tube amplifier with two 6N1 and one 6E2 tubes, an iPod dock and charging station, remote control, audio output, composite video input, S-video output, and aux input (so you can run your TV or other audio sources through the amp), and a pair of 8 ohm, 50-watt speakers in either faux leather, ebony, or faux-wood finish.
The speakers and remote are elegant enough, but a little generic. The major attraction is the iPod dock and the amp. The mixture of hi-tech minimalism that is the iPod, combined with the uneven chrome, metal and glowing glass sculpture of the valve amp and dock look fantastic. And yet it goes beyond that.
Audiophiles claim tube amps can offer a warmth to music that is impossible to achieve using solid-state electronics. Now while 'sound-quality' is an extremely subjective issue, I can imagine that a valve amp would make an ideal complement for compressed sound files, 'rounding-off' the harsh edges that can accompany poorly-digitised MP3 files. Form and function, lovely!
In the 'getting it wrong' corner, is the Wurlitzer 'One More Time CD-iPod'. Now I can understand why someone might buy a juke box to play old vinyl singles on (maybe to put next to that lovingly restored 1950s pinball machine). The original Wurlitzers were a brilliant mix of form and function, a maze of complex machinery designed to select and play stacks of 45 rpm singles, enclosed in an attention-getting framework that collected money and sequenced the tunes, while surviving the abuse of a drinking/dancing public.
However, this 25 stone, 60 x 30 x 25 inch behemoth houses a 100 CD changer connected to a solid-state stereo amp and Bose speaker system. Oh, and as an afterthought they've stuck an iPod dock on the front (if you look very carefully, you'll see it, it's the only white thing in the picture). The iPod isn't integrated with the design. In fact, it looks as if it has been stuck on the front with BluTack. This is bulk for no reason. It won't even sound as good as an equivalent 'separates' system weighing a few pounds and taking up a twentieth of the space.
Just my two pennorth.